• If you are citizen of an European Union member nation, you may not use this service unless you are at least 16 years old.

  • Stop wasting time looking for files and revisions. Connect your Gmail, DriveDropbox, and Slack accounts and in less than 2 minutes, Dokkio will automatically organize all your file attachments. Learn more and claim your free account.


Living Currency

Page history last edited by Panos Kouros 7 years, 11 months ago




the Laws of Hospitality - Living Currency

performing archiving acts


Hydra Fine Arts School Resident Centre, August 16-22, 2012

Mykonos Fine Arts School Resident Centre – Un/Inhabited project, August 31, 2012






Living Currency

How can the human person fulfill the function of currency? 

Imagine, for a moment, an apparently impossible regression to a phase in industrial production where producers are able to demand objects of sensation, as a form of payment, from consumers. These objects would be living beings

  According to this example, based on bartering, producers and consumers would constitute collections of persons apparently destined for pleasure, emotion, sensation. Without relying on a literal barter economy, all modern industry is founded on bartering mediated by the sign of inert currency, which neutralizes the nature of the objects exchanged. This simulacrum of bartering exists in the guise of available labor, a living currency disavowed as such  
  How would producers pay themselves “with women” instead of paying “for women”? How would entrepreneurs or industrialists pay their engineers or workers in this way, “with women”? Who would manage this living currency? Other women. Which assumes the inverse: working women would be paid “in boys.” Who would manage, that is, sustain, this virile currency? Those who use the feminine currency. What we are describing here, in fact, already exists.  

If the perfecting of the production of instruments of production results in a reduction of labor, and if the time saved in producing saved time means more time available to sensation, to competitions of pleasure (Fourier), then sensation itself would have a value.But the simulacrum of bartering (created first by the monetary system and then by the conditions of industrial society) insists that time is only to be saved for further production 


Paying the worker in living objects of sensation instead of wages in currency is only practical if the living object itself is evaluated as a quantity of work and its material existence already assured. As soon as it is accounted for, possession of a living object or objects becomes, for the worker, purely symbolic and thus convertible into currency. In order for an object of sensation to be worth a quantity of work, this (living) object must, from the outset, already constitute a value equal to if not greater than the product of work. There is no common measure between the sensation that this living object might elicit by itself and the quantity of work provided in exchange for the resources required to maintain it. 

What is the relationship between the value of a tool, of a plot of land valued according to its probable yield, and the price attributed to the existence of a living being, source of a rare emotion? None, if the unique living object, source of emotion, is not fortunate enough to have the rare quality of being worth more than the cost of sustaining it.



A tool yields a certain amount; the living object elicits a certain emotion. The value of the tool should compensate for the cost of its maintenance; the value of a living object, source of emotion, is arbitrarily fixed, such that the cost of sustaining it can never be deduced from this value. 

Some will protest that we are reducing the living object, source of emotion, to the level of the stud farm, or comparing it to a work of art, or simply a diamond. Because we’re talking about an emotion that is sufficient unto itself, inseparable from the fortuitous and useless existence of an object that is now “cashable,” and for this reason appreciated arbitrarily.

Is this to say that we would need as large a quantity of living objects as there is inert currency in circulation? Not if such customs meant the very disappearance of monetary practice. But even as a market parallel to that of inert currency, living currency would be liable to substitute its role for that of the gold standard, habitually implanted and institutionalized within economic norms.  
  In order for the living object, singular source of emotion, to prevail as currency, we assume that a universal state of mind would have to take hold, this state being expressed in the form of uncontested practices and customs.  
Furthermore, these customs would profoundly modify exchanges and their meaning. Rare, inert objects – works of art, for example – are never modified through their exchange. But a living object, source of voluptuous sensations, would either be a currency that suppresses the neutralizing functions of money, or else it would found exchange value upon the emotion it elicits  Gold – whose arbitrary value and particular inutility are the seemingly universal metaphor for any emotion procured within a luxurious environment – is a regime as inhuman as it is practical. Standards of value measured in quantities of work, while apparently more “legitimate” from an economic point of view, continue to retain a punitive character.  


