No 1 (65) 2006
January - March

Good Coin

Many inhabitants of the border town of Słubice, and Frankfurt, its counterpart located on the opposite bank of the Odder river, were lucky enough to find in the street an intriguing coin, a material mark of the action by Roland Schefferski under the Słubfurt City project.
Leszek Kania

B. in 1956. He works for the Lubuski Region Museum in Zielona Góra, the „NOWY WIEK” Gallery curator.

Leszek Kania
Monetary intervention has been yet another unconventional action by the Berlin artist, pertaining directly to the complex Polish – German relations. He has referred in his art to this issue a number of times, as a spokesman for an international dialogue. The history, memory, accounting for the past, as well as the contemporary ramifications of being neighbors have been the topic of his artistic deliberations. It is worth stressing that as early as the period 1988 – 1991, Schefferski tried to publish the WEAST magazine that undermined the then division into the so called WEST & EAST. In 2004, he took part in the “Loci Dialogue” project in Kostrzyń, referring to the tragic history of the city brought to ruins and rubble during the war. In the area of the former old town, among the ruins of an old house, he recreated a fragment of the room. This was not, however, a reconstruction in a literal sense of the word. He put there a contemporary table, four chairs and a standard cupboard, as one can find in nearly every home. The hidden loudspeakers played natural “hearth and home” sounds suggesting an illusion of living. If not for the war, most likely, it would have been present there…. The art by Schefferski has been based on an intellectual reflection expressed by means of performances exceeding traditional ways of representation. He has been involved with everyday life, frequently situating his works in a public space. A street, a store have been for him the places as good to present art, as a gallery or museum. The diversified tools and media he applies serve merely to visualize an intended concept. Initiating the Słubfurt City project, he decided to make for this occasion a coin, especially for the inhabitants of Słubice and Frankfurt-on-Odder. Working on it, he has taken into consideration various aspects of money functions, stressing its role as a social phenomenon. He has referred to the concept of common European currency. A huge operation of introducing Euro in the European Union countries at the beginning of 2002 was supposed to be a guaranty of the continental unity and the united Europe’s dream coming true. Today, this issue seems to be more complex, though global unification is inevitable. For the time being, if Poland wishes to enter the “Euro zone”, it has to meet strictly defined convergence criteria in the coming years. The artist got ahead of this process making a coin earmarked for Poles and Germans living on the opposite banks of the Odder river bordering two states. In the past, Słubice and Frankfurt were one. Schefferski’s coin was produced by the state mint. At the first glance, its appearance, shape and the material it has been made from, resemble the one Euro coin. The artist has circulated his coin in quite an unconventional manner. He has “lost” several hundreds of them in various locations of both cities, being certain that they will be found. The action has been registered with a movie camera. The finders’ reactions have been emotional, as though they were finding real coins. Thus, the responses have been diversified; from joy through anger, as manifested by one Frankfurt inhabitant who simply threw it in a dustbin. Certainly, the informational function of the coin has been more significant. It has made one think. This has been a kind of a “correspondence” that the author of the monetary intervention wished to pass to a receiver. The coin obverse displays the 1 digit and the explicit inscription in both languages: DAS BETRIFT DICH – TO DOTYCZY CIEBIE (THIS APPLIES TO YOU). Addressing this message to a single person, he draws one’s attention to the common – resulting from the past – responsibility which also applies to the present and the future. The artist, however, is afraid most of human indifference. It can be blamed for the fact that the communities of the two neighboring countries are not eager to learn about each other. The negative stereotypes – being a source of concern, if not hostility – are still holding. These sentiments have been rooted in the history and contemporary times. Wilelm Gerloff, the author of a sociologic monograph on cash, entitled “Geld und Gesellschaft”, published in 1952 in Frankfurt-on-Main, wrote: Cash is not merely an economy tool; its essence expresses social forms and ways of coexistence. Schefferski’s coin, designed for Słubfurt, does not function as a means of payment. This is the tool of understanding and thought exchange. Its value cannot be overestimated.