All posts by Peter Sun
300 single dollar bills, dissolved and reconstituted into a single unit.
Liquid Assets and 300 Dollar Bill detail an individual artist’s struggle with the intrinsically paradoxical nature of currency. Forcing himself to spend as much time as possible with the materiality of the currency through traditional papermaking techniques, he processes the increasingly abstract ubiquity of currency in his life. In taking on this project, he hopes to come to grips with the significance of the materiality that has historically been inherent within the concept of currency, but is now growing increasingly unmoored. The final piece is a study on the materiality of currency, divested of its numismatic value.
The viewer is invited to accompany the artist on the journey of liquidation and reconstitution, and reflect on the importance that the materiality of currency has for their own self.
View the entire piece here.
Last semester, I conducted a proof of concept study for the project Liquid Assets. This study explored both the process of pulping and reconstituting legal tender, and reactions of both virtual and physical audiences to the project.
I began by soaking twenty single dollar bills in a sodium carbonate solution for 48 hours, then used a pestle and mortar to grind the bills into a fine pulp. For the final presentation, I streamed the solution through a silkscreen, flattened the pulp by hand, and consumed the liquid that was strained out of the pulp.
Aesthetically, I was pleased with the physical appearance of the dried pulp. In particular, I liked the minimal traces of detail from remnants of dollar bills that were not wholly broken down. The non-uniformity of the pulp was caused in part by the primitive method by which I pulped the paper: for one thing, I used a mortar and pestle instead of a paper mill to grind out the pulp. For another, I pressed the paper by hand rather than using a paper press.
The process of pulping by hand appeals to me in regard to this project, not only because of the aesthetic of the resultant pulp, but also due to the contrast between the low-tech nature of the process and the high-tech means of propagation, as well as the intimacy of cultivating the material by hand.
Going forward, I hope to undertake this project in a gallery setting. I will either attend the space in person, or provide a receptacle which will contain the material for pulping. After soaking the material in soda ash, I will grind it by hand then lay it on the silk screen, so that by the end it forms a cohesive canvas.
I was half awake when I came upon this scene. An almost inaudible hyper-fast paced clicking, like the hum of an electrical device, had awoken me from one dream into another. Before me stood a room, murky and dark, yet to my sleep-addled brain as realistic as the one behind. Somnambulant, I drew ever closer to the shadow bedroom and reached out with a tentative hand.
There was something there. No- many things. Were they lights? It seemed to me that the room in the shadow world crawled with these tiny lights, and with a baseless exuberance one can only find in the depths of sleep, I thought that my dreams had manifested into a light show in my bedroom.
But no, that wasn’t it. My hands shook, and I jerked my head away instinctively.
The last time this had happened was long ago. I was five, or perhaps even younger. I had awoken in the middle of the night to a presence just beyond the edge of my comprehension. When I looked up, I found my infant sister staring back at me, her uncharacteristically huge eyes voids within which I saw her own eyes again mirrored in mine, and mine in hers. She drew closer, and as she did I followed her movements.
The illusion shattered with a crack of familiar drywall.
Walls have always acted like mirrors to me when I’m in an altered state. The big question is, why do I always feel like I am the one following the mirrored individual’s actions? I only bumped into my sister within the drywall because I saw her leaning towards me. I thought she wanted to tell me something.
My attention was once again drawn to the quasi-electronic drone. It was coming from behind the trash can. Pulling the trashcan away, I found the culprit: a tiny moth clumsily beat damaged wings across the faux-linoleum floor. Initially, I thought that it was the sound of the wings that I had heard in the night. But the moth had been pinned down to the bottom of the trashcan; there was no way it could have flapped its wings then.Then I listened more carefully, and realized that there was some mechanism within its mouth that emitted the sound. My wife told me she couldn’t hear it.
Cupping the moth gently with both hands, I ushered the bedraggled insect outside. As I drew closer to the glass, the shadow room loomed before me once more, until I pulled away the glass and tiny insects pored in to greet their fallen comrade.
I would like to believe that those insects which I initially mistook for lights had come through window in such droves in order to save their wayward friend; it was far more likely that they were merely drawn in by the light. When I saw them swarm over the bedraggled moth, I wanted to believe that they would uplift her to the heavens on their collective back. Mothie’s wings would grow strong with their journey, and when they at last arrived at the transcontinental highway that all insects must join at terminus of their final instar, Mothilda would be strong enough to join the stream.
I must have missed it. I turned away with crawling thoughts; had I swatted down the moth with a careless blow at some point during the night? Had it crawled behind the trash can seeking shelter against future brutalisms? Or perhaps simply to die? If so, I had only disturbed its rest with more torment.
Our subjective realities are formed by the narratives we impose upon them, no matter how tenuous those narratives might seem. Sometimes, you follow the reflection you see in the glass. Sometimes, the reflection follows you. Sometimes, there is no glass, only drywall. And sometimes there’s nothing at all.
Collectively these narratives form a web. And in the end all I could do was just sit there, watching flies land on the Internet.
anonymous lurkers attacking friends.
imagine daggers buzzing.