The Art and Money Project: Exploring the Nexus of Creativity and Capitalism


Max Haiven

Art and Money cover, based on the Hugo Boss Prize installation by Hans-Peter Feldmann Based on the Hugo Boss Prize installation by Hans-Peter Feldmann

The fine folks over at Art Threat have graciously published this illustrated Q&A with me about the Art and Money Project.

Check it out:

The Art and Money Project: exploring the nexus of creativity and capitalism

Max Haiven[1]

What is the Art and Money project?

It’s a research, teaching and publishing project I’m working on that is basically tracing two intertwined things.  First, art and artists who are engaging directly with money – that is, using money (chopped up dollar bills, coins, credit cards, bills, etc.) as a medium of expression or whose work comments very directly on money and its influence.  Second, a set of theoretical and sociological questions about what money is and does, and, more specifically, how we might understand money as an aesthetic commodity or a representative or symbolic object with tremendous…

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The Ogre And The Gardener



I was allowed to keep this flower. The local City Gardener had already picked it this morning, and it was sticking out of the big bag she uses for clippings to be mulched when I happened by. I had already thanked her in Autumn for all her fine work throughout the neighborhood.

I see blossoms in every season, even Winter, though we face the winds of New York Harbor (we are sticking out of the Battery). It is thanks to her. I see her digging and planting and weeding and pruning practically every morning as I walk my son to school.

I very nearly picked an apartment right across the street from the school, which would have had a narrow view of these flora from the window, but might not have gotten me up close every day the way the further-away place has, since I have to walk past. I have to confess that a factor in my decision was a surprise meeting during my tour of the apartment building. I turned a corner and came face-to-face with one of its residents, a young Tor Johnson type so top heavy as to require a walker, lumbering along in what appeared to be a medicated haze, from which he gazed sidelong out of one fiery eye.

I have since witnessed this character making his way outside to visit the flowers with as much reliability as the City Gardener. I tried in my mind to admire his diligent attempt at health until I realized he was always going for a smoke. Meanwhile, I imagined he and the Gardener had formed some sort of bond, not unlike Beauty and The Beast, wherein she chose to stay close to him in spite of greater opportunities because he was the only one to truly appreciate her gifts.


Today I find myself stomping around my ancestral stomping ground, The Lower East Side. Hey, the hipsters did not ruin it. It was always a fertile ruin, still is, and it is beautiful to me.

I enjoyed some fine sausage and white bean soup. I saw happy children playing with their parents and grandparents. I leafed through the latest Popular Science (Rough Sketch: Harpooning a Comet).

I did not buy any records today. Instead I looked at the water and walked around town aimlessly, relishing Spring and thinking about being a human being. As a digital media specialist obsessed with analog media, I notice as much contrast between analog media
and the raw natural world as between analog media and the cooked-up virtual world.

This is as much as to say that the same sense of wonder and revelation to be had from gazing at an actual painting after staring at screen can also be had from gazing at a painting after staring at the ground.

Jonathan And The Dragon

Happy Chinese New Year!

Kung Fu Flash Kid is six (and a half) now. Do you want to know what happened to last year? Nothing worth publishing.

I started this blog with the idea it would be a travel journal during my trip to China in 2010. I started it while waiting for the plane in Newark. When I landed in Shanghai I discovered WordPress was blocked, as was Twitter.

Upon returning, I went to disable the account but, discovering I had had no visitors to Hello World in six months, I decided to keep it open for myself. Now I am toying with the notion of attempting some connection among bloggers I like. Do I start again from scratch instead of exposing the humble beginnings of Strangely Familiar? Do I hide the ones that might have been more humble and just leave the stubs? What would be the value in that? There is no value in the blog being three years old if there are only three posts in it.

I welcome your feedback. I welcome the dragon.




