Tuesday, October 28, 2014

US currency reimagined to celebrate ideas, not the dead

Travis Purrington imagines money without the Founding Fathers

Travis Purrington's interpretation of the US currency looks like it belongs in a cyberpunk movie. Gone is the uniformed green, and the portraits of long-dead presidents. Purrington's designs are subtle yet sleek, embossed with astronauts, crashing waves, ice-capped mountains, and distant galaxies.

The project draws inspiration from the Swiss Franc, and was conceptualized to showcase banknotes that placed greater emphasis on the accomplishments of the living, rather than "codifying myth or legend." Purrington says he removed the Founding Fathers from his design as this was a practice Congress had wanted to abolish following the American revolution. He wanted to focus instead on the attributes shared by workers in a community, and "how these attributes contribute to the principles we end up seeing as valuable."

Each dollar bill contains two phrases: "This currency is upheld by the integrity of its people," and "Uires Alit," which means "strength feeds" in Latin. Purrington says that while not immediately obvious, his reinterpretations include elements from the existing bank notes such as the eagles, the US flag, and the Treasury seal. In addition, there are also key phrases from the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the national anthem embedded within the notes. "I think these are very America' but in a different context than we have grown accustomed," Purrington tells The Verge in an email.

Courtesy Cassandra Khaw, The Verge, October 28, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Zambia Launched 50 Kwacha Banknote to Commemorate 50th Anniversary of Independence

THE Bank of Zambia (BoZ) has unveiled a 50th Independence Anniversary K50 commemorative banknote bearing portraits of former Presidents and the current Head of State.

Minister of Finance Alexander Chikwanda launched the note in Lusaka yesterday as Zambia’s tribute to founding President Kenneth Kaunda, former presidents Frederick Chiluba, Levy Mwanawasa and Rupiah Banda, and the incumbent President Sata for their visionary leadership which has united the country.

“The K50 commemorative banknote, unlike previous commemorative coins which the Bank of Zambia issued to celebrate various historical events, will circulate side by side with the current K50 note,” he said.

Mr Chikwanda said the commemorative banknote bears the same features as the currently circulating K50 banknote except for the portraits of the five heads of state and the “50th Independence Anniversary” wording.

And BoZ governor Michael Gondwe noted that this is the first time a commemorative banknote is being circulated as legal tender in the country.

Dr Gondwe said printing and minting of banknotes and coins is a global phenomenon that is done to preserve important events.

Dr Kaunda was grateful for the honour bestowed on him and urged Zambians to continue to build the nation together using the “One Zambia, One Nation” motto.

Mr Banda, who was touched by the gesture, urged Zambians to maintain peace, love and unity.

Representing late President Chiluba, his widow Regina Chiluba said it was a great gesture for the government to recognise her husband’s contribution to Zambia.

“I would like to congratulate Zambians for being peaceful. My late husband would have been happy,” she said.

And representing late President Mwanawasa, his widow, Maureen, thanked Government for recognising the role her husband played in the development of the country.

Courtesy Lusaka Times, October 23, 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Elephant image on Nepal 1‚000-rupee bank note confuses even wildlife experts

You must have noticed that all Nepali bank notes in circulation contain pictures of animals.

For instance, the five-rupee denomination note contains a picture of a pair of yaks. Bank notes of various other denominations also bear pictures of different animals, such as black bucks, swamp deer (stag), thar (Himalayan male goat), one-horned rhino and tigers.

It is not known why the back side of bank notes here bear images of animals, although Nepal Rastra Bank officials say it’s because of their neutral characteristic. “If images of temples are used, they might trigger controversy because of religious connotations. That may be the reason,” a senior NRB official said on condition of anonymity.

Whatever the reason, all pictures of animals printed on bank notes are said to be of animals found in Nepal — except for one, which has confused even wildlife experts. And that is the image of an elephant printed on the back side of the 1,000-rupee note, which, experts say, resembles the elephant found in Africa.

This ambiguity has prompted many to suspect whether the 1,000-rupee notes have long been bearing the picture of an African elephant rather than of those roaming the country’s forests.

No wonder, NRB, which issues bank notes, has started reviewing pictures of all animals printed on notes and is mulling their replacement with images of animals found in the country.

Bank notes of 1,000-rupee denomination were first issued in December 1969 — although the history of bank note circulation dates back to September 1945.

At that time, these 1,000-rupee notes contained the picture of a rural setting with Mount Annapurna in the backdrop.

Then in December 1974, the design was reviewed and the picture of an elephant with long tusks was used.

Since then, 1,000-rupee notes are being printed with the same picture of an elephant.

The picture of the elephant used in the note, according to ‘Notes and Coins of Nepal’— a book published to mark NRB’s Golden Jubilee — is that of an ‘Asian male elephant’.

But experts doubt it.

“The picture contains features of both Asian and African elephants,” Narendra Pradhan, an elephant expert, told The Himalayan Times.

“For instance, the head appears to be that of an Asian elephant, as it contains two humps on the top part of the skull,” he said. The top part of the head of the African elephant, on the other hand, is more round in shape.

