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Please, Follow My Journey Across the USA
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Year 2002, 4
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Please, Follow My Journey Across the USA

Umělec magazine 2002/4

01.04.2002

Tomáš Vaněk | news | en cs

To everyone I haven’t told :


I spent the last three months of last year in the USA. Most of this time I spent in Headlands, a former military zone now a “Center of Arts,” as announced by the sign on the roads leading in. Headlands lies among the hills about a 15-minute drive from San Francisco and about a 15- minute walk from the waters of the Pacific. I flew to California because I won the Chalupecky Prize in 2001. I flew to the States for the first time in my life. The journey there and back plus the ticket to New York City cost around 33,000 crowns.
In Headlands I had my own studio, a room with a white cat, four cars to use for short trips, regular meals, and the presence of other people, mostly artists, but that’s how everyone called themselves: the chefs, repair men, and office workers. I received 500 dollars a month.
Often I drove to San Francisco. I would cross the Golden Gate Bridge and always had to pay a five-dollar toll. I would visit the friends of my friends, and later the friends I had made. I would wander around the town and look for all the places where A. Hitchcock shot the film Vertigo. I thought about Pěchouček and how this was his favorite movie.
From the Czech Republic I had brought with me warnings from former winners of the prize that the Headlands are wonderful, but I wouldn’t get anything done. That made sense. You are in America, close to the sea, they take care of you, nothing to bother you, the days are sunny, so why do anything at all.
I bought a small digital camera. In China Town they wanted 1,200 dollars for it. Rip off! I knocked it down to 700 dollars. David Černý was there with me, and he helped me to get a good price. Almost one hour.
For a long time I had problems with the time difference. I couldn’t sleep before 4 o’clock in the morning. Nights I spent in the studio or by the sea. I listened to music by the Palace Brothers and spent my working hours staring at the walls of the studio. I was hypnotized by the doorknobs. So I sprayed their shadows using stencils. The notice boards also got me. I sprayed on the pins and their shadows with stencils.
The possible multiplicity of the sprayed pins, hook nails, razor blades sunk in the walls and the shadows of the doorknobs brought an offer by Oakland Museum at the local Mills College. So I sprayed my things directly into their permanent collection. From Steven F. F. Jost, director of the museum, I got 50 dollars for my travel expenses. Another offer came from the private sector. The pins plus the other things I sprayed directly on the walls in the office of Ms. Barbara Hill’s home on Francis Wood Street in San Francisco. She paid me 300 dollars. I started to think about how many times I could repeat that before this concept became “devalued.”
Here devaluation is in direct relation with the energy of money.
In art we also use the term that something becomes “hip.” I mean that something no longer has the “value” that “something” maybe had at “sometime” in the past. That’s also “devaluation.” But here we are not talking about value in terms if money. It is about the value of freshness and interest towards the context.
I started to spray pins onto dollar bills. I bought things with them. It’s likely that others have done the same. The pins went into monetary circulation. The bills were a medium carrier of something other than what they were meant to be. They were “devalued” by another value without losing their own.
At present there are about 36 pins in circulation. Most of them entered circulation when I paid the toll on the Golden Gate Bridge. It was no problem. I gave away the bills with the sprayed side down. The advantage was that I could drive away quickly after I had paid. To my surprise, once I got a dollar bill with a stamp on it at the same toll station. Because I’d paid with a 20-dollar bill. It was a blue printed announcement: “Please, Follow My Journey Across the USA” followed by the web address: www.wheresgeorge.com
At first I thought that it was only money stamped by the bank, but because of the stamp, the bill at that moment lost its value. It wanted me to follow it. I held it in my hand and expected the pull which would show me the way. It also crossed my mind that it could be some kind of communication from someone to others. Please, Follow My Journey Across the USA could be just one sentence from some longer text. Maybe even a cipher. That it could be an art concept also occurred to me. I even imbued it with political subtext. “Where is George?” Is it a matter of the government, or against the government, I thought.
But a web address was written there, which suggested some kind of legality. Before I could get to the computer, I showed the bill to several people in Headlands, but they didn’t know what it meant either.
But it all became clear. wheresgeorge.com is a web page where you insert the year and value of the bill, its serial number, and the postal code where ever you are. You write a few sentences where and under what conditions the bill came into your hands and a huge American dollar locator will tell you all the places this stamped dollar has been. The locator would tell you how long this bill has gone unaccounted for before it traveled from Livermor, CO to Sausalita, CA and that before it also went to Idaho Fall, ID. That in total it journeyed 3887 miles in 364 days, which makes 11 miles a day. In addition, you will find out that the bill is now registered and it is recommended that you take your friends out for dinner with this bill and to let George know how it went.
The quality of this information is basically statistical. I participated in a statistical game. Money is the currency. The idea that around each bill rotates some kind of energy fed directly from devalued essences is clear. Nevertheless, the idea of the rotating paths on which these bills are driven by this energy is ungraspable. The idea that the bank notes are the carriers of sprayed pins is real. Where is the pin?
During my last visit to George’s page, my screen started to blink and it told me that I was the 15th million visitor, and that I’d won 1,600 dollars and a trip to the sea. I was supposed to call immediately 1 800 291 7447. I guess I dialed it without the area code — the receiver said over and over again that the number doesn’t exist.

Tomáš Vaněk




01.04.2002

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