Untitled (Powder) 

2005

 

 

 

Powder on paper

Five pieces ($20, $50, $100, $200, and $500 peso bills)

2.36 × 5.91 inches each

 

 

 

The piece comprises powder acquired by sanding the printed surface of different banknote denominations and then pasting this powder onto a paper surface with the same dimensions as the bill from which it was removed. In an another attempt to extract the meaning of a nature’s symbolic composition from an economic tool, the artist disintegrated the printed surface of bills of different denominations in Mexican pesos, separating their elements and eliminating the heroes represented there thus constructing an image that serves, despite its monochromic appearance, as an alternative representation or presentation of a country’s symbolic essence. 

The Bank of Mexico declares that, for a bill to conserve its value, its physical integrity must be maintained and it must be recognizable as such. This means that the whole and its parts must match, whether by denomination, by series, or because all security elements assigned to it correspond to those determined by the Bank. Thus, a bill’s value is relative both to its physical appearance and to the symbolic value granted to it, marked like a seal in a corner of the paper; if this physical medium ceases to exist, its designated symbolic value ceases to functional legally and the bill’s denomination is no longer exchangeable for any product that costs what the bill itself indicates.

 

There is a clear relationship between a bill’s physical nature and its legal value. In fact, it is illegal to destroy bills or coins: even though they are in the user’s property, a consumer good, they may only be used and enjoyed, not abused, as the good is actually property of the State. In this sense, the bill does not belong to the “owner” and its value is relative: what it possesses, rather, is the potential to acquire goods by means of a denomination. When a bill is ground into dust, an action Fritzia Irizar performs by insistently rubbing the bill, what’s lost is not only the ability to identify it due to a loss, in turn, of physical consistency; it has also lost its value in an illegal act. All that remains is its color and the remnants of paper transformed into dust, now atop a surface that looks more like an accumulation of colorful powder on a geological map.

 

However, the impossibility of recognizing the bill is a crucial part of this piece, as is its destruction into something useless. The bills with the largest denominations foundin Mexico are reduced to colored powder, not only to express loss, but also a double gain: for one thing, the formerly whole object is dissolved into atomic parts, losing its entire structure with a single gesture, and thus becomes something else altogether. For another, Irizar literally appropriates the bill by destroying it and changing it into residue that can be sold as a work of art, thus increasing its value. If the bill once had a particular denomination, it now has another; it is now something new.

 

This is a piece about the transmutation and value of things: two intimately connected subjects. It shows that both an object and its value are always relative, despite the fact that there is apparent stability in a use and a price. In fact, Irizar’s action points to the instability of the world, which can only be secured for a moment at a time. This isn’t a piece about fetish: it’s a piece about movement. 

 

Untitled (Powder)

Daniel Montero