CASH MONEY IN THE ARCTIC, a project by Ashkan Sahihi
100 Millions in Ready Cash and Tibetan Chanting
in collaboration with Hannes Sigurdsson
and the Akureyri Art Museum in Iceland
January 15-March 6, 2005
Akureyri Art Museum
600 Akureyri, Iceland
Tel: (+354) 461 2610
Fax: (+354) 461 2969 www.listasafn.akureyri.is
Admission to the museum is free throughout the course of this exhibit
CASH MONEY IN THE ARCTIC
In an art museum far up in the North-Atlantic Ocean, just south of the Arctic Circle, an artist from New York is putting on a most unusual exhibition. Whatever one’s taste in art, at least the market value of this show is unquestionable: Ashkan Sahihi is exhibiting 100,000,000 Icelandic Krona in hard cash, at the current exchange rate worth more than 1.6 million US Dollars. The crisp notes, all legal tender, are counted, bunched and banded and stacked into sculptures, exhibited on plinths in three creatively lit museum galleries.
Normally a mild-mannered photographer, Ashkan Sahihi has up to now carefully represented to us the various shades and hues of our world, delicately picking out and combining his subjects into thought-provoking series, building a corpus of portraits that attest to a distinctly humanist mindset, free of prejudice, bombast and clever trickery. It is surprising, therefore, to find Sahihi so blunt as to exhibit simply and without the distancing mediation of the camera great amounts of cash money. Large amounts of cash catch the eye as nothing else can. Mounds of money, wads of banknotes, oodles of moolah. One’s vocabulary fails to convey the sheer vulgarity of the exhibit but at the same time it is irresistibly attractive, mesmerizing, representing wealth, opportunity, freedom and a far better life. Yet the work is also disarmingly simple and almost naively innocent. It’s only money, after all. We handle money every day and we think about it all the time. If it’s art, then what is it trying to tell us? What can we tell about it?
Money so permeates all aspects of our culture and daily life that there is really no end to the associations it can evoke. Some might even feel an aesthetic nostalgia seeing the colorful currency now that most transactions have become electronic, ephemeral numbers in the international data flow. Can credit cards and computer printed monthly statements ever give the same sense of security and comfort as cash in one’s pocket? The political overtones, however, are just as insistent: Has money really become that by which we measure all our experiences and every detail of our life? Can it replace even art? The exhibition is direct and challenging, almost a slap in the face but leading to far subtler and more critical reflection. Confronted by all this cash we are forced to confront ourselves and the conditions we are forging for our self and future generations.
Ashkan Sahihi, an Iranian who grew up in Germany, has mainly concentrated on portrait photography. He is intrigued by people and what makes them do what they do. In that sense, his exhibition of money can be seen to carry his study to an extreme: Money is after all one of the strongest motivators in modern life, the first thing, in fact, that the TV police detectives look for as a motive in any serious crime. Originally a journalism and editorial portrait photographer, Ashkan eventually discovered that photographically, he could not achieve what he hoped in Germany’s small cultural and publishing market. After several years shooting authors during the day and musicians at night, he moved to New York in 1987. If ever there was a city where money is king, then New York might be it. Sahihi has long nurtured the dream of exhibiting it in the raw, as it were, just money without any excuse, any pretension or dressing up. Now this exhibition has finally been realised in Northern Iceland showing, perhaps, that money speaks as loudly in the Arctic as it does on Wall Street.
For further information, high resolution pictures and assistance with travelling to Iceland for the opening of the exhibition on January 15, please contact Mr. Hannes Sigurdsson, director of the Akureyri Art Museum, and/or the artist.
Mr. Sigurdsson: (+354) 899 3386