I looked in my wallet and all I could find was paper, plastic, metal, clay, tin, silk, leather, veneer, gold, silver, bronze, wool, salt, perspex, polyester, cotton, nickel, wood, propaganda, lost ideologies, nationalisms, localisms, globalisms, wishes, trust, rust...
London based artist Carlos Noronha Feio has been building a collection of alternative currencies for several years and presents a selection of these in all four of our cabinets. Many pieces in the collection are not in fact legal tender, yet they function as a means of payment in their mutual acceptance by exchanging parties. There are examples of how currency, widely distributed and unavoidable in everyday life, was used as a powerful form of propaganda with depictions of political power and aspirations printed on them. This can be seen in some of the Notgelds, which translated means emergency currency. Thousands of these were produced in Germany, Austria and many other countries after the widespread destruction of World War 1.
There are also several pieces of time currency. Some originate from the Birmingham Labour Exchange of the early nineteenth century, others to Ithaca New York, the oldest local currency system still operating in the US today. The unit of exchange with time currency is the person-hour. The Ithaca hour however equated one hour to $10 and could be used at participating local businesses. The goal of the Ithaca hour was the promotion of local economic development.
Noronha Feio’s collection is eclectic and the artist affords equal attention to modern symbols of alternative currency such as the Tesco Clubcard, as to rare pieces of ephemera such as the Zero Dollar (1974 -78) produced by Brazilian conceptual artist Cildo Meireles. The collection grows as Noronha Feio scours Ebay and other secondary markets for items of questionable value.
Carlos Noronha Feio was born in Lisbon. He is an artist, curator of The Mews Project in Whitechapel and is currently undertaking a PhD at Royal College of Art, London.
A limited edition silk print has been produced to coincide with the exhibition and provides the opportunity for active involvement in Noronha Feio’s project. The edition will be sold at a starting price of £20 and will increase in price by £5 with each edition sold. As public interest increases, so too does the price. Collectors also have the option to return their edition, receiving a full refund for the price they paid. This in turn decreases the overall price of the edition. By purchasing an edition the buyer contributes to generating value and to ideas of supply and demand which drive the market.