exhibition > Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash

Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash

Ken Rinaldo

Ken Rinaldo, Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash, exhibition view at Art Laboratory Berlin, 2020, photo: Art Laboratory Berlin

Ken Rinaldo, Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash, opening night, Art Laboratory Berlin, 2020, photo: Art Laboratory Berlin

Ken Rinaldo, Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash, opening night, Art Laboratory Berlin, 2020, photo: Art Laboratory Berlin

Ken Rinaldo, Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash, exhibition view at Art Laboratory Berlin, 2020, photo: Art Laboratory Berlin

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. Wishing to lessen his carbon footprint, artist Ken Rinaldo expressed the wish that the work be made without his travelling. This work was first done during a residency in 2017 at Cultivamos Cultura, Portugal. Some of the works in the exhibition were created in December 2019 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.


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?

Ken Rinaldo, Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash, 10 Chinese Yuan banknote, 2017, Digital Mock-up on paper with the assistance of Amy Young

Ken Rinaldo, Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash, 2000 Columbian Peso banknote and 1 US Dollar banknote in agar medium, 2018, photo: Ken Rinaldo

Ken Rinaldo, Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash, 2020, photo: Art Laboratory Berlin

This micro-performative project is intriguingly simple in its set-up: Various bills of international currency are displayed in large 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. Visitors to the exhibition can also explore the developing Petri dishes with the aid of light boxes and a digital microscope.

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.

Ken Rinaldo, Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash, exhibition view at Art Laboratory Berlin, 2020, photo: Art Laboratory Berlin

Ken Rinaldo, Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash, exhibition view at Art Laboratory Berlin, 2020, photo: Art Laboratory Berlin

Aesthetic and biopolitical aspects are closely linked: We are reminded of the colonial roots of capitalism, when exchanged goods spread smallpox, measles and influenza to aboriginal peoples in the Americas and Australia, devastating local populations. The nonhuman has always played a vital, if untold, role in our histories and the development of our economic and cultural systems. “Paper money microbes don’t respect money or borders and travel freely both enhancing and simultaneously challenging the collective human body, microbiome, constitution, and post-colonial ecologies” remarks Rinaldo. He refers here to both the symbolic memories of a colonialist past that paper money possesses “as well as emerging colonialist presence, driven by both microbes and now psychometrics with data analytics. As money is a potent signifier of identity, nationalism and a symbolic medium of exchange, it also possesses constitutional beliefs in iconic invocations of wealth and national trust. Money implies all the attendant deities and symbols of nationalist power and oversight.”

In the exhibition we offer the recipients an opportunity to interact with the project: By means of a digital microscope one can explore both microscopic landscapes of bacterial and fungal colonies as well as discover up-close the detailed engravings of numerous bank notes. While observing the micro world of currencies, one can simultaneously reflect the macro connections between them on economic and biopolitical levels.

Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz (curators)

Preparation of Borderless Bacteria / Colianist Cash at the Gustav-Freytag-School, Berlin Reinickendorf, 2020

Ken Rinaldo, Borderless Bacteria / Colonialsit Cash, 2020, photo: Art Laboratory Berlin

Ken Rinaldo, Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash, exhibition view at Art Laboratory Berlin, 2020, photo: Art Laboratory Berlin

Ken Rinaldo, Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash, exhibition view at Art Laboratory Berlin, 2020, photo: Art Laboratory Berlin


Thanks to Marta De Menezes and Dr Luís Graça, Cultivamos Cultura; Dr. Mario Ramirez, Molecular Microbiology & Infection, Instituto de Medicina Molecular in Lisbon, Portugal; Prof. Amy Youngs; Dr. Adam Zaretsky.


Press reviews

Finis Pecunia! Viva Mycelia!, in Art-in-Berlin, by Urszula Usakowska-Wolff, published on 24 February 2020

MICROBIOLOGÍA. Los billetes concentran hasta 3.000 tipos de microbios, in El Pais by Agathe Cortes, published on 24.01.2020

Contaminated banknote images reveal how money gets caked in bacteria
Life.
in New Scientist, byBethan Ackerley, published on 15.01.2020

Venue

Art Laboratory Berlin
Prinzenallee 34, 13359 Berlin

Dates and opening hours

26 January – 1 March 2020,
Fri – Sun 2 – 6 pm

Curators

Regine Rapp & Christian de Lutz

Team

Regine Rapp, Christian de Lutz,
Tuçe Erel, Silvia Cored

Cooperation partners

Gustav-Freytag-Schule, Berlin Reinickendorf

Supported by

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