This Guardian article on an Australian artist's "blood money" notes comes via the January 29, 2019 issue of News & Notes from the Society of
Paper Money Collectors (SPMC). -Editor
At the foot of the stairs in the foyer of Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art, a teller with a cheery smile hands me a banknote. At first glance it looks like any other
Australian $10 note: on one side, there's a portrait of a man wearing what looks like an Akubra. Men on horses gallop across the swirling blue and yellow backdrop.
But it's not Banjo Paterson whose face peers out from under that hat. It's the Gurindji activist and stockman Vincent Lingiari, who led the Wave Hill walk-off in 1966 – the
strike for Aboriginal workers' rights that became a critical moment in the land rights movement. And it's not the lyrics from Waltzing Matilda scrolled across the image in tiny
print, but the opening of the petition to Lord Casey from that historic event: "We, the leaders of the Gurindji people, write to you about our earnest desire to regain tenure of
our tribal lands."
The note is "blood money", part of a work by the Alice Springs-born and Brisbane-based Marri Ngarr artist Ryan Presley. The Blood Money Currency Exchange Terminal is a new
foray into installation for the visual artist and on show as part of Primavera, MCA's annual exhibition for Australian artists aged 35 and under.
The currency booth, right inside the MCA's glass front doors, looks so much like the real thing that patrons disembarking from cruise ships moored at the quay outside are
perplexed to find they can't buy legal tender there.
But in return for your very real dollars, the teller – a performer – will hand over a piece of blood money for you to keep. Exchange rates advertised in the window tell you how
much the $10, $20, $50 and $100 blood money dollar notes are worth in Australian currency. These change daily.
The paintings, which Presley began in 2009, are meticulous and impossibly detailed watercolours of a scale far larger than the wallet-sized prints. Four are on display upstairs
in the gallery, with other works from the Primavera exhibition.
In the first two days the exchange terminal had been open in Sydney it raised more than $6,000. Presley hopes to double that by the time it closes on 28 January: "It's the
pinnacle of my 10 years of work, really."
Got change for an Infinite? -Editor
To read the complete article, see:
Look again: the artist reinventing
Australian money for postcolonial payback
Wayne Homren, Editor
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