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Natascha Sadr Haghighian: Fruit of One's Labour at Frankfurter Kunstverein
Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Empire of the Senseless Part II, 2006, double projection. Courtesy Johann König, Berlin.

FRANKFURT.- The solo exhibition “Fruit of One’s Labour” („Früchte der Arbeit“) consists of an installation and a series of lectures that the artist Natascha Sadr Haghighian (1999) developed specifically for the Frankfurter Kunstverein. The starting point of the site-specific installation is the examination of money and financial systems.

Frankfurt is characterised as the centre of merchandise and money trade since the 13th century. From the 11th century onwards, trade fairs have been in existence and it is through the funds received at these events that the banking sector has been developed. The stock market, which first came into being in the 16th century, recently moved to the outskirts of the city. Yet Frankfurt is still home to the German Central Bank and the European Central Bank; can therefore be seen as the centre for European financial trade. German federalism has accounted for, amongst other things, the fact that Frankfurt has long been able to maintain its role as fiscal city. Each institution naturally has its place in society and it is indeed true that the roots of monetary exchange lie in Frankfurt.

While money contains a particularly abstract dimension to our associations thereof, it nevertheless defines our daily and practical life to a significant extent. Since the last century, the fluctuation of value in such a context holds a complex relationship to the manner in which employment and income is regulated as we have come to know it until now. The connection between monetarism and real economy is currently being reconsidered in a new way.

While the introduction of the Euro strengthened European foreign exchange due to its stable currency, its entry has in the public’s viewpoint also halved the value of money overnight. The generation of capital and the processes that devalue it seem to coexist in contradictory behaviour. How did the currency union affect the general population and how did they in turn react to such change? This situation has the potential to remind one of anecdotes from the Second World War, when people could only purchase a single loaf of bread with bank notes that amounted to an apparent worth of a million German Reichsmark. Since the adjustment to the Euro occurred in the beginning of 2002, it is now possible to sit in a café and pay three Euros instead of three Deutsch Mark (DM). How can this come to be? What is inflation und who defines value?

With her installation “Fruit of One’s Labour”, Natascha Sadr Haghighian visualises the projections and experiences that surfaced with the change from DM to Euro, and does so with a humorous approach. On the upper floor, a stairway connects the galleries of the old and new sections of the Kunstverein building. A glass pane divides the intersection. The artist placed an oven in the anterior space with briquettes made of shredded money piled up beside it. The piping of the oven extends through the glass pane into the upper second gallery. From the window one can see a column of smoke made of apples. The “cloud” is illuminated by a lightshow and is in turn multiplied by the resulting shadows cast onto the empty walls of the gallery. The dampened sounds of techno music can be heard through the glass.

A lectures series aims to unravel the complexities of the European Currency Union. The artist wishes that this topic and the history of the financial centre Frankfurt might be reflected on further by means of discussion; this is done so in cooperation with economists, historians and residents of Frankfurt.

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