When we see a dollar bill laying around, we see buying power. But without a numeral printed on each bill, paper money isn’t anything more than a proprietary piece of paper made out of a cotton/linen blend, just like the kind you might find upholstering your furniture.
Commissioned to design a project for the National Bank, London-based designer Angela Mathis decided to deconstruct currency from around the world and turn it into a textile. She then used this textile to upholster a number of custom-designed stools.
She calls it “Value.” As designed, Value comes in the form of four stools, each upholstered with a potpourri of different-colored currencies, reduced to shreds. Depending on how she combines these currencies–the American dollar, the purple English pound, the brown Indonesian rupees, and the color dense euro–Mathis was able to create different colors, textures, and effects (such as marbling).
This might seem like an extraordinarily wanton (and maybe criminal) destruction of money. Not so. The artist points out that the average life of a note is scarcely more than 18 months, at which point, it is decommissioned. In America, you can actually buy a five-pound bag filled with $10,000 worth of shredded currency for just $45.
This is the sort of currency Mathis used for her project, making it far more affordable than it looks like it would be at first glance. She asked herself: what will happen to all of this cotton and linen when the digitization of currency has made physical bills almost obsolete? Value imagines a world in which currency is routinely repurposed, because it has no inherent value anymore, just material worth.