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Norway's Nordlys Newspaper
September 7, 2002
pgs 1, 16-17
Author: Lasse Jangås
More Project Info
 
 

English Translation of the article is below.

Front page:

Illegal art

"I am not afraid" it says, printed on the banknote. It¹s not fake; it¹s art, imported from New York. *Culture pages 16-17.

Main article:

Look out ­ you might have a work of art in your wallet

Norwegian banknotes marked "I am not terrorized" and "I am not afraid" is now circulating in Tromsø. They¹re not fake. It¹s art, imported from New York City.

The American performance artist David Greg Harth has a studio just a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero in New York. 11. September last year he was a witness when the World Trade Center collapsed. In anger and despair he decided he had to do something. Now his art has spread itself to Tromsø.

Protest

Harth was recently interviewed by the TV-station MTV, where he told that he on 9/11 wandered from hospital to hospital offering to give blood and he also volunteered to the work that had to be done in the city. - I remember I was walking around on Manhattan and told myself: "I am not afraid" and "I am not terrorized". It didn¹t take me long before I realized that the best way I could do something meaningful was through an artistic expression. Because the terrorist attacks in New York was aimed at the financial centre of the world, the artist chose to strike back by using the American currency to express himself. Today there is more than 200.000 dollar bills with Harth's imprint circulating around USA. And now you can risk getting Norwegian banknotes with the American artists expression on them ­ on the street in Tromsø. - I met David Greg Harth in New York in May, and I immediately felt interested in the project, "Erik" a Tromsø-guy says. He doesn¹t want his name or picture on print, both cause he fears reprisals from the police ­ and because he doesn¹t want to take any of the honour away from the American artist. - This is his project, I¹m just spreading the message, the Tromsø-guy says. When he suggested that Harth should spread the message in Europe as well, the artist offered to send printing tools to Tromsø. About a week ago it arrived in Tromsø, and these days the Tromsø-guy is labelling all the banknotes he¹s got. - Compared to all the bills in circulation throughout Tromsø, these amount to a quite modest lot. But I hope people will think twice about the message, he says.

Simple message

- The terrorist attacks made a big impression on me too, I have family in New York as well, he says.
- Of course you have to take the terrorist attacks seriously ­ the threat is real, but we can't let it ruin our everyday-life. Then we won't get anywhere. Nobody makes money on the project. The bills are labelled in New York and Tromsø ­ and then released into the market as regular bills.
- I'm going to continue doing this until Harth tells me to send the printing tools back.

Article down left:

But is it art?

- The artist uses a different communication-channel for a clear political message, historically he can be linked to a generation, or a tradition, within American art that has it's origin in the 60's and 70's, says steward Jarle Strømodden (picture) at Tromsø Kunstforeing (Art association).
- For example the artist Jenny Holzer wrote a bunch of texts quite early in her career, "Inflammatory Essays", which was attached to walls, light poles, trash cans etc. in public. It was just random who read those texts, just as it's random who gets in possession of these bills, Strømodden says.
- Is it art?
- That's a question that we could go on and on about. The action is carried out by an artist, and as much of performance and newer theatre, this is an inclusive artistical art form. I think that no matter what you answer, you have to say: Why not? I don't think everything is art; cause in that case nothing would be art. Let me put it like this ­ something is beautiful because something else is ugly, he says. Strømodden has the following answer on the question whether Harth's expression is good art or not:
- My attitude is that all good art is political, while all political art is bad.

Article down right:

The bills will be destroyed

The high circulation-rate on bills in Norway will make it difficult for "Erik" to spread the message. Every time a bank makes a cash-deposit into Norges Bank (Norwegian National Bank) or gets their night-safe emptied by Norsk Kontantservice AS (Norwegian Cash service AS), all the bills and coins goes through a control.
- A 200 NOK bill goes through Norges Bank about 10 times a year on average. If it has any labels, drawings or graffiti etc. the bill will be destroyed, says assistant director Leif Veggum in Norges Bank.
- I recommend people to be careful with accepting bills with labels/prints on them. It can be difficult to control if they're actually real, says Veggum, but stresses that labels/prints won't make a real bill worthless. In 2001 Norges Bank produced 70 million new bills. To label bills with "I am not afraid" or "I am not terrorized" won't apply any big costs for Norges Bank. One bill costs below one krone (NOK) on average to produce. If "Erik" could afford it, it could be an idea to mark the 1000 NOK bills. They only get checked twice a year on average. On the contrary the message won't reach out to a lot of people.