The birth of monsters

Work : The birth of monsters

Series of 10 photographic prints on salted paper. Size : 24 x 32 cm on watercolor paper 325 g

Location : Montpellier, France, 2016.

Statement :

Why is the currency symbol for the dollar a crossed out S? The most common answer dates back to this moment in history when Columbus “discovered” the “new world”; A moment which was quickly followed by the one where the Conquistadores enthusiastically massacred the indigenous populations who had apparently discovered it a few millennia before him. At that time, the currency in circulation throughout the Americas was not the Dollar, but the Spanish Real which would remain present in the United States until the end of the eighteenth century. On the most widespread coins, we can see the columns of Hercules that the good Charles V had in his time associated with the arms of his kingdom of the “old world” in honor of these promising new territories. On these Pillar Dollars framing the two hemispheres together snaked the words Plus Ultra, that is to say: Beyond. Border markers par excellence, these pilasters which have since jingled in miniature in the pockets of the descendants of Pizzaro and Cortès were a heritage whose origin was confused with the beginnings of our era, coming from the precise place where the mythical hero of the twelve works crossed the last foothills of the known world to fight Geryon, a monster with many heads. Most ancient stories located the erection of these illustrious columns in the south of Spain, in Gibraltar, that is to say on a rock between two worlds. On one side, civilization, on the other barbarism. It was still this geographical and intellectual disposition that prevailed when the horizon opened up to the west, a distant West put at a distance by the ferocious waves of an ocean that masses of settlers would soon cross further. in greater numbers, dreaming of stealing from the savages a continent paved with gold in order to fulfill their trivial hopes. Empires after empires, stories after stories, an entire Western history of displacement was summed up with a stroke of a pen in the crossed out S of the contemporary Dollar which was in reality the graphic vestige of the two columns of Hercules on which a banner snaked. And the idea of the passage from one world to another which was delicately hidden behind it made me think of this sentence from Gramsci that every first year student at Sciences-Po quotes on request: “The old world is dying, the new world is slow to appear and in this chiaroscuro monsters emerge. Today, this distressing in-between transition, this irresistible slide towards the unknown described by the philosopher resonated strangely. His criticism of economism, of a form of materialist thought which, far from being opposed to religion, became an even more obscurantist new one, arrived near its paroxysmal point with the ultimate commodification of a human ecosystem which was falling into tatters. . And, cruel irony, it was precisely unbridled financialization, led by this Dollar with such an explicit symbol, which pushed the world in finem. On the other side, there would obviously be something else. Still impossible to know what. But barbarism was already winning the battle on the cultural front. What if, in an unprecedented humanist impulse, philosophers from around the world, carried by the breath of this young American nation, had recently invented the universal declaration of human rights which would undoubtedly remain for a long time one of the most beautiful ideals civilizations having never been formulated, it was also under the impetus of what this nation-world had become today that the monsters prospered. No longer Real money, but king money, mutant money, algorithmic money, the one that turned heads and allied itself with the worst totalitarianisms to ruin in a few decades what others had put in place. centuries to build, was gradually collapsing under tons of cash these Herculean columns on which the weight of history rested. It was this sad observation that I was trying to put into form in this photographic series. By transforming these banknotes until they took on the appearance of strange hybrid creatures – new monsters – seeming to emerge from a kaleidoscope to eat away speech and therefore thought, I hoped that etymology enthusiasts would understand that I also tried – and perhaps despite everything – to continue to see in images and culture a final defense against the ugliness of the times. How long would he be able to last?

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