METAPHYSIAL TIME AS METAPHYSIAL EXCHANGE
A stone-age cave painting confronts our eyes and mind with the same force of life and actuality as any
work of our own day. This is exactly because time as a chronology or causality is meaningless in art. Art
is fundamentally an existential expression that makes the observer confront his/her own existence with
sensitized senses and heightened braveness. (Pallasmaa 2006 p9)
In a recent work I hoped to capture the contemporary trans-global human condition's relation to metaphysical
time through the idea of metaphysical exchange within a quaint watercolour painting titled 0.146 kilograms
(2009) (figure 33). This artwork interpolates the traditional vanitas style of painting towards a capitalist conclusion
through the depiction of capital's central vehicle of status -- money. The work depicts a cheap, plastic cold and
flu lozenge bag, CVS brand, overflowing with coins as it rests upon a set of modern electronic scales. As the
accompanying wall text explains my own human condition, it recounts my autobiographical journey within the
United States, mapping my social interactions through this growing collection of currency, predominately one-cent
coins. Essentially this growing pile and heavy pockets of essentially valueless coins became the physical weight of
my daily exchanges. This experience was uniquely American to me as Australia discontinued the use of one and
two cent pieces in 1991. The coins having little monetary value seemed to represent the American class system,
as the middle and upper classes would have no need to amass this worthless weight. Only the poorer or working
classes are burdened by the need to bear this weight as penance for their inadequate social status.
In considering that the material and manufacturing costs of the American one-cent coin are greater then its face
monetary value I began to see its weight in terms of its materiality and production within the larger economic
system of trans-global capital.25 I expanded my personal exchange into the global arena through the employment
of economic and politically questionable labour in China in the production of my watercolour painting. I posited
that this outsourcing would produce both a conceptual and physical symbol of the global status/class struggle
through a manipulation of the seductive myth and value of the artist's hand and concept of craft. The sublime cycle
of production and exchange was completed when the bag of valueless coins was used to pay for the fabrication
of the work.26 This served to demonstrate the disproportionate value of time in the age of global capital through
the cheapness of Chinese labour. Hence the work, as a direct interaction with the market, serves to reveal how the
value of time is manipulated by capital. The vanitas entrenched contemplative moment of the contemporary human
condition is embodied in taking the time to understand how the original contents of the cold and flu lozenge bag are
placebos for sickness and death, the point being that capital can never truly possess time, hence that economic
status is immaterial to the deeper questions of the nature of existence.
25 "But these days, the penny itself isn't having much luck. Not only is there nothing you can buy with a penny, it's literally not worth the metal it's made of. With the
rising cost of metals like copper and zinc, that one red cent is literally putting us in the red. "It costs almost 1.7 cents to make a penny," said U.S. Mint director Ed
Moy. Each year, the U.S. Mint makes 8 billion pennies, at a cost of $130 million. American taxpayers lose nearly $50 million in the process."
( DE NIES 2008 http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=4460935)
26 It is perhaps relevant but distracting from the works creation of a perfect economic cycle to note that the bag of money only covered a portion of the total costs of
the painting production. Hence the work fails to create a perfect economic cycle. One might go onto say that this failure is a mirroring of the larger systems instability.
Capital is not a self-sustainable system, as it always requires more resources to keep it running.