It’s the Summer of 2011, three or four years into the Global Recession which, we read, has bankrupted countries and communities, banishing millions into unemployment, homelessness, and destitution. Closing stores and dampening the usual optimism of the American middle class, this economic infirmity has sparked a hideous political rash; pogroms against immigrants, a ground war against unions, a witchhunt for teachers. It’s led to divorce, ill health, violence, depression, and all the other kinds of suffering that go along with poverty and financial anxiety.
Yet in 2011, nothing has changed on Wall Street, a site that we can only label as unregulated financial powerzone where the crisis was sparked through clever manipulation of debt packaging and acute distain for fairness and social equality. After the earthshattering crisis blew up, driving many families from their homes, a huge government bank bailout rescued not only the banks but also the astronomical salaries of bankers, while not a single financial criminal was brought to justice. Instead, bonuses are on the rise, and countless new bubbles are forming like children at play with soapy water on a hot & windy day. We find this picture both totally absurd and yet somehow to be expected, and it points to a duality if not a multiplicity of how money itself operates. It has become clear that in a world where currency is ever more central as private markets monopolize commons and state resources, the money on Wall Street is not the same as the cash that we hold in our hands or even what’s in our bank accounts. Wall street money is special; it is magic. Like Faust’s banknotes, it multiplies on its own regardless of its actual value. It acts differently toward different sorts of people: for some who flip it, the coin always lands heads up, for others its tails every time. For billions across the globe it’s the golden pathway to poverty, wage slavery and homelessness while for a select few it’s like a stateless stealth bomber: fast, practically all-knowing, lethal, and apparently untraceable.
Whatever that stuff is that we blanket over with the noun “money” it is definitely not one, but many “monies” each of a different species; of complex taxonomy. One may conclude that to parse these species out from one another like a patient biologist could prove to be a great waste of time and effort-requiring one to drop everything in order to immerse oneself in the study of econometrics, obscure algorythms, secret handshakes, and far reaching political intrigue of the Kafkaseque private market which, few would argue against this, largely controls the speed at which the planet rotates. Undertaking this life-long study, attaining a poetics of intricate conspiracy as the poet Peter Dale Scott of the artist Mark Lombardi did, might be the best that one could do-although that of course means definite madness and death. More likely, one would fall under seduction of the market, mimicking traders of The Street until becoming a trader oneself, or at least dressing like one and hanging around wall street, bringing them coffee and cigars like William Burrough’s famed Bradley the Buyer; a law enforcement worker who turned into addict himself , and finally an actual alien. In other words, the current state of ‘monies’, being a fascinating conglomeration of human ingenuity and libidinous desire resulting in a mathematically Byzantine hall of mirrors which itself was probably designed to keep financial elites in power, and which, upon peering into it, leaves one only to state that nothing is known except two things: one: the outcome of trading these monies back and forth results in extremes of wealth and poverty, and two: that the monies are far removed from anything that anyone who has not as they say “drunk the cool-aid” would term real value. In fact, what we have here is a case of “money for money sake” also knows as puregreed.
The Numismatic Device May be Kryptonite
Our answer to this conceptual parallax is to look back to the films created under the reign of Ronald Reagan, in other words to study the creation myths themselves, and here we discover a film called “Conan the Destroyer” where our muscled adventurer, whose subsequent career we can’t help but follow, finds himself trapped in a hall of mirrors. Actually, he’s not alone but instead confined with a scary darkskinned superstrong monster. Conan soon realizes that he cannot defeat the monster within the disjointed visual planes of this fragmented panopticon; he must first face the plane of vision itself; the true threat. He then smashes the mirror to regain his power and wins the fight- just as we must to smash through the complexity of Wall Street’s “voodoo economics” with a simple device called a coin. Numismatics, we believe, will have the same sort of effect that kryptonite has on Superman and garlic had on Dracula, a substance whose mere presence was too much for the powerful one to bare. In our case, the site and sound of “real” metal money: classic cash whose presence is certainly akin to an alien virus in the Bloombergian digital empire, will doubtlessly grind the great Capitalist machine to a halt. We are almost sure of this.
At least those age-old discs struck with the text and symbols of National unity and authority, I speak of coins, just might act as keys to reason & light, in the third or fourth year of the Dire Global Recession, an economic state not felt in or around the stones of Wall Street. Wall Street whose famous invisible wall, like the Great Wall of China, is practically impregnable to marauding bands of honesty, justice, and compassion. Following this hunch, we will celebrate the canon of American numismatics with the $ummer of Change: a series of actions that bestow honor upon each denomination from that symbol of American Empire: the dollar (silver & paper) down through the lowly penny; a vestigial coin that seems to exist just to remind us of the absurdity of using fiat currency in the first place (and dragging tall president Lincoln and the whole Civil War Era down to associations with poverty and failure in the process).
