They say that the answer to 99 out of 100 questions is money––a sentiment certainly felt in the art world, where the relationship between art and money has always been troublesome. But for the Dutch artist Daniel Rozenberg, most famously known asDadara, this conflicting relationship has been the source of inspiration for the last two years of his life. It is a story of rags to riches, as through creative agency he has managed to turn his art into money. Literally!
We caught up with Dadara on his current artistic tour through Berlin and asked him to put his money where his mouth is. This is what he had to say:
BAPs: Describe for us what you currently do as an artist.
D: A bit over two years ago I started my own bank as an artist, the Exchanghibition Bank: in times when governments had no money for art anymore, but lots of money to bail out banks. When I started, it mostly was out of an art perspective; I always wondered why one would only read about art on the front-page of newspapers when money was involved. A Picasso gets sold for hundred million is front-page news, but what does it say about the artistic, spiritual, or social value of the artwork? So that was the start.
I have been an artist all my life, and the only reason to create art was an intrinsic reason: I felt I had to do it. But then you enter the so-called “real” world and you realize that money is the main reason for people to do anything. I saw the world as a giant playground, but also a parking lot where you would get towed away if you did not have money for the parking meter. So now I became obsessed by money—just like a real bank director!
BAPs:What is the thing in life with most worth? And the most worthless?
D: I think it would be good to specify your question: do you mean the thing with the biggest spiritual worth in life, or the biggest social worth, or the biggest aesthetic worth, or the biggest financial worth?
I do believe that we should realize there are a lot of important values in this world, but because of the way that money works, financial value seems to be the only one that is appreciated. One of the biggest characteristics of money is that it quantifies everything. It puts a number on things, and turns all of our qualities of life into quantities of bigger or smaller piles of cash. One of the things I’d like to accomplish with this project is that when people when they use words like “valuable” or “worthless,” they would specify what kind of value or worth they are talking about.
BAPs: Tell us about the passport fiasco before this trip to Berlin. Are you and your seven-year-old son so identical that you mistakenly took his passport for yours?
D: Haha. I actually used that anecdote as an entertaining beginning of my presentation Tuesday night at Pecha Kucha Berlin. I guess that makes me a very transparent bank director!
Okay, so what happened: I went to Schiphol airport to catch my flight to Berlin and, when I was at the check-in counter, they told me I could not get a ticket. When I asked why, they showed me the passport I showed them and I realized I mistakenly indeed had taken the passport of my seven-year-old son. I am not a morning person (I guess this anecdote proves that), but the adrenaline rush to get my “real” passport in time immediately woke me up! There’s something about mistakes and things that go wrong in life that I really like though: today’s fuck-ups are the beautiful stories of tomorrow. When we tell people about our experiences from the past, we mostly tend to mention the things that went wrong, because those are the interesting stories, especially if in the end everything turns out to be okay. And there’s that great saying, “In the end everything will be okay. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end yet.”
This attitude actually helps me a lot with my projects. Last August we were building theTransformoney Tree in Nevada. We worked on a ranch that really seemed to be in the middle of nowhere (to reach it, you actually had to keep driving for many miles on a deserted road until it ended and became a gravel road and then, after a few miles, turn left at the white postal box). When we were finished building it, we trucked the tree toBurning Man when suddenly the truck broke down on that gravel road in the middle of the night. No mobile phone reception and no chance of anyone passing by. For one second I though, “Fuck, this is the worst nightmare that could happen.” But immediately after that I knew I had to solve it, and that eventually this would also turn into a beautiful story.