What I learned I no longer know; the little I still know, I guessed
Phinthong provided 5,000 Euros to exchange for Zimbabwean dollars, the most devalued and worthless currency in the world. The ZWD has no legal status outside Zimbabwe. The exchange took place through a network of contacts rather than direct with Zimbabweans. The notes he received range from 1 dollar to 50 trillion. Placing the dollars in stacks and the stacks within a square grid, Phinthong mimics serial minimal sculpture thus reworking an old theme while providing an ironic comment on the value of art. From worthless currency the artist makes valuable art. The currency is no good for anything else. Thus what was once valuable but became worthless becomes valuable again, like the phoenix rising from the ashes. The ephemeral nature of the currency is mirrored in the ephemeral substance of the sculpture which is vulnerable to disruption from movements of air. There is no particular order of placing the notes since the work grew over the course of the exhibition as more notes came in. The final sculpture was intended to be a cubic meter of notes. The sculpture questions not only the value of art but also systems of exchange and the degree to which they are reliable. Like other works in the show where this work was unveiled, What I learned … embraces the concept of time since it is a sculpture that was accrued over a long period. Phinthong thereby asserts that sculpture, like film, can be a time-based medium and even to some degree performative.
Pratchaya Phintong’s works often arise from the confrontation between different social, economic or geographical systems. They are the result of a dialogue, and bring all their poetic forces from an almost invisible artistic gesture.
Pratchaya Phintong was born in 1974 in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand. He lives and works in Bangkok.