Name: Nicky Enright
Title: Globo Exchange
What does “FREE” mean to you?
My currency exchange is explicit: Buy one, get one FREE (that’s two Globos for one dollar). But my intervention into the economy is also related to labor, and all the “free” junk available in the U.S. (and stuff that’s so cheap it might as well be FREE). Because, economically speaking, Americans do not pay for it. So much of what we supposedly buy has actually already been paid for with the time and life energy of the people who manufactured it; workers paid so little that their labor was essentially DONATED to the corporations they work for – practically for FREE. This is the literal meaning of exploitation: you will work for me for free, or practically free, but your most basic needs will be met, just barely.
This is what minimum wage is all about – a challenge to exploitation. But significantly, there is no global minimum wage, and that’s where the Globo comes in. By exchanging Globos for dollars I will enter into dialogues about the nature of printed symbolic notes, and where they get their value from, especially in relation to other currencies.
Globo. Image courtesy of Nicky Enright.
Why is 14th Street a compelling site for creative response?
This busiest-of-busy streets is a bustling center of exchange, where goods are constantly swapped for American currency. With the sad exception of a penniless person, probably homeless, most passersby are either working around there (earning currency), eating, drinking, or shopping around there (spending currency), or wandering tourists (exchanging currency). This is a perfect spot to stop and wonder about money. How much is a person’s life energy worth, per hour? And how much of that depends on the basic reality of where they live and what currency they earn?
What reactions are you hoping to draw from the public?
The main reactions to the Globo are disbelief, skepticism, and inquiry – “Is it real?” There will be many discussions about what makes money real. Other expected questions include:
-How much is your time worth?
-What do the symbols on the symbolic notes we call money mean?
-Why are currencies so unequal on a global scale?
-Why is there no international minimum wage?
I also expect a lot of interaction with tourists from various wealthy nations who may exchange their native currency for Globos. We will note the absence of tourists from poor nations whose citizens not only cannot afford to be tourists in NYC, but who couldn’t get a visa even if they could. They may be toiling on this street, however, but probably not that interested in Globos, because as many will be undocumented, they will be working for less than “minimum” wage.
I hope people are interested in breaking the taboo against talking about money, which seems like a necessary step for much-needed change.