It’s hard to make money from art, as any impoverished creative will tell you. But can you make art from money?
Elizabeth Briel, artist in residence at YCIS Beijing, is working with a new material: banknotes. She is carving 500 US dollars and 500 one yuan notes so that they spell out words associated with money in different languages. The notes will then be assembled into a single large artwork, with video and photos of contributors from Beijing and Hong Kong. We talked to her about the project.
How did the children respond?
They were shocked at first. I explained to them that 500 dollars is the cost of an iPad, what their parents pay for them to attend one week of school, and also what I usually spend on paper in a year. After a while they began to get the idea, to start thinking about what money means to them.
Isn’t cutting up banknotes illegal?
I haven’t cut up any dollars in the US, or any RMB in China! I’ve made sure I stay within the law of both countries. I whitewash the sides with the portraits of Washington and Mao.
What are you saying with this artwork?
I’m not trying to make a statement, I’m just asking questions: about money, and what we value.
You can find out more about Elizabeth, her work and the Greenbacks project at her website: www.ebriel.com