“When bankers get together for dinner, they discuss Art. When artists get together for dinner, they discuss money.”
– Oscar Wilde


Amsterdam-based artist Dadara celebrates  this year of radical change with the latest project from Exchanghibition Bank:  a "2012" note that blurs the distinction between fine art and finance, banking and theatrical ritual.

Dadara's not only a psychedelic painter, but the ringleader of a subversive crew of artist-bankers who bring a fake (?) teller's booth to art museums and guerrilla public installations alike – an act equally in/appropriate to the Rijksmusuem and Amsterdam Central Station, where visitors could exchang their euros for banknotes of Zero, One Million, or Infinite (units don't matter here).  

I met him in person at Burning Man this year, where Exchanghibition Bank set up on the dusty expanse offering people their suspiciously money-esque art notes in exchange for signing a "Karma Laundering" statement that claims you will never again compromise artistic freedom for money.  (You can buy your way back out of the agreement, if you can handle the shame.)

It's an idea whose time has come – a time when drastic government cutbacks on the arts are exceeded by scarcely-imaginable subsizidies afforded the failing banks (largely because art itself has become a commodity, with worth measured in auction price).  If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!  What is money, exactly, if not an agreement – the ritual magical performance of a consensual values-reality?  Dadara explained to me by email:

"Our current form of Money, detached from any tangible asset and only backed by our trust, has seemingly taken on the role of an omnipresent Philosopher’s Stone, magically turning any quality of life into a measurable quantity of bigger or smaller heaps of cash, or rather digits on our computer screen.  But not all values and qualities can be converted that easily into a pile of banknotes. After all, what we really value in life is ‘priceless’." 

With the release of the 2012 banknote, Exchanghibition Bank is performing more than a cheeky, ironic installation – Dadara is insistent that "in order for [this note] to have more than just a financial value we need our 'customers' to think about the way you’d like to Exchange the World (if you haven’t done so already), and describe that idea to us. Thus, your specific idea for change will become an inseparable part of your uniquely numbered banknote – this should stimulate and inspire you to turn those ideas and dreams into reality before the banknote’s expiration date of 21-12-2012."

This money is participatory, thoughtful, and comes with an expiration date.  Its worth is not in what you can get for it in trade, but the questions you have to answer for yourself by communing with it.  Somewhere between the real and virtual, the serious and silly, Dadara explores the relationship between the aesthetic and practical domains of social and cultural exchange, calling into question the very nature of the economic and spiritual crises of the early 21st Century.  Are they really different crises at all? As Dadara explains:

"Even though they both start with an M, Money and Magic are very different things. Money is just a medium of exchange. But our intentions, ideals, and actions behind the way we use that medium might indeed make Magic happen."

One (/Zero/Infinite) hopes.

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Order your own 2012 note (the ordering process requires that you leave your ideas for change, which are then referenced to the serial number of your note and made available for public appreciation).

Read the ideas for change supporters have offered when opening their accounts.