Prague-born artist Stefano Tsivopoulos’ three-channel video follows the story of an African immigrant in Athens, searching for scrap to sell it and make money.(Despina Spyrou)
Prague-born artist Stefano Tsivopoulos’ three-channel video follows the story of an African immigrant in Athens, searching for scrap to sell it and make money.(Despina Spyrou)

What’s the value of money anyway? An art show questions demonetisation

Set against the backdrop of Greece’s economic crisis, the video exhibit History Zero is now showing at the Mumbai Art Room. Here’s all you need to know.
By Riddhi Doshi | Hindustan Times
PUBLISHED ON JUN 23, 2017 06:33 PM IST

History Zero

WHERE: Mumbai Art Room, Pipewala Apartments, 4th Pasta Lane, SBS Road, Colaba

WHEN: June 22 to July 1; 11 am to 7 pm, Open all days

ENTRY IS FREE

An old Rs 500 currency note now seems like a Roman emperor of legend, robbed of all his powers overnight.

On November 8, last year, when India’s Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes lost their value overnight, it marked the start of a tumble for the economy. The surprise demonetization move raised questions about the value of our money, the power we attached to a piece of paper and its influence on social life.

Prague-born artist Stefano Tsivopoulos asks such immersive questions in his video installation History Zero, initially created for the Venice Beinnale in 2013, in the background of the economic crisis in Greece, and now showing at the Mumbai Art Room.

History Zero’s exhibits include an art-collector suffering from dementia, who obsessively creates origami flowers out of Euro bank-notes. (Despina Spyrou)
History Zero’s exhibits include an art-collector suffering from dementia, who obsessively creates origami flowers out of Euro bank-notes. (Despina Spyrou)

The three-channel video follows an African immigrant in Athens, searching for scrap to sell it and make money, an artist who roams the city, taking photographs on his iPad; and an art-collector suffering from dementia, who obsessively creates origami flowers out of Euro bank-notes.

An art exhibit at History Zero features an African immigrant in Athens struggling with Greece’s economic crisis. (Despina Spyrou)
An art exhibit at History Zero features an African immigrant in Athens struggling with Greece’s economic crisis. (Despina Spyrou)

The accompanying archival objects represent alternative currency systems from across the world: bitcoins, phone talk time minutes that double for cash in parts of Africa, and a Chennai’s NGO’s initiative of circulating dummy notes with an anti-bribery message.

In Mumbai, the moments of collapse in Greece and India both echo a crises of currency. “This show uses this context to speculate on what is fundamentally wrong with the economic space we create and inhabit - and how we may think beyond it,” says curator Abhijan Gupta. “It refuses to see them as isolated incidents, but rather crucial failures of the existing monetary system.”

History Zero features an exhibit about an artist who roams the city, trying to make sense of the moments of economic collapse in Greece . (Despina Spyrou)
History Zero features an exhibit about an artist who roams the city, trying to make sense of the moments of economic collapse in Greece . (Despina Spyrou)

The exhibition specially resonates in India’s financial capital, home to several alternative modes of accounting and payment. We have community banking and credit systems, semi-legitimate street stock markets, gold coins for gifting and other legal tender. And yet, no one came away from the evening of November 8 unscathed.

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