The recession watch column, written by Helen Hague, in the December 8th 1991 edition of the Independent on Sunday was a great delight to me with it’s reference to Barry Sullivan’s shop Kincheap.
I’m using the same joke: starting a CAmpaign for Real Money Again (CARMA), which will issue it’s own one world coinage/token of membership, using the style of The ‘Kin’ell Bank.
As an ex-business man turned peripatetic silversmithing monk, it was always a problem to know the fair price for my work; it’s a way of meditating, so a lot more time is spent on it than would be appropriate if it were a business product rather than zen art. Too high a price and I’d be ripping off other people, too low and it would be me that was being ripped off; even a monk has to eat, and “there’s always the rent question”.
Also, as an artist, there’s the necessity to raise finance for my future work, and in my case this includes a project for a piece to be part of the ’92 Biennial Sculpture Exhibition in Copenhagen. The provisional budget is three million Danish crowns, say a quarter of a million quidlets, and here’s me, an alcoholic artist who can’t be trusted with cash! Ah, but I can dream, can’t I?
Maybe it’s not so unrealistic either; delusions of grandeur in the manic phase are matched by the delusions of insignificance in the depressive; and the New Carlsberg Foundation (new last century, that is) spends profits from the brewery for artistic purposes.
Sculpture is a living art in Denmark, quite literally in the case of my contribution to the ’90 Biennial; untitled, it consisted of myself in a long bottle-green Barbour, and balanced on the head, an oversized crown cork, about a half meter in diameter, made from the copper sheer that had been part of the bridge between the city-centre and Christianshavn island. Copper is the traditional palace roofing there, and the homeless proverbially find shelter under a bridge; it was a poor man’s palace roof with no walls, as there had to be room for all the freedom. And the balance has to be maintained between drinking enough to stimulate the creative flow, and not toping so much that nothing gets created. It was a self-caricature that won’t be forgotten in a hurry.
This years piece will be more permanent, more traditionally sculptural and less guerilla theatre. The title perhaps “Momento Muri” or “The Wall Memorial”; inspired by the events of ’89. The Berlin wall came down, built by a government to keep the people in; and a wall went up, built by the people of Christiania to keep the government out. Constructed in a day, recycled railway sleepers with a concrete core, and would stop a tank. The idea is to wrap that wall in copper sheeting, rather as Christo might in an impermanent medium. It would be a sculpture positively improved by graffiti; and since Christiania is a car-free state, the only respectful way to visit would be on foot or by bicycle, so at least some of the tourist coaches that clog Christianshavn to see the church and the canals might stay away.
The provisional budget of DKr3m comes from the way the piece of the bridge was acquired for the last work; the workers performing the 50 year service on the lifting bridge sit on one side of the road, enjoying their end of day beer, a 1×2 metre section of copper sites to one side of the rubbish heap opposite. Their beer money for the next day or two.
Along comes the myopic artist, so out of it that he’s lost his glasses, and totally trips out over the rainbow colours in the raw metal that’s been inside a wall for half a century, shut away from man, gazing in fascination from the distance of a handspan. The minutes pass. Someone shouts across, “300 crowns and it’s yours”, I turn and look Thurber-blind at them, and shout back “Three hundred? It’s worth Three Million if you find the right wall to hang it on”! Back to the fascinated delight in the perfect surface, a minute passes, then a cry of “It’s yours if you can carry it”!
Now, Christo finances his work by selling the drawings and models from his previous stuff. While many photos’ were taken of my last sculpturing, I have none. The copper crown cork was thrown away by a drinking and philosophising partner in a fit of pique, so all I have left of it is the Barbour jacket and it seems unlikely anyone will front much for that. Not until I’m famous, or dead, or both.
What they will pay money for are the pendants I’ve been making since the early seventies; sculptures small enough to wear. The format is holes carved from silver discs leaving the design suspended in a circular frame, practically snagproof. The standard size is that of a pre-decimal Penny; smooth edged, they are perfect to scribe round. The first four were Christmas presents, and so many others have wanted their own, so many who wear them want to give one away, that every time I lose a workshop (this one is my seventh), there are orders for the next time I get my hands on the tools.
What price to charge? The years keep passing, and I’ve made them in six countries.
What is a fair price? One of those ultimate questions, like “What is quality?”, Robert Pirsig’s obsession in Zen and the Art of MotorCycle Maintenance”. Nobody needs what I make, so it’s a discretionary purchase. Some I give away, people who like them enough give them to their lovers and children and grannies.
How much to charge? Selling them in the market-place at the first price thought of, poorer people would spend a lot of time looking, talking, love the stuff, come back later; some would buy, willing to forego something they needed, others unable to. The rich? To them it was just another trinket, “Oh that’s nice!”, peel the notes off a fat wad, hardly even noticed they’d acquired another “thing”.
I meditated on how to set my price so it felt like the “Right Livelihood”. Eventually the formula came, sell by weight! My work is worth as much as it’s own weight in the very best hashish (also a discretionary purchase). The designs are defined by the parts cut away, every strike of the tool sculpting that perfect balance to the eye lowers the value and then there is that bit over there, yes, now a bit off here. Finally there’s a work of art I’m happy to part with, and for the price of what could be smoked in a few days they’ve got something to enjoy year after year. “Right Livelihood!”
