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Armory Show Exchange Action

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 photogroahs 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."



Summer of Change: Distribution of 2000 Jefferson Nickels

Midnight on Wall Street. Alexander Hamilton appears on a red carpet, saunters past the Stock Exchange, and approaches the Federal Building steps.  In the center of the square is a cardboard box inhabited by The Common Man. "Who is here that distrurbs my slumber?" "It is I who have some to see/if there is anything I can do for thee..."And thus ensues a performance in rhyme, a modern day Faust which, like Goethe's great story, tells the tale of ambition, wealth, and ultimately, folly, and chilling horror. This is the fifth disribution of money to Wall Street and as in the other performances, the visage of the coin embodied, Thomas  Jefferson, appears in his silver numismatic mask, shining in the streetlights of midnight Wall Street, to ring in the shower of 2000 nickels. 

Summer of Change

Coins, those age-old metallic discs struck with the symbols of national mythology,  just might unlock reason & light in the fourth year of the Dire Global Recession, an economic state whose laws do not apply within the stones of Wall Street; whose invisible great wall is impregnable to marauding justice, equality, and change.  So we present the Summer of Change; a series of numismatic ritual offerings to our nation’s bankers; those citizens worthy of prizes and honors; which we as artists are honored to bestow in public. Standing on The Street safely within the commons of the commonwealth, we shall seize this extraordinary moment by the horns to re-distribute wealth in the form of dollars, fifty-cent pieces, quarters, dimes, nickels, and the Lincoln penny; sacrificing one denomination per event.  Lacking the private means to fund this unprecedented showering of coins, we turn to Kickstarter; with every penny that we raise from The People guaranteed to find its way into the palm of a Wall Street Banker.


We Present a series of 7 events to take place at the intersection of Wall and Broad Streets.(map)

SCHEDULE: The events will start on the Summer Solstice and end on the Fall Equinox 

Distribution of 100 Greenback and Liberty Dollars:June 21st 12:00-1:00 PM

Distribution of 200 Kennedy Fifty-Cent Pieces: July 15th

4:00-4:30 PM (Wall Street)

4:30-5:00 (March to Irish Hunger Memorial)

5:00-7:00 (Irish Hunger Memorial) (map)

Distribution of 400 Washington Quarters: TBA

Distribution of 1000 Roosevelt Dimes: TBA

Distribution of 2000 Jefferson Nickels: TBA


Distribution of 10,000 Lincoln Pennies: September 22nd 12:00-1:00 PM


Zinc Scans
Diogene's Eyes

In exchange for a sketch about value (collector) or a short rant about money (artist).

Pennies of Wood
Liberty Medals

In Gold We Rust

"The ability to construct symbolic objects attains its greatest triumph in money.  For money represents abstraction at its purest form; it makes comprehensible the most abstract concept ...thus money is the adequate expression of the relationship of man to the world which can only be grasped in single and concrete instances yet only really conceived when the singular becomes the embodiment of living mental process which interweaves all singularities and in this fashion creates reality."

-Georg Simmel,  The Philosophy of Money

 Coin Return is an artistic exploration of that uniquely human abstraction that we call money, or currency. This project was realized with a calss of Rhode Island School of Design students as assistnants.  We created a “gezamptkunstwerk” (total work of art) made up of many objects, sounds, ideas, and media, culminating in a performative assembly line, and series of objects. Collaborators worked alongside Brooklyn-based artist Noah Fischer, who played the role of capitalist inventor in an Thomas Edisonesque laboratory. Collaborators became worker- elves in this money-making production. This was a human-powered “anti-mint”, which un-produced currency- transformed into unique numismatic objects. 

The project turned on the fact that pennies made after 1982 are filled with zinc.

A resulting series of 3 minute  Super-8 MM films are a collaboration between Noah Fischer and artist Edward Kimball.




10/24/09 shift1