But the similarity ends here.

“The appearance of the elephant in the picture, especially body size and ears, resembles those found in Africa,” Pradhan added. African elephants are bigger and have larger ears, Pradhan said. “Also, the shoulder of the African elephant rises above the head, as in the picture.”

However, a wildlife expert working for World Wildlife Fund Nepal, said it would not be wrong ‘to call that elephant in the picture Asian’. “Its ears are not as big as those of African elephants and the body resembles Asian elephants,” the source said. But she quickly added: “I don’t think it’s a real life picture. It must be artwork.”

NRB is not aware of the source of the image. “Many images were taken a long time ago. We don’t know who took them or from where they were extracted. But they are definitely not artwork,” the NRB official said, adding, “We are planning to replace all images of animals with those found in Nepal.”

If things go as planned, the 1,000-rupee note will soon contain a picture of twin baby elephants — along with their mother — born some time ago at Chitwan National Park, according to the NRB source.

Courtesy RUPAK D SHARMA, The Himalayan, 2014-10-16

Saturday, October 11, 2014

What banknotes would look like if kids designed them

Norges Bank held a competition to design their new banknote. It received loads of submissions and then whittled them down.

Participants had to communicate a theme of "The Sea" in their designs, with the Norwegian bank finally deciding that this is how the new notes will look.

The bank is now working further on motifs and designs to enable security elements intended for the public and machine-readable security elements to be designed and incorporated into the notes.

While there were many impressive entrants to the competition, one attempt in particular stood out.

Aslak Gurholt Rønsen put together a series of fetching designs, and then passed the notes on to children to design the obverse. The results are wonferful (and a little hilarious). Click on the gallery below to see Aslak's design, followed by a child's attempt.

Our favourite is definitely the 500 krone note.

Courtesy Sinead Moore, Aol, October 11. 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Art of Discarded Memories - Currency Collage

Old banknotes become more valuable than ever in the dramatic portraits of Zwe Yan Naing

ZWE YAN NAING introduced a new art genre - "currency collage" - to Myanmar in his first solo exhibition in 2011 at the Pansodan Gallery. He followed that up in his second show, the just-ended "To Value Something", again creating striking portraits with disused banknotes.

Zwe Yan Naing, 30, has been creating art since he was a child and was already quite talented by the time he was attending the Yangon School of Fine Arts. Today he's considered a pioneer of new or little known art forms and ideas.

"I don't want the old banknotes or the iconic people in Myanmar history to be forgotten and buried in the past," he says. "I'm well aware of the significant historic figures and I'm trying to pass on their legacy to the next generation. That's the main concept behind this exhibition."

His currency collages are images of yesteryear's heroes built with banknotes. They combine art and architecture, he says, and entail considerable dexterity as well as commitment.

Zwe Yan Naing begins by cutting up and arranging the banknotes on a prepared template, then glues everything together in a dramatic display of colour-coded uniformity. The notes' dominant colours - green, cyan, pink and white - limit the tone range of his "canvas". Black dye is finally used to mark the boundary along which the central figure is cropped.

He chiefly uses 25, 45 and 75-kyat bills, which ceased to be legal tender in 1987. It's not easy finding them in bulk nowadays. "It's taken me almost three years to stage this second exhibition," Zwe Yan Naing says. "Hunting for the vintage banknotes took most of that time. I scoured old markets and people's private collections and so on.

"I spent a fortune turning these valueless notes into invaluable art pieces, though, so the time has been well spent."

His works sell for anywhere from US$600 to $1,800 (Bt19,000 to Bt58,000).

Most of his collages are portraits of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the opposition National League for Democracy. Zwe Yan Naing explained on the exhibition's invitation cards why she predominates.

"I need a main character for my artistic journey that will end only when I die, someone like Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is strong and intelligent and devotes her life to the greater good of the country."

As well as the series "The Myanmar Lady", he's done portraits of her revered father, General Aung San, former UN general secretary U Thant and Thakhin Ko Taw Hmine, the literary powerhouse regarded as the father of Burma's nationalist and peace movements.

Between 2011 and 2013 Zwe Yan Naing had shows in Britain, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Mumbai in India, all well received by critics and the public.

It has not always been such smooth sailing. While Myanmar was still under military rule, the portraits of "the Lady" ruffled feathers and the censors blocked three planned exhibitions in 2009 and 2010. Only in the following year, with liberalism permeating the political air, did he obtain permission to stage his first exhibition.

"I'm now working on my next show, though I don't have an exact date," says Zwe Yan Nain. "I'm very worried about what kind of misfortune might befall me and my art. That's why I have to double my efforts while luck is still on my side."

He's developing another technique, called "stamp collage", using postal logos from the colonial era. "I've got the very first stamp issued with Bogyoke Aung San on it, and other stamps predating that one, plus some foreign stamps that depict Daw Suu Kyi. My next show should be even more remarkable."

Zwe Yan Naing is clearly not interested in "art for art's sake", only in "art for history's sake".

Courtesy Nay Thiha, Myanmar Eleven, October 6, 2014