Back in England again, and once more I’ve made the mistake of arriving without a return ticket to a civilised country (make that planet); the pain in the lower left molars insisted. Still, it could be worse, Thatcher was deposed a month after my return; I claim no credit. So I find the need to make some money of my own.
Meanwhile, the Chaos Theory has emerged: every point in the universe is simultaneously at the edge and at the centre, and finally we have the intellectual grappling-iron to haul our viewpoint back beyond the Big Bang. Apparently our universe is the embarrassed blush when existence became self-conscious on having realised the possibility of “the other?”. The dimensions unfolded to the present nine or eleven or whatever, of which we live in three.
The underlying reality is that there ain’t nobody here but us chickens, the improbable observer fractally imploded, grains on the chess board, double or quits. Six billion and counting, and the one world is round, rich and beautiful. It’s the only one we’ve got, and viewed from the outside it’s round.
So, obviously, the purest form for my circular framed design will have a One suspended in a Zero; piercing the upright of the One will be the ‘Kin’ell Bank’s logo, the apostrophes each side of the i’s dot; and suspended in the circle of that dot: a one, etc. Go ask a computer if you don’t understand, ain’t no-one in there, only them ones and zeroes, the real numbers, by which all the rest are implied and defined.
If Time is Money, is Money not Time? And time is what it takes to turn a sheet of silver into a zero and a unit, a nothing and a one, a few basic tools and the will to learn what they can teach. The derivation of the word Bank is from bench, the workbench to which people came to find portable value, the metal worked so it’s worth can be seen. New money for old.
How many of those stashing their banknotes under mattresses or in off-shore banks, know that all the value of all the money in the world was traded electronically, zeros and ones, ten times over in the last year? What is money now, going round so fast that it’s reached escape velocity? We don’t inherit this planet from our ancestors, we borrow it from our grandchildren. Time for some real money again?
What is it about the new one world money, that makes it really worth more than old money? Well, once you own it, the value never goes down; so inflation becomes a thing of the past.
Now that the absurdities of state communism has led to it’s collapse, it is getting harder to ignore the instability of growth junkie capitalism; even Joe Citizen can see that it’s like a cartoon character that has run off a cliff and hasn’t fallen yet only because it hasn’t looked down. However it all turns out, people will still want to wear shiny ornaments.
The time has come for me to take on apprentices and franchisees. I’m progressively crippled by arthritis and have a suicidal lifestyle; it would be a waste for this business to die with me.
Consider the advantages; the entire workshop and stock will fit in a briefcase, with space for you accounts, spare knickers, socks and teeshirts, plus a packet of sandwiches and can of beer. You can travel anywhere with hand baggage only, and be self supporting. You can work at home, or on a park bench or at your favourite beach cafe. No factories, no warehouses, no transport fleets; deliveries can go by mail and supplies that can’t be obtained locally come the same way. The product is it’s own advertising, and what other business can buy it’s materials now for 1971’s price? Plus, it’s a very green affair as all waste gets recycled.
Every ‘Kin’ell Bank franchisee will accept not only the local currency, it will of course take it’s own coins in payment for a piece to your own design. So, a money proofed against inflation and collapse of the economy, and not only will it always be worth it’s own weight, every coin will be a collectors item, at more than face value! It’s a numismatists wet dream, every coin unique, and hallmarks show the year and the maker. Forgery is impossible by casting, as two the same would be a give-away and even if someone were dumb enough to try, the forgeries would be collectors items too! Plus they would be able to wear their collections to display their wealth, or show what swaps they could offer.
Last year (1991), a unique 1954 penny sold for £23,100, a mark-up of 954000% on it’s face value. Screw the ECU, get your old money into ‘Kin’ell Bank coinage now!
The first apprentices are at work, and anytime we get ahead of the orders and build up some stock there’ll be a bureau de change down by the canal at Camden Lock Market. Meanwhile, orders with up front payment take precedence and enquiries with SAEs stand best chance of a response: apply c/o ACME SILVER, 24 Hercules St, N7 6AS, Islington, London, Europe, The World.
Good Luck to all who sail in her!
1991 – No Copyright if quoted entire together with this condition.
With love from CityZen Alien 1809470001 AKA Swami Deva Pragyan.
Carma Communique Number One ends here.
2012 Update – While Prag’s Barbour remained a possession, it is not available to be purchased as a piece of art. However, it did keep me warm and dry during one particularly damp Glastonbury!
The Capitalist economy has indeed imploded thanks to the greed of individuals and the manipulation of ones and zeroes to generate short term gain (bonuses) at the expense of long term stability and growth.
Central Banks have resorted to generating money by magyk (quantitive easing) in a desperate attempt to maintain the status quo. All the while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
What happened to the utopian future I dreamed of when reading Science Fiction? Through automation and technological advances the entire planet should be fed, sheltered and have sufficient leisure time that Artistic and Intellectual pursuits are the principle reason for existence, not working more hours just to feed your family.
We need Real Money now more than ever.
Queries regarding availability/history of coinage or pendants are welcome.
The new contact address for ACME is Deva Pragyan, 39 Holland Mews, Hove, East Sussex BN3 1JG, England, Europe, The World.