The Bank of Subjectivity

- Patrick Collier

One of my main focuses for the Shop project was to produce the fake Bank notes. It was a personal obsession of mine.

We decided to use fake money as a prop to engage people with the performance. This idea was tested during the mini Shop exhibition and after seeing how it was used then I began a complete overhaul of the money so that it would work the way it was intended. The problem was that in min’ Shop, people didn’t attribute any value to the money. It wasn’t designed to the same standard as real money and it was printed on normal paper, it was even quite smaller than real money. As visitors left, they usually gave the notes back because they didn’t want them. It’s apparent lack of worth begged the question, why isn’t the money made from cardboard too? If the money was as easily and cheaply made as the products then the different choice of material didn’t make sense.

Because the money was the prop we needed to make people interact with the performance, I decided making it out of cardboard wouldn’t work, instead I decided to make it as much like real money as was practical and legal. In particular, I wanted to print the money on actual money paper, a paper made from cotton or linen. For most people the only times when they handle rag paper is money. To do this, I did a lot of research into how real money is produced. There isn’t a lot of legitimate information on the subject, not to say there isn’t any but I had to look up a lot ‘how to’ guides on counterfeiting.
I was convinced that if it had the feel of money, the feel of material worth then people wouldn’t be so quick to exchange it for a product and might even choose to keep the note.

I highly recommend watching lawyer, Gary Fielder’s lecture “The Gig Is Up: Money, the Federal Reserve and You”. In it he talks about fiat and intrinsic money. A big part of shop was about questioning worth and that’s what I wanted to do most specifically with the money.

Intrinsic worth was what I was trying to create. On the final design it says we promise 10 minutes of our time. The idea was to make the note an object of actual intrinsic worth by making it possible to claim someone’s time with it.

This is similar to a note created by 19th century philanthropist Robert Owen who created the equitable labour exchange where people could barter time and skill with a note relevant to the time involved. For example, something made was worth however long it took someone to make it. In that sense you could say the time spent developing the fake money gives them worth, or that the real money in ink and paper spent to produce them gives them worth.

I think the money worked as a counterpoint to the products. When given the note people were amazed by the realism and then after entering the shop and seeing the comparatively basic products, they had to choose what they thought was worth more. The main difference is that in a superficial way, the notes seem to be worth more but the real worth is in the ideas presented in our products. Most used the money to buy a product but there were a few who chose to keep the money instead.