Follow the Money: Koert van Mensvoort on “Money as a Medium”

Follow the Money
Koert van Mensvoort

Money is one of the oldest virtual realities in our society/culture and points to the deep penetration of the virtual in our society. Reality and authority is underestimated as we are moving from a world of things to a world of info.

In 2006 Ailin Graef became the first virtual real estate millionaire in Second Life with virtual Linden Dollars. In 2009 China put ‘New Limits on Virtual Currency‘ when the virtual economy became so big that China decided to regulate it.

Virtual money is actually a pleonasm as money has always been virtual (except for livestock, physical cattle as currency). Over time currency became smaller and smaller and eventually turned round into coin currency. A big pile of coins led to the invention of bills and from 100 BC the banknote as a form of currrency was accepted. In 1973 the Gold Standard was abandoned which implied that money is now worth X because we tell you it is worth it. While coins that “In God we trust” it actually means “In the government we trust.”

The Currency Fountain by Koert van Mensvoort et al is an installation that translates the virtuality of money into something physical again: water. It aims to display the implicit financial data. “With natural phenonema, like for instance the weather, usually explicit as well as implicit data is available. ” Explicit weather data can be found in weather forecasts and if we look outside we find implicit weather data in the form of a data visualization: clouds, sun, rain etc. “For abstract cultural data, like for instance financial information, the implicit data is missing!” (Van Mensvoort).

Innovation in the financial sector can be found in Africa, in Kenia which has a weak banking structure but over 160 million prepaid cellphones. Prepaid cellphone cards used as money in the form of the M-Pesa. Telecom providers become banks and banks become telephone providers.

In the history of money the signifier becomes the signified followed by a tendency towards the intangible and finally reality is closely lined to authority. The database becomes our reality as our world is starting to consist of info instead of things. In addition to the geosphere (inanimate matter) and the biosphere (biological life), the noosphere (the sphere of human thought) has emerged. Van Mensvoort compares the ecologies of the rainforest to the financial system and found that the former is stable and the latter shows a rapid growth but both are endangered. The environmental value needs to be monetized by making it explicit. We can love nature but if there is no ownership there is no responsibility. Proposed is the Eco-currency as a currency for environmental value. Depending on the urgency of the environmental crisis the value of the Eco will go up and down. Things that are not in the database (eg nature) do not exist which requires a recultivation of the financial system.

Follow the Money
Fluctuation of currency installation

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