Fringe review: The New Money

We’re told to bring an object to this art exhibition, which ostensibly looks like a room full of junk assembled around an ATM but sees us leave feeling richer than when did before entering. ★★★★½

Mar 15, 2021, updated Mar 15, 2021

A bottle of hooch, a box of pencils, a pair of shoes and a gold ring these are some of the items that line the shelves of the The New Money  art exhibition at the Adelaide Central School of Art when we visit on Saturday. 

Two women wearing matching black outfits accentuated with gold collars emerge from around the side of the exhibition. 

They’re Cynthia Schwertsik and Emma Beech, the artists responsible for the Bureau d’Exchange, a performance slash installation piece aiming to explore alternative economic models to cash. 

They ask what we’ve come to exchange. 

I stupidly forgot to bring an object, but after scrounging around in my wallet I find  a photograph taken in a Melbourne casino photobooth of myself and my partner. It was taken on a date when we lived in another city, and reminds me that our relationship surpasses romance. We’re best friends. Instead of gambling on the roulette table that night, we drank cocktails and spent all our money in the kids’ arcade playing air hockey. 

Schwertsik deems the photograph worthy of an exchange, and asks what item has caught our eyes. A videotape covered in ’90s-looking ghouls and monsters titled The Dark Crystal and two cassettes labelled “Saturday Night Jukebox” pique my interest. 

We’re told that the individual who owned the videotape was shaped from a young age by the film, and the cassettes include jukebox songs recorded during their youth. After hearing the story, the room takes on a whole new kind of weight.

What was once just ephemeral bric-a-brac becomes a million different pieces of a million different lives. Schertsik explains that the room is full of memories; some belong to grieving children, recent divorcees, and artists who lose faith in their abilities. Others are hallmarks of significant changes in who these individuals are. 

The Bureau d’Exchange is not only superbly clever and thought-provoking, but earth-shattering. It leaves this reviewer questioning what we value more than money (hopefully, experiences), and drives home the difficulty of divorcing an object from our feelings. 

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Before we leave, we try our hand at the Good News Bank, an ATM created by artists Cassie Thring and Nick Hanisch that exchanges good news for more good news instead of money. After we type the first thing that pops into our head, “We’re happy we saw a cat today”, a piece of counterfeit cash – aka one “Gazillion” dollars – spews out. It’s more good news is: “I get to share a studio with Hannah.”

If you’re feeling down by the state of the world or life’s rat race, remind yourself of what’s important by visiting The New Money.

The New Money is showing at the Adelaide Central Gallery, attached to Adelaide Central School of Art, until March 19. Bookings are mandatory to participate in the Bureau d’Exchange. Click here for more information or to make a booking.

Read more Adelaide Fringe reviews and previews  here.


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