What does one hundred trillion dollars look like?

Discover photographer Nikolai Ishchuk

”Ishchuk’s images explore the aesthetics of a subject matter which is usually ignored in light of its cultural currency – and in this series, the subject matter is just that: currency.” – Diemar/Noble Gallery

Big Bucks USD 1 © Nikolai Ishchuk

Big Bucks AUD 10 © Nikolai Ishchuk

Big Bucks BYR 100,000 © Nikolai Ishchuk

Big Bucks CNY 0.10 © Nikolai Ishchuk

Big Bucks GBP 50 © Nikolai Ishchuk

Big Bucks — ZWD 100 000 000 000 000 (In 2009, the Zimbabwean Dollar was officially abandoned as the national currency in favor of using foreign money.) © Nikolai Ishchuk

Artist statement

Money is among the major abstract concepts permeating our lives. Yet its abstract nature is deferred by established practical routines of using and thinking about it. Banknotes, as tangible representations of arbitrary value, are an exemplary embodiment of the resulting “cognitive gap”. In The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Walter Benjamin points to ancient Greek coins as an early example of artwork reproduction. So there is no reason money shouldn’’t have its exhibition value flaunted.

This series of prints intends to give money the abstract treatment it deserves by turning banknotes into large detailed and colorful canvases – technically most of them can be printed up to 280 cm big. The cult status of money is thus exploited and subverted on several levels:

- Banknotes are transformed into totems, objects of worship and celebration;

- At the same time, they become tombstones for the idea of big, easy money that seemed to be everywhere only a short time ago;

- This can be seen as a ‘meta-exhibition’, i.e. , quite literally, money-on-walls, which is itself an observation of the contemporary art market (ironically, banknotes are also ultimate unlimited editions);

- Face value is decoupled from and overshadowed by aesthetics/the decorative, so the supposition that money has intrinsic value, to which we habitually seem to subscribe, is exposed as fiction. Think for example how legal tender can be rendered null and void by a decree or an overnight devaluation, as has happened in some countries.

The images are recognizable as quasi currency, yet due to color shifts, size etc. they do not conform to the value reference system within which they would ordinarily be interpreted. It is a comment on the mutable character of money, its endless transitions to and from various imaginary states (again, not unlike art itself), serving, among other things, as a metaphor for boom and bust, the bubbles and the crunches.

Big Bucks CNY 0.10 detail © Nikolai Ishchuk

Big Bucks Installation View (Jan-Mar 2011 Diemar/Noble, London) © Nikolai Ishchuk

About Nikolai: Born and grew up in Moscow. At the age of 17 briefly moved to Boston, USA, and then came to the UK to study. Attained a BA (Hons) in Economics and Sociology at the University of York and an M.Phil. in Modern Society and Global Transformations at Cambridge. Started doing photography and printing in 2005-6 and went on to receive a Graduate Certificate in Lens Based Image Making from the London College of Communication in 2007. In the last couple years my practice has been expanding to include collage, appropriated imagery, text etc. I have recently been accepted into a postgrad fine art program at the Chelsea College of Art and Design, which I am expecting to start in January. I’ve exhibited in London, Moscow, Dubai and Zagreb.

You can find more of Nikolai’s work on his website, Tumblr, WordPress, and get in touch with him on Twitter @Nikolai_Ishchuk
and Facebook

One comment

  1. Pingback: Exhibiton Watch: The London Open « eighteen39

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