Money is Material by Mark Wagner
Art has reached all-time record sales, yet how we value art remains debatable and evolving. Of course, there is the cost of materials to consider—there is labor, and then there is the ever-elusive market value. “Value” in itself is an abstract concept and is highly subjective. Artist Mark Wagner wastes no time with polemics. With dollar bills as his very material, the relationship between art and value is nearly inseparable and unmistakably transparent. His artistic production means first destroying, and then painstakingly reassembling this currency into complex visual systems of fantastical economic scenes where George Washington makes a regular appearance. A painter’s studio might be filled with drawers of gesso, oils and brushes, but Wagner maintains drawers labeled “dark lines,” “heads” and “light chunks”—all parts that together complete an intricate, graphic and organized whole. Bewitched, bothered and bewildered are only three terms one might use to describe viewing one of Wagner’s collage works. Wagner, who has also worked as a paper conservator, accepts his contradictory livelihood; but paradox is the name of the game. “Anarchists are certain that I’m an anarchist because I cut up a favorite tool of the oppressor. Capitalists think I am a capitalist because I revel in it,” he says. To Wagner, the dollar bill is only a means to a visual end, yet he does often remind himself that the paper he works with is “worth money” and that to some, it is wrapped in a tangled economic system that each of us has a different relationship to. Cash, denero, moola, dough—whatever it may be to you—would you consider donating “a crispy dollar to a currency collage?”
Learn more about Mark Wagner HERE.
Directed & Produced by Kelly Nyks & Jared P. Scott / Cinematography & Editing by Mike McSweeney / Music Composition by Malcom Francis / Artwork by Mark Wagner / Process Video by Mark Wagner / Animation by Noah Poole & Nic Stark / Colorist: Josh Kanuck / Production Assistance by Greg Hartofelis / Additional Camera by Theron Powell