I promise

Hendrik Schneider

31.03.11 – 16.04.11

“The role of artworks is no longer to form imaginary and utopian realities, but to actually be ways of living and models of action within the existing real, whatever scale chosen by the artist.”
Nicolas Bourriaud

Hendrik Schneider’s artistic practice examines the reality we live in. His work pivots around the interactions between us as humans and our society. “I PROMISE” debates the power of money and its meaning, focusing on the role of banknotes and their value. The workshop encourages the audience to question their surroundings and what they take to be reality. The “I PROMISE” workshop creates a social environment for the viewers to participate in an interactive venture. The aim of this workshop is to represent the actual value of money; to achieve this, a futile banknote will be fabricated. This fictive banknote will be created by cutting 64 banknotes in two parts and rearranging them in given order. Through the process, each note is reduced by specific sizes. The reduction of sizes of each note will eventually add up to a valueless note, which Schneider believes to be a more precise representation of the actual value, cutting off the current inflation. 32 audiences members are going to be invited to participate in the I PROMISE experience, following the artist’s instructions. They will be part of I PROMISE as a work of art, and most importantly, critics of our societies’ view of money. From this we open myriad trajectories of thought and discourse; what will be your interpretation?

La Scatola is pleased to announce “I PROMISE” a solo show with artist Hendrik Schneider. “I PROMISE” is an exhibition, an installation, a workshop.

Thursday 31.03.2011
6pm – 9pm

The workshop will exist as a happening, a one-off event to take place at the opening. The remains will form an installation in the gallery, a visible print on the space of what happened. Don’t forget to bring your money!

“Yes, I know that it sounds odd to do a workshop about money right next to the City; la Scatola is a commercial gallery, but we support young artists and good projects. This is obviously a piece of art which we are not going to sell, but making a sale is not always the aim! We are not a “shop”, I want to open new discourses and take part in what happens around me, we are working for the people, looking for the quality in work and projects.”

An exhibition curated by Valentina Fois.

“I promise” private view and Workshop

The private view consisted of a workshop, the visitors were asked to get involved with the piece itself. The 20 participants then followed Schneider’s specific instruction. They soon realised that they would be cutting their own money! These slices were then rearranged in such a way that reduced the note by a specific size but still usable. Through this process it gave birth to a new banknote. Visitors left with their old notes (minus a little artistic percentage!) with the creation of a new note left behind to occupy the gallery installation. To find out more visit our gallery and grab a free copy of the “I PROMISE” publication.

Untitled from hendrik on Vimeo.

James Brewer on Hendrik Schneider

Money, money, money – it’s a rich man’s world, but every one of us has to deal with its manifestations, most clearly represented by banknotes, and with its risks, day by day. Conceptual artist Hendrik Schneider is staging on March 31 2011 at La Scatola a one-hour performance entitled I Promise which will challenge our conceptions of currency and its value. This ‘happening’ will form the basis of an exhibition featuring the installation, which will continue until April 16.

Hendrik’s choice of title comes from the traditional words on British banknotes:
“I Promise to pay the Bearer on Demand the Sum of…”

Does that mean the promise of a great future? “In this way, we are always pointed to the future,” Hendrik says. “Our whole monetary system is built on a promise, on debt.” German-born Hendrik recalls: “Some years ago, when I first came to the UK, I started a project, based on the Consumer Price Index. In a particular two month period, that index, measuring price rises, stood at 1.5%. In reaction to that depreciation, thought it would be interesting to have a currency with a special role.” The artist notes that inflation remains quite a concern: the European Central Bank has defined price stability as a year-on-year increase for the euro area of below 2% in what it calls its Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices. There are currently considerable pressures on the price of commodities, including threats to oil supplies and weather catastrophes and unrest in a series of nations. Inflation in the euro area was reported to be running at an annual rate of 2.5% at the beginning of 2011.

“I am not into the economics,” admits Hendrik, “but I was trying to avoid paying this extra inflationary supplement and to keep my purchasing power stable. My aim was not to let my money lose value.

“The experiment started with me slicing pieces from paper money at a percentage rate which was equal to inflation at that particular time. After a while, I came to the conclusion that if I made these cuts in a certain way, I could in a sense get the money back. I could put the pieces together and eventually come up with a new note. I made triangular shapes out of the paper, and collected them to glue them into a new note. The evolution of the work showed it could have been any shape.”

“I made a documentary record of where I spent this money. I went through the process of finding out that money is a physical thing – you can alter it and people will still accept it as value. My interest in this kind of value is not a question of philosophy: I am not a philosopher. My way of dealing with it is to show other people what I can do with my hands, and this has led me to certain conclusions. “Money is a medium which has not got a memory. For every other ‘value,’ like history, etiquette and so on, it is important to know where it comes from and where it goes to.”

“Because I am into graphics and communication, I had to find terms to make people understand the possiblities. I had to come up with a way to present this idea, so I looked into art history to see what would fit. I turned to what is known as relational aesthetics , which was a movement in the 1990s in the US and Europe. The term was developed by the French author Nicolas Bourriaud for ‘a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context.’ Notably, Bourriaud curated the fourth Tate Triennial, named Altermodern (the new modernity) in 2009. In this movement, the artwork creates a social environment in which people come together in a shared activity. It involves action in which the audience is envisaged as a community. Rather than the artwork being an encounter between a viewer and an object, relational art produces encounters between subjects.” The artist gives audiences interactive power by inviting people to join a kind of social event.

“I create the environment where people come together.”

“What I am doing in this current work is not really about inflation. It is research into the possibility of creating a value together, a theoretical value. In this scheme, to make one new note, 64 notes are needed. So I invite 32 people to sit at a total of four tables, each having brought two £10 notes, and every one will have a green pad and a ruler to make the incision. I ask them to clip a note in a particular way: I keep that strip and rework the result in order to make it legally possible to spend it.”

“The artwork is to get people to do it: it is a real happening. Probably none of the participants has ever cut up money in his or her life, having learnt from their parents an attitude towards how they should treat money. By cutting it, people lose their fear in the way they regard it. I can feel myself that this is important: by just he act of cutting, I change my attitude a lot, I see money as something physical rather than as something that represents a value.”

“So the next step is collective, where all seem to have the same approach, and they question the value together and at the same time they create something. At the end, there is a new note, but the value remains and the notes can be spent in a shop. By their coming together, the people have created something, but when they spend the money, they have this feeling that they are doing something wrong legally. They are not sure that it will fulfil the expectations of the person they pay. After the workshops I have done so far, people do not want to leave, they stay to talk about it.” They ask themselves, why do they think that money is of some value? One part that affects them is about personal experience of paper money, and another part is about the whole economic system.

“La Scatola is such an interesting location for this work because of its space, and because it is right next to the City of London, which handles so much money.” Hendrik, who grew up in Mainz, Germany, took an early interest in many aspects of culture, and was fascinated in particular by tapestry panels. His background is print making, corporate design and editorial design, and lately he has been producing a series of portraits in oils which await public view.

Interview by James Brewer, arts correspondent of Global Newsbox
La Scatola, February 2011, London