Fiona Hall: Force Field – Currency, Formerly

What is temporary and what is of enduring value? What is a true store of wealth? Fiona Hall’s “Force Field” exhibition at Wellington City Gallery blew me away and left me pondering those questions when I first saw it in July, 2008. It keeps coming back to mind as I read the news these days. (The exhibition is currently open at Christchurch Art Gallery through February 15, 2009. See it if you can!)

One piece, called “When My Boat Comes in,” (featured in the first part of the video), consists of a whole room filled with botanical leaf paintings on global bank notes past and present. The paintings each illustrate a plant that has economic significance to the land where the bank note is from: camellia sinesis for China, cacao for Brazil, cetraria islandica for Iceland, and so forth. Each bill has a visible ship representing the thread of trade that connects them all. Mesmerizing to look closely at so many currencies – countries – that no longer exist juxtaposed with the leaves of these plants – the leaves that are so ephemeral, the plants that have brought so much wealth to these countries, the trade that’s wasted the environments of so many the plants.

“Tender”, another unforgettable installation, consists of giant vitrines with meticulously crafted birds’ nests made from shredded U.S. dollar bills. Etched into one side of the glass is the serial number from each dollar used in it. On the other side is the bird species that corresponds with the nest. Fiona Hall talks about this piece in the second part of the video above.

Fiona Hall “Force Field” install and process photo set on Flickr
MCA Artist’s Voice Fiona Hall: Force Field video
Tender at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney

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