  Considered from the angle of exchange, the living object, source of emotion, is worth its own maintenance costs. The effort or sacrifices undertaken by its obsessed owner represent the price of this rare and useless object. No number would be able to express this demand. 
But before even considering the living object as an exchangeable good, we must examine it as currency. If, in so far as it is living, the object must represent a certain amount expressed in wages, it must also be fixed as a standard (although at first sight, barter in kind would forestall the possibility of buying inferior goods, if these are goods we can't do without). Under modern economic conditions, however, there is an increasing disproportion between the notions of quantity of work (considered as standard of value) and the living object as a form of currency. 
  If any tool whatsoever represents invested capital, then all the more so, in a domain supposedly outside commerce, for an object of sensation. A human creature representing a possible source of emotion can also become, on the basis of this possibility, the object of an investment. 


  In the commercial sphere, it’s not the creature itself that counts but the emotion that it elicits in potential consumers. A false and also banal example that will allow us to make this understood: the movie star, who represents nothing but a factor of production.  


When the newspapers, the day after her tragic death, set about adding up the visual qualities of Sharon Tate in terms of dollars, or calculate the management costs or expenses of any other woman on screen, industrialism itself is expressing the source of emotion in numbers, in terms of profitability or management costs, thus quantitatively. This is only possible because these ladies are not designated as “living currency” but treated as industrial slaves.   And on that account, they are regarded neither as actresses nor as celebrities nor even as illustrious people. If what we are here calling the industrial slave – an abstraction including all the disadvantages this sort of institution entails – were valued not only as capital but as living currency, she would assume the quality of a sign of value while at the same time integrally constituting value, the quality of the goods corresponding to the “immediate” satisfaction, not of a need but of the initial perversion.  As “living currency,” the industrial slave is at once a sign of wealth and wealth itself.  

As a sign, she is exchangeable for all other kinds of material wealth; as wealth itself, she excludes all other demands besides those whose satisfaction she represents. But satisfaction, properly speaking, is also what her quality as sign excludes. This is how living currency differs in an essential way from the condition of the industrial slave (movie star, advertising model, waitress, etc.) The industrial slave can only claim the title of sign by creating a difference between what she agrees to receive, in inert currency, and what she believes herself to be worth.


This explicit difference, which derives (here, as elsewhere) from morality, nevertheless only serves to mask a fundamental confusion. One wouldn't dream of defining this category of producers as “slaves,” since the term “slave” expresses only an availability to a demand which underlies limited needs.


As soon as she is free to accept her wages or not, the term “slave” becomes excessive, misplaced and insulting. Human dignity remains unscathed and money retains all its value. This is to say that the possibility of choice implied by the abstract function of money means that evaluation will never compromise the integrity of the person, because it applies only to her productive yield, in an “impartial” way which ensures the neutrality of the object. But this is a vicious circle, since the industrial logic can only conceive the integrity of the person in and through its yield, evaluated in terms of currency.

    Separated from the living object, which is its source, and turned into a “factor of production,” emotion is dispersed between multiple fabricated objects which divert the unspeakable demand through a limited set of needs: this is how it is rendered valueless within “serious” labor conditions. In this way, the industrial slave is available only in the same way as any other workforce, since, far from constituting herself as a sign, as currency, she must be paid for “honestly” in inert currency.   
  From the moment the bodily presence of the industrial slave is systematically collapsed with the surplus value she can produce – her physiognomy being inseparable from her work – any distinction between the person and her activity becomes false.  



Bodily presence is already a commodity, independently and in excess of the commodities this presence is involved with producing.  

  Either the industrial slave enforces a strict calculation between bodily presence and money earned, or else she substitutes herself for the function of money, since she is already money herself, at once equivalent to wealth and wealth itself. 






Comments (0)

You don't have permission to comment on this page.