Our project reflects on how identity, community and value are articulated and represented on the Greek currency, and how these social coordinates play out in a network of economic cohesion. The history of the drachma is intricately connected with the establishment and the development of the Greek state, shaped by the struggle of liberation from Turkey, the hope for self-determination, but also from the heritage of the classical Greek civilization. Our aim is to trace the process of national identity building from the viewpoint provided through the representations in the currency. At the same we are interesting on how economic value and political power are articulated and communicated in currency. These representations yield an opportunity to reflect on the Greek construction of classical antiquity as well as the celebrated allegiance to direct democracy. Furthermore, we would like to consider how issues like history, territoriality and nationality are negotiated and how these elements are related with economy and value. Finally, we would like to speculate on how all these elements would play out today and to suggest an alternative design for the principle of currency, informed by the classical tradition of autonomy. We intend to propose a conceptual and operative production in the context of the Greek reality of social antagonism and financial collapse, anticipating the upcoming challenges and scheming for the future.
§ In order to understand the iconography of currencies, we should interrogate how this iconography can support the circulation of money and more generally how the representations of monetary value are anchored to the individual and to the collective psyche. There is the necessity that money should signal its affinity to legitimate power and this rapport with power is the foundation of its value and its purchasing power. One can recognize the condensation of value in the markings on notes and coins, and can analyze the metonymic effects of the symbolisms of power that are omnipresent in money. It is no surprise that money is engraved with the most potent and omnipresent symbols of power; the head of the sovereign, the most prominent national symbols and personalities, the geographical area of the state. Alongside such emblems of state sovereignty we often find religious symbols. Such symbols aim to combine secular with religious associations, trying to elevate the profanity of money to a different more sacred plateau. They relate with and manifest the religious character of value, where mystification and fetishism are supporting the ritual of exchange and accumulation. § Each bank note can be broken down to its own visual-textual elements, the analysis of which can be extracted in symbolic and iconographic patterns that are reproduced across time. On the symbolic level, the alphabet, the date, the references names, and titles, express linguistically the identity of the note. On the iconographic level, human figures and space references (landscapes and monuments), as well as secondary ornamental elements, supplement language, establish a pictorial narration communicating the elements of construction of the national identity and economic power. Last, but not least, an assortment of national and corporate emblems, instills the notes with the authority of the state, suggesting direct references to power and nationality. Associative, unconscious relations between sign and referent, based on origins, on culturally specific meaning, and on shared presuppositions about historicity and traditions, create the foundations for the affective investment in the value of the banknotes. The recomposition of all these textual and symbolic signs can facilitate the investigation of the pictorial narration of the Greek currency and the possibility of a general theme. § The topic and the diversity of the questions raised about the Drachma require a multi-disciplinary approach. Economic theory and economic history are necessary for following the drachma along the trajectory of the Greek economy, during the 150 years of its circulation. Design is important in reading the iconography of the Greek currency and in supporting the textual analysis of the representations of value and identity as they are inscribed in coins and banknotes; design can reverse-engineer the production of currency, deconstructing the syntax of money and illuminating the function of each of the pictorial elements separately. Psychoanalysis can uncover the mechanism of affective investment in the pictorial narrative of the currency as well as the possibilities of unconscious associations of the Imagery of the drachma. Finally, art can provide a method of research and articulation that is not constrained by the limits of theory, or even of language; artistic practice provides the means for critique and reflection on the currency that can articulated the theoretical analysis in concrete production. The variety of the approaches and of the participants is an asset for our research as well as a methodological proposal for cultural analysis and critique. § The evolution of the Drachma provides a history of the birth and the development of the Greek state, as it is articulated through the self-representation of national identity and economic power. The participation of Greece in the European Monetary Union and the substitution of the Drachma by the Euro, has terminated this process of national self-representation via the currency. This decade creates a gap in the Greek monetary history. By reflecting on the iconographies of the Drachma today we can make a comment on national-identity and self-perception in a very particular historical juncture. The financial collapse of the Greek state and the deep economic and political crisis has created a context where identity, value and nationality are reconsidered. Currency provides a specific frame of reference for the analysis, constraining theoretical and artistic speculation through the syntax of notes and coins. The Drachma team will try to use these constrains creatively and productively and to suggest a new iconography for a contemporary post-crisis identity.
Mar 9 -
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.