Golden Days

My Great Aunt was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis when she was quite young. They believed it may have been related to her having had Rheumatic Fever when she was super young. They treated the debilitating pain with gold. I just found this out. They injected the precious metal into her system and it worked. She went to the doctor because her hands could not pick up her baby. After the gold treatment her hands started to work again, so she went to work as an administrative assistant and was typing on a typewriter for the next forty years. Then she w


typing on a computer

  for another twenty years


until she retired at age eighty-five. This year she’s ninety. We always say she has gold-plated bones, and now I know the meaning is literal.

For it’s a long long while / from May to December . . .
                                       — Kurt Weill (September Song)

Back in the ‘way

I had a blog before. It was called Vespaway. Although it was celebrated in mainstream press and underground circles alike, it did draw criticism. Most of the complaints I got centered on the idea that many posts were “off topic.” I never responded directly, but continued to blog and correspond in a way that I hoped would clarify the topic itself.

The topic was not Vespa per se. It was all about a way of life that was made a little easier and more enjoyable with a Vespa in it. Sure, sometimes it focused squarely on the anticipated release of a new model arriving from Italy, how the product had performed in European tests, and maybe what colors would be available.

Color commentary in a much larger sense and play-by-play coverage were somehow reversed in this game. One could say rather that the lifestyle provided the action and the scooter news provided the filler. It made perfect sense to plenty of people, but you could certainly see why many more were confused. They grabbed the RSS feed because they wanted to know when the GTS 250 would be released in the States. Maybe they had heard I would have the inside scoop on that. They were not interested in what I did with my family and friends while we waited, along with the rest of America’s eager riders, for that exciting day.

I mean, I wrote about riding an LX150 as fast as I possibly could on Ocean Parkway. But it was more about passing Jones Beach and stopping for clam chowder on the way to Fire Island than it was about whether I could get the thing up to 70MPH. And when I did do that (in full tuck with the wind at by back) the fun in the beautiful sunset was darkened by the reminder I would need a 250 if I wanted to make Manhattan by nightfall. Worse, I didn’t even go to Fire Island, so it was all chowder.

Now, five years later, I am sitting at the edge of a Chevy dealership, looking at trucks that might fit Harleys in the back. I could say, “hey, it’s not for me; it’s for a friend.” This would only punctuate the irony.

I’m not going for irony. Irony is a cheap thrill for those who are new to the realization that it is all one. Either that, or a routine fix for compulsive Deconstructionists. I am going for deeper understanding. OK, wait. Maybe I kid the kidders. I do find that both new perspectives and endless epistemelogical unravellings can create insight. Just as much as the next guy, right?

It’s just that what I am saying is that there is very little difference between having a Vespa and having a life or, for that matter having a Harley. That we as a Species are separated by one or two genomic differentiators from not only the monkeys but also the bananas is old news! Sometimes people seem to seek understanding, to find sense and meaning in things, only by determining simple differences. Big vs little. Man vs. Machine. Yankees vs. Red Sox. If you love baseball, you like both. If you love Leonardo da Vinci, you like both. If you love your mother you like both.

Because 7 8 9

On the Hampton Jitney, sitting next to Kung Fu Flash Kid who is sleeping off a 5-year-old birthday party, I am reading the FT Weekend. It happens to be the printed edition, not because I don’t love trees, but because I do love that we still have a newsstand right at the stoop to our apartment. Anyway, the paper tells me we are all as bad off as we may have imagined. It tells me laughter is the best medicine. It tells me this is a strange and beautiful world.

I am reminded how the quality of the writing is not at the peaks it had reached during the Clinton era. I am reminded of the time that even such a lover of nonfiction as nonfiction writer Simon Winchester asked me what, pray, in the Financial Times, I could possibly be laughing about, and I reminded him that the truth is funny. I am reminded today it never ends, neither the ugliness nor the wonder of it all.

That the journalism is less than perfect, I find it peculiarly encouraging on a personal level. That personal journaling can encourage others may be a vain notion, and yet a thoroughly worthwhile pursuit. My only task then is to begin, and then begin again.