(noun) nonchalant absurdity with a dash of embarrassment.

(verb) to be shark bitten.

(adverb) in a manner that is nonchalantly absurd and embarrassing.

24 October 2011

Geographies of Power: Art & Text by Mauricio Herrero

"Geographies of Power", 2011, 6 inkjet prints, 34 by 72 inches each

Divisions between categories, between concepts, between territories are unstable. I explore those places where boundaries blur and look into the way symbols can be transferred from one space to another, converted and abstracted,only to be created anew. I generate new associations from displaced elements,exploring relations which transcend their initial context, into larger systems.

Money, Currency and the Unification of Value Across the Globe

Money is an abstraction, a digitized system, which like language allows us to structure the world and map it out into an autonomous whole. It allows us to compare and equate things yet only within the system. Their relative value is always deferred to the system itself. Currency is the regional representation of money, acting both as its materiality and abstract quantification, from which it can be converted and equated to any currency. It is embedded in a global order which transcends its local specificity and symbolism. Value is assigned to a piece of paper yet it is in constant motion. It is dependent on the changing market and economic structures. This value is never intrinsic, nor is it exclusive to one nation or geographic zone. Representations within currencies stand as symbols within specific cultural contexts. These symbolic representations disappear as they are converted from one currency to another. Capital moves across nations fluidly where it can, always willing to change its face, to convert itself.

Currency into Art Object

Despite its carefully thought out design, currency is treated exclusively for its utilitarian value. As a piece of paper it is exactly the same as toilet paper, in the sense that it is exclusively used for what its meant to do. Currency is meant to circulate, to be reused and recycled as many times as possible. Even though everyone touches it, it belongs to no one. Money is owned by people as an abstraction, its material form is only borrowed from the state. In the United States defacing currency to the point that it is put out of circulation is a federal offense. The system acts as currency’s pimp, protecting it while lending it to all. In Geographies of Power, money which is dirty and promiscuous by nature, passed around from hand to hand, becomes a fine art object. The representations
extracted from bills escape their local currencies, escape their use value and they migrate to a different context in order to reclaim their aesthetic value.

Digitized Conversion

Money transcends local currencies, as they can all be converted to each other in the same way that words can be translated from one language to another through arbitrary, interchangeable tokens. They converge into a common stream from which they cannot escape. The global market economy is a global digitalization of value. By converting currencies to informational matter by scanning them, they become unified abstractions, codes with assigned values, within a system in the computer, which has a structural similarity to the system of money.

Printmaking and the Digital Surface

In printmaking, a matrix for a print no longer needs to be physical. The mold can exist as embedded code on the computer, rather than as engraved incisions on a material. The basic concept is the same: to register or record a form on an indirect or mediating surface in order to produce and multiply an image as output. Its final form can be multiple yet it exists as an original, not a reproduction. Currency operates similarly yet on a massive level within an open, unlimited edition. The fact that it is counterfit proof and that it does not exist in any other form, is direct evidence that it is an original as well as the unique serial number in every printed bill.

Eurozone - Bridges to Nowhere

The bridges and arches represented in euro bank notes are fictional. They do not exist anywhere outside of currency. They are generic abstractions, each one a stylistic synthesis of a different historical period. They show a history which never existed. Bridges are meant to connect, to join, to cover gaps, to reconcile, to unite. In this sense the bridge is a symbol. However, in the euro there is no specificity over what is being crossed, and from where to where. At the level of representation, this symbolic unity is a farce. These imaginary bridges covers no gaps, they lead to nowhere and are floating in space. The space in which they float is none but the very materiality of the money object that contains them. They are like the bridges on Piranesi’s Prisons which connect at impossible angles or which lead to an unavoidable fall. Their beginning and their end is marked by the piece of paper that circumscribes them. They can however, be converted and exchanged. In this sense they operate as bridges to the system, transcending their own materiality. In Geographies of Power I disassemble these fictional structures block by block and recombine them to form other fictional structures. These new imaginary bridges do not need to be functional. They do not need to pretend to connect anything. They do not need to be a synthesis of historical styles because they are ahistorical to begin with. They do not need to cover
gaps. In fact, they can be impossible to build because they have never existed and never will.

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