Reading the World Economy in the Banana Skins
The precursor to the first Exchange Values project in 1996 was begun in the early 1970s, when one day, with a banana skin in my hand, I began to wonder, who and where the person was who had produced the fruit I had just eaten. I kept the skin and hung it on a string. Soon other skins joined it. When I left to come to Germany to study with Joseph Beuys, the skins filled a small wooden suitcase that I decided to take on the plane.
‘Reading the World Economy in the Banana Skins‘ took place twice in a small German town.
The suitcase full of dry, blackened banana skins, that had accompanied me from South Africa, became the basis for this work. On a mat on the pavement I laid out the skins. This was an echo of the way my grandmother had read the tea-leaves in a cup. When passersby asked me what this was all about I said that like people read tea-leaves, I read the world economy in the banana skins. This was 1974. I was trying to understand how to develop social sculpture processes, but wasn’t sure how. I knew it had something to do with some kind of in-depth engagement and opportunities for re-thinking. This much I had understood from Beuys.
Although some fascinating exchanges took place, they were not substantial. This ‘pavement action’ with the banana skins did not feel much different from the small performative actions and interventions I had already become disillusioned with in my work in South Africa in 1972.
Exchange Values: Images of Invisible Lives
This was the first form of the social sculpture process that involved the producers themselves, their organisations and consumers. This phase of Exchange Values lasted for 10 years – from 1996 to 2006. See ‘The Story of the Project’ and IMAGES 1996-1998 and 1998-2006
Exchange Values: On the Table
This new phase of Exchange Values was begun in 2007 in Switzerland as part of the exhibition Social Sculpture Today and the conference ‘Ursache Zukunft’/ ‘The Cause lies in the Future’ – which draws on a statement by Joseph Beuys. See ‘Exchange Values – 11 Years on’ for 2007 developments. See IMAGES 2007-ongoing [coming soon]