We Give the Gifts of Change
As it is customary on special occasions such as college commencements and the laying of cornerstones to give gifts such as honorary degrees to persons of prestige, we shall give $100 of each denominations (the quarter, dime, nickel and so on) away to those class of bankers of Wall street who, in a society where “he who has the gold makes the rules,’ and ‘money talks while others walk’ chatter ancient dictations as Rome burns. These citizens are of high regard and worthy of prizes and honors; honors which we as artists who are not opposed to pomp are more than willing to bestow in public, and with some thought to aesthetic and entertainment and not getting arrested in the process because our guess is that it really does suck to be in jail, and imagining it smells like urine and is hard to sleep there.
Not being independently wealthy artist-citizens and therefore lacking the private means to distribute these numismatic bailouts directly from our bank accounts to the hands of the esteemed banking community seems like little or no problem in this age of the electronic network- an age where creative and enriching experiences such as the one we propose are often financially enabled through democratic peer-to peer fundraising which, while not flowing right across boundaries of race and class, do seem to follow the entreprenrially idealistic ambitions of the intelligentsia like water down dry canyons soon after a rain in the dryer portions of the US.
Tapping the internet’s rich quartzite vein alluded to above- resources, it must be noted which seem to have largely installed the sitting president in his oval office easy-chair and are therefore nothing to scoff at, we will raise electronic funds to convert into metallic cash coins, which we will ceremonially present to fleets of bankers on Wall Street along with carefully curated Greece-inspired programs designed to apply pomp and circumstance and poetry to the occasion. As we state in our grassroots plea for donations: “Every Penny that you give will go directly to Wall Street Bankers,” it being understood of course that aside from the pounds of pennies you give, many different classes of money are bundled together with the donated US currency such as: general good will, karma, cultural power points, the currency of experimentation, political wampum, and the like. These monies will flow to tourists, artists, workers, Government Surveillance Specialists, ghostly spirits of Indians and Fisherman who populate lower Manhattan and others in the greater New York community and abroad who find us on Facebook.
We Pre-Emptively Answer our Critics:
One final note to those who might wonder whether standing across from the Stock Exchange giving out pennies, nickels and dimes is strangely inverse to the unprecedented thousands of New York’s homeless constantly asking for you to spare a dime on the subway and whether it might be disrespectful of them, given the fact that we have places to sleep (although we rent and do not own our homes but maybe that’s a good thing) and their poor fortune and heartbreaking plight being in this generation understood as a social given that many thousands will end up sleeping on the streets and there’s nothing to be done about it really, that’s how the world is, and most likely they did something really sinful or really stupid to be sleeping there, like the sin of criminal acts of all classes, the sin of laziness, the sin of gluttony: love of the drink, crack cocaine, etc, or worst of all- the sin of despair which brings us all down, we’ve got to keep exporting happy endings to keep this thing working, etc. To these would-be critics who see that we who are educated and lucky in our own way and may be acting offensively even chauvinistically, playing reverse panhandlers when immigrants fresh off the boat are getting up early and pulling themselves up by their bootstraps so that they may support whole continents , we say this: don’t forget those panhandlers of old, the ‘49ers who marched West in search of that shining metal- the bright & dense bulk of which is stored many stories under Wall Street in the impregnable vaults of the New York Fed. Those panhandlers who came from regions as remote as Siberia, Australia, China and New Jersey left home with nothing but an forlorn stovetop pan and a few coins but filled up to the brim with hope that one day the future would be brighter, not only for themselves and their families but for society at large. Remember how messed up things were in the 1840’s: crime was rampant, money was mostly counterfeit, across the south, black people were enslaved. These panhandlers, we believe, knew that one hope remained alive for a more just society where men would no longer wear chains, and that this hope lay buried in the rivers and quartzite veins of the Sierra foothills. Suffice to say that like so many mosquitoes descending on a lone cow in the pasture, or maybe more like a crack addict on a suicidal rampage, the veins were tapped, the land was stripped, the natives were killed, industry was doubled and tripled, Lincoln was elected, the slaves we freed and they put him on the penny: a numismatic monument to America which we believe is ours to keep for only a little while and is the rightful property of the Bankers of Wall Street, and we plan to return it.
Who We Are:
We are a joint venture of two New York based citizen-artists: the Aaron Burr Society, founded by Jim Costanzo, and Noah Fischer& Co. As chance would have it (though one person’s chance is another’s karma) this joint venture initially formed in 2008: the year of change, when then-candidate Barak Obama inspired legions of volunteers to canvas for change; a concept which seemed vanguard at the time. Fischer and Costanzo thus drove to Milford, PA: a perfectly divided American small town where they stood on the street corner yelling and waving signs at strangers. On this occasion, Fischer was given an uncle Sam outfit which he was not allowed to keep. History rolled on, Obama was elected under economic crisis conditions and proceeded to pick distinguished men to put the economy back on track; men who had first-hand knowledge of the dirty affairs of Wall Street, largely having caused them in the first place. The years passed; 2008, 2009, then 2010 and finally 2011, and from economic stagnation sprang the aforementioned joint venture: a business whose sole mission is to trade on the absurdity of Market Finance: both ceremonial and playful.