CURRENCY Group exhibition
March 17 - April 15
Artist Reception: March 17, Saturday 5PM
Philippines: CC, Christina Lopez, Doktor Karayom, Franz Vocalan, Mideo M. Cruz, Nasser Lubay, Racquel De Loyola, Red Genotiva, Sidney Valdez
Spain: Imonboy, Isabel Rosado, Julio Acab,
Exhibition text by Miguel Syjuco
If you were to sell your soul, how would you name your price? Would you condone the Devil’s haggling? Or sweeten your deal with a discount? If paid by credit card, are air miles earned? Will it come with a lifetime warranty? Does the government demand VAT on the sale of souls? What’s the policy on returns? And gift-wrapping… will that cost extra?
How, really, do we assign value? A slice of polished rock, a sliver off fallen trees, are only worth what we’ve inscribed on them, and agreed upon without ever having been consulted. A diamond is a girl’s best friend, and a dog is man’s best friend, but a dog is certainly not a diamond. Yet when your house is burning, which will you save — the askal that barks or the heirloom that blings?
If worth is so arbitrary, how can anything be worthy? Who gets to dictate the cost of life, our innocence or guilt, whether we live or die, if our souls are saved or damned? Look around at our world gilded in nonsense and seasonal sales, fake news and pork barrels, unli plans and midnight madness — it’s a world where most of what is supplied deserves no demand, and what is demanded is rarely truly supplied.
Because a social contract is only as good as the handshake it’s written on. Because money is the root of all evil, but needed to fund the good, to gain power to promise change, though power corrupts eventually, and so we end up full circle, discovering little has changed, or at least never enough. Because a piece of paper can be debilitating debt, or sweepstakes jackpot, or love note, or a death sentence, or a map leading to the buried treasure of a golden box made of plastic brimming with a stranger’s childhood photographs and his beloved slingshot that he’d whittled one birthday with his now-dead father but never touched again after he shot his little sister’s eye out and heard her screaming, why? why? why?
All too often we equate searching for meaning with seeking value. But how can value, which is an arbitrary answer, ever equal meaning, which is an eternal question? And so we turn to art, with all its nuance, because art offers answers by questioning. By confronting the meaning of arbitrary value we condemn the arbitrary value of meaning. Within that artwork on the wall, what the artist meant remains alive even if she is dead and the worth of her works has, finally, skyrocketed. And the auctioneer was God. Or was that the Devil? (Does it even matter?)
What we do know is that the word currency in often spoken in tones reserved for the sacred and the profane. We speak of currency as exchange, as movement, as relevance — ideas, direction, time. A current pushes galleons between continents, in both trade and conquest. A current energizes and illuminates, electrocutes and kills. A current is as important as now, until its time quickly passes. Currency folds thinly into our wallets, stories, cities — and widely expands each in turn. It is agency without our having agency over it.
But when a thief in the night comes upon you in a darkened alley, poking you sharply from behind and hissing sweetly in your ear: “Your money or your life?” — isn’t the choice always clear? Then why, in our choosing, do we always seem to hesitate?