Emilio Moreno: Other Issues

Mentor: Alena Alexandrova

Independent reviewer: Zachary Formwalt

Arnhem, June 2011


This paper studies three historical cases of unorthodox issues of currency. By asking what and how these specific object are, I aim to understand the implications, metaphors and ideas layered upon the use of very specific materials. The functions of those objects are also studied here, paying attention to the implications regarding notions such as sovereignty, social cohesion, fetish, the scared, autonomy, the universal, the concrete …etc.

By contextualising these cases within the realm of art, I suggest new possible connections in the biography of those objects.E.M.


There is a question concerning the form of Emilio's thesis that I think gets to the heart of the concept developed therein: In what sense is his text an alternative to what he refers to as the "'official currency' when expecting a thesis from an art student"? I put this forward in the beginning because I think it is where the strengths of his thesis lie and it is also where the minor weaknesses can be located. His text is not simply an alternative to the expected thesis in the sense that its object is something other than an art object or, more generally, the field of art as such. The object of analysis seems to be the very processes by which everyday objects are transformed into something beyond themselves, or to put it the other way around, as Emilio does in the conclusion, "the processes by which different ideas take material forms." The fact that he does not choose his examples from the field of art, but rather from various episodes in the history of money forces the reader to confront more directly the question of value in a form that relates to the present circumstances of the global economy. This in turn emphasizes the role that belief plays in the way that economic value is represented in money in order to store, transfer, and accumulate it under capitalism. The reference to Luther is explicit and spot on in the first section: away from material goods and the pictorial representation of God toward faith as that which guarantees salvation. The sacred image is not so easily spirited away, however, as it comes back in the form of money. And once this money is outmoded, it remains as a relic, whose value is no longer confined to the sphere of economy, having become a symbol of resistance (in the case of Leiden) through the circumstances which forced its appearance. Emilio is keen to point out that this did not all happen automatically; there were agents who made these displacements that shifted the meaning, and value, of these objects. These were not artists, but we can certainly see the parallel and it is nice that he trusts that we will get it without having to hit us over the head with it. This analysis and that of the playing cards' transformation into money in the second chapter were the high points for me. Precise and consequential analysis, and in the second section, the short story, "Choreography on a river" beautifully articulated a number of the concepts drawn out in the theoretical section in a different, more personal, register. This sudden shift in the text really worked in this instance, though I found the other parts, each of which is separated from the main text by a different font, to be less resolved. Perhaps if they were more integrated into the rest of the text, so that they did not appear literally mid- sentence, they would work better. They would still very much serve as interruptions, but more calculated ones, which serve a more coherent structural function. For me the stories "Choreography on a river" and "A sharp" really worked, especially the former, while the other sections written in this mode felt too haphazard. They failed to develop the themes in the main text, from a different perspective, as the two mentioned above did. I'm not sure that they are really needed, but if they are included, I think they need some work. The only other reservation I have concerns the citations. I think there is a rather inconsistent use of footnotes. I don't understand the logic behind what gets cited and what doesn't. I would either suggest no footnotes at all, or more, especially in the earlier sections. But these are small reservations relative to the text as a whole, which I found highly engaging and a pleasure to read, and, not least, from which I learned a lot!

Review by the artist Zachary Formwalt, a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. In 2004 and 2005 he attended the Critical Postgraduate Program at the Malmö Art Academy.