March 10th and 11th 2012 Occupy Museums issued an open call for artists to exchange their work outside the bounds of the financial system, right in front of the Armory Show. This was a protest against the increasing financialization of art using the strategy of mobile exchange booths. I created a front-strapped copper-leafed display case filled with “Diogenes Eyes” (smashed pennies) as well as photograhs of penny zinc, and Patriarch quarters. These numismatic objects have lost their fiat-currency status, meaning that they no longer possess the value derived from faith in the future of the US economy. Rather, the creative power has been unleashed from this money and they now operate on a creative and autonomous value system. I therefore used my currency to “buy” moments of creative sharing and teaching from my clients, who were anyone at the Armory who wanted to participate. The top of my display case folded out into a drawing table, and I asked people to create drawings “about value” relevance to them in exchange for the currency.
To the right you can see some of the interactions, and the drawings that I received in exchange for (usually) one exploded penny. I also bartered for a few other artworks from participating artists, my lunch, and tickets to go into the Armory show and see how depressing it was.
From Occupy Museums press release:
“Initiated in 1994, the current Armory Show shares a name with the famous 1913 Armory Show in which important avante garde works such as Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase were exhibited to the US public for the first time. While the 1913 show stands for the shock of the new, the current Armory Show stands for the economic shocks administered by the 1%. While unemployment and foreclosure continue to spread, the luxury markets, including Sotheby’s auction house and the Armory Show, have experienced rapid growth in line with the booming bonuses on Wall Street.
As the world of art and culture develop within this system of manufactured inequality, culture becomes equated more and more directly with financial capital. Rather than fostering new creative possibilities through collaboration, the dominant institutions of the art world divide artists and antagonize them through competition. Conflicts of interest, tax dodging, and chandelier bidding practices, which give the false sense of value that arbitrarily inflates prices, are part of this practice. The wealthiest 1% exploit our art and culture for their personal gain. Artists and art-lovers are left wanting.
Amidst this crisis, we offer an experiment in systems of art-exchange that do not emphasize financial capital, but rather celebrate abundance and connection. We believe that art is not a commodity for speculation but rather a fundamental part of the commons, inherited and shared by all. We invite all the 100,000+ artists in New York City to join us outside of Piers 92 and 94 to engage in a new kind of art market.”