Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash discusses important current aspects of biopolitics. By visualising microbiome landscapes of banknotes, the project invites us to reflect about the interconnectedness of ecological and economic exchanges.
Much recent attention has been given to the human microbiome, the microbes which live on and within our bodies. These communities also exist on most surfaces around us. When we touch objects, we exchange bacteria, fungi and viruses, leaving some microbiota behind. It is no surprise that one of the objects we touch most – money – is not only a medium of economic but also microbial exchange. According to a study conducted by the NYU Center for Genomics & Systems Biology, 3000 types of bacteria were identified on dollar bills from just one Manhattan bank.
Ken Rinaldo, an established artist in the field of Bio and Postmedia art, develops hybrid human-nonhuman ecologies. Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash explores the hidden microbiome of money within a critical framework that also sheds light on exchange and power. Do Chinese Yuan and American Dollars share bacterial and fungal communities?
This micro-performative project is intriguingly simple in its setup: Various bills of international currency are displayed in square Petri dishes on enriched agar. Time plays a crucial role, as a microbial landscape grows and realises itself over the course of several weeks.
On an aesthetic level, the iconography of the currency literally loses face as microbial growth undermines the representational aspect of the banknotes. The official character of money is subverted. As its microbial nature comes to light, it appears far less representative: a fine network of mycelia covers the head of George Washington on a $1 note; on a 10 CHF note, Le Corbusier is no longer recognisable due to bacterial growth.
Wishing to lessen his carbon footprint, artist Ken Rinaldo expressed the wish that the work be made without his travelling. This work was first made in 2017 during a residency at Cultivamos Cultura, Portugal. Some of the works in the exhibition were created with students from the Gustav-Freytag-Schule in Berlin-Reinickendorf as part of a collaboration between the school, ALB and the DIY Hack the Panke collective.
Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz (curators)