On Monday the 24th of October the German artist Olav Westphalen hung a large print of his work “Drawing Of My Last Deutsch Mark Coin”, drawn in 2000, shortly after the Deutsche Mark was phased out, across the gate of the Athens Polytechnic University on Patission Street. Westphalen was invited by the Drachma Project in Athens, which also proposed the location. The drawing should be still there available for viewing.
The display of the drawing of the 1 DM coin in such a politically loaded location, the site of the students uprising against the colonels in 1973, has multiple connotations in the context of the current economic crisis that has devastated Athens. The dependency of Greece on foreign, particularly German, financial support comes at a high pice in terms of the political sovereignty of the country and also of the well-being of its people. Monetary and fiscal policy lie in the centre of public discourse and government policies, substituting political considerations of national independence, social justice, even democracy with the imperatives of economic policy. The importance of the monetary system becomes apparent, being both the cause but also the solution for many of the troubles that the greek society is facing. With the euro, comes austerity (and corruption), without it probably, chaos and poverty. The question of course remains how to divide the costs of the restructuring of the greek economy and how to wage the negotiations democratically. The Westphalen’s drawing could also be seen a price tag for the Polytechnic School, a further reminder of the privatization of higher education and the debate around cuts, student’s unionism and the independence of the public university in Athens. Is this drawing just another reminder of the crisis in greece and its european (maybe even German flavor). Obviously so. A gesture of protest against the brutal and impoverishment of the greek society. Of course. But it also a beautiful piece of art, subtle but radiant in its whiteness, that can dissolve (if only momentarily) by its uncanny presence among political posters, slogans, and people rushing by, the drama of the financial crisis and shift the perspective from the grim reality of the economic crisis to the imaginary constitution of money.
Photos by Maxime Gyselinck.
Drachma Project http://drachmaproject.tumblr.com/
Drachma is a research initiative, involving artists and theorists across disciplines, with an interest in the Greek economic reality and the Greek currency as a manifestation of this reality. We are investigating the Drachma as a symbol of economic value, national identity and political power, as they are expressed historically in the imagery of the currency. The iconographic and the symbolic representations of the Drachma, in the concrete syntactic context of notes and coins, provide a specific frame of reference to our analysis of Greece today. Our methodology includes archival research, art, economic theory, political design, psychoanalysis ... Our production will culminate into a symposium, an exhibition, and a publication.