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Thursday, 05 March 2009 02:00

Creative currencies vs. False gods

By  Mehita Iqani
Money: what a thing. It can create such extremes of joy or despair – depending of course, on whether one has it or not. I've experienced neither true poverty, nor true wealth – but have glimpsed both, fleetingly, from the sidelines of other people's lives. Fantasized about both lifestyles. Me: sunbathing on a yacht, in the Caribbean. Me: counting pennies in the dreary fog of London to afford a cup of tea. Both are true fantasies. Both are false memories. I have my moments when the world feels wonderfully abundant, and others when it feels dreadfully mean, but overall I have been lucky to avoid the extremes that the states of cash-flush or cash-scarce can elicit. I'm grateful for that luck. But not everyone is as lucky as I. So much about money seems tied to luck – the luck of the socio-economic state one is born into (trust fund millions vs. nothing but an empty wooden bowl to scrape with your tongue), whether markets go up or down, whether and how shares crash, the prices and availability of the things we all desire. I walk past both the beggars on the street and the bankers in their pinstripe suits: at the end of the day, the value of each can be summarised quite simply in the series of digits reflecting a bank balance. Riches and poverties as arbitrary as these are reflected in many of the works published in this issue of ITCH online – the $$$$$$$$$ issue. Of course. This is the best issue yet (forgive me if I say this every time). But there is something about the acuteness of the present "crisis", the popular reawakening of ideas of responsibility and regulation and plain indignation about what we've allowed to happen, which has resulted in a collection of art/textworks that is very provocative, seductive and engaging. And of course, plenty of irony thrown in to boot.

Like every other wired citizen in the world, I've been watching the markets crash recently, and thinking (perhaps like some, but not others): "Let it burn!" Free markets and free trade. Global depression and recession is before us: so what? Its only if you participated in the system that its decline might affect you. If you didn't, if you were always free and didn't own property and/or grew your own vegetables (made your own art, wrote down your ideas/poetry), this crash of dollars means nothing. Let the bankers and the politicians sort it out and leave us alone. But… what if… a bank account disappears overnight? Or one can no longer pay for shopping with a debit card? Or… inflation: one tomato suddenly costs fifty million? Are these fears warranted, or simply the result of becoming accustomed to comfortable cultures and practices of self-absorbed, profit-hungry greed?

I don't presume to have answers, only opinions. So do all of the artworks in image, sound and text assembled here, each exploring some of the contradictions and complexities associated with wealth, poverty, cash, money, currency and more. As always, I'm impressed and humbled by the fact that people want their work to be published in ITCH, for no compensation but the space provided. Let it be said: the dollar is not king here. Neither is the rand queen, the kwacha princess nor the sterling queen-mum. We don't make money nor pass any of it along. We are both wonderfully free and treacherously winging it. But we know that there is a different economy at play here, one that sees value in creative expression and the practice of sharing ideas, artistic insights, thoughtfulness and criticism. Some kind of cultural and creative exchange takes place in communities of expression like ITCH (we are not unique, many independent media experiments aim for and achieve similar goals). Such spaces are not dependent upon old-school, conservative and calculative systems of value determination. May our type of wealth continue to flourish — and may the false gods continue to plummet.
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1 comment

  • Comment Link Takalani Lubengo Thursday, 28 October 2010 02:00 posted by Takalani Lubengo

    It is by our hearts and soul that our existence shall flourish, anf not by the state of our financial or economic stature.

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