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Exploring the Influence of Money through Art - RYR in an Interview

May 17, 2017
Eli Anapur is a pseudonym of Biljana Puric. A staff writer and editor at Widewalls, Biljana holds Master’s Degrees in Film Aesthetics from the University of Oxford, and Gender Studies from the Central European University. She has published academic articles as well as art and film reviews and criticism in New Eastern Europe, ARTMargins, the Journal of Curatorial Studies, and Short Film Studies; she has also contributed illustrations for Argus Magazine.

How art relates to money, and what influence money exerts on us, are some of the topics explored by RYR art. The interest in money comes from both positive and negative aspects related to it, which artist RYR tries to approach without judgment. Observing it as a concept, he notes its inherent value as something not related to shape, weight, or color, which makes it an interesting background for his art. As art in itself has value, the clash between the used material and the value of art brings into dialog the complex instances of contemporary society that often relies on conceptual values being transferred onto a concrete and palpable forms.

Reuven Schockner aka RYR is an artist who started out on the streets, honing his artistic skills through graffiti, before moving into the studio where he continued to explore his interest with contemporary obsessions in a medium that, it could be said, has an extra value. He makes his artworks out of money; not completely out of usable banknotes, as the artist admits himself, but also from a handcrafted paper. His pieces contain symbols that are already present all around us, and also texts and letters that do not always convey a straightforward message. He does not shy away from religious imagery as well, as his recent exhibition To Cut a Long Story Short shows. The Crucifix with the cross made out of the shredded money was one of the pieces that sold immediately after the show. However, the relation of this piece to the broader issues of religion and money is left to us to discover, as RYR does not want to influence our understanding of it with his own explanations.

In this exclusive interview with Widewalls, RYR talked with us about his beginnings, the significance of money in his art, how different symbols and texts he represents relate to his experiences, and finally about his future plans.

RYR artwork made of money
RYR’s works

Starting Out as a Graffiti Artist

Widewalls: Can you tell us more about your artistic beginnings? How did it all start for you?

RYR: It started fairly common, with some kind of pen and a few thousand sheets of white DIN A4 paper.

Widewalls: You started out as a graffiti artist. How does this experience influence what you do now?

RYR: In graffiti, I just needed a spray can and a surface; I always liked that limited and simple approach on realizing a visual concept.

Widewalls: What have you taken from the streets and brought into your studio practice?

RYR: I always want to achieve a visual impact.

RYR new media art made with shredded money
RYR art

Money and/in Art

Widewalls: Shredded money is the basis of your practice. How did you come up with this idea, and what does it mean conceptually to you?

RYR: Money itself is a concept. We undoubtedly believe it, but there is actually no equal value to the material, shape, or even weight. That made it highly interesting for me to use as a surface.

Widewalls: How would you describe your art based on shredded banknotes? How does the destruction of a value (of money) create another one?

RYR: You can destroy money but you can’t destroy the belief in it. That’s extremely valuable as a concept. So anything you put on that surface elevates itself because there is already a foundation. You don’t have that on a canvas.

Widewalls: In terms of semiotics, it seems that you are trying to empty out the signifier – money – of its meaning. Would you agree with this assertion?

RYR: I am not interested in the meaning of money and whatever it would be. I am fascinated by the influence of money on us, humans. But not in a materialistic way; rather on intellectual level.

Widewalls: Perhaps the question on the minds of many people, when they see your works for the first time, is – do you use real money as well?

RYR: The paper I use is handcrafted and consists of cellulose and a lot of real banknotes.

RYR preparing media for the exhibition
RYR preparing exhibition

Symbols that We Love and Resent

Widewalls: You also use words, quotes, and logos in your art. Using words as an expressive tool has been around for quite some time – from Art and Language movement, to Conceptualists, and beyond. Could you situate your art within this art historical grid? How does it differ, and what novelties does it bring to these traditions?

RYR: I use existing words or logos because their story was already told and somewhere stored in our own consciousness. I like the idea, so I use quotes of songs which moved me, movies that influenced me, and my generation. All of these have one thing in common, they are about money even if they don’t seem so on the first look; they are all connected.

Widewalls: Money is unfortunately among the strongest driving forces in the world today, if not the strongest. How do you see the relationship between art and money today?

RYR: Why unfortunately? Would you rather like to hunt and gather your own food, sew your own clothes, and move around because of the seasons? Money helps us settle and protect ourselves against surrounding threats. That’s quite important, but unfortunately easily forgotten. That being said, there are as many negative things related to money. Money always surrounds itself with art. That will never change.

Left RYR - Crucificition Right RYR - Supreme
Left: RYR – Crucifix / Right: RYR – Supreme

To Cut a Long Story Short and Future Plans

Widewalls: Do you follow what is going on in the art market? How would you comment on that?

RYR: I follow it modestly, so I guess I can’t answer that question.

Widewalls: You recently had an exhibition titled “To Cut a Long Story Short” at POP68 Gallery in Cologne. Can you tell us more about its concept and the exhibited works?

RYR: The concept was the myth and our belief in money, and my exhibited works were a physical proof of that.

Widewalls: We saw that there was a Crucifixion piece with the figure of Christ attached to a cross made out of shredded money. Can you tell us more about it? How does this religious theme relate to the importance of money in contemporary society?

RYR: It’s also a very strong piece by itself. The Crucifix was placed in the entrance area. The idea was that it triggers your belief emotions instantly, and prepares you for anything else which follows. Besides that you can find religious quotes on actual banknotes. The beauty of art is that you can choose what to feel or believe in, so i guess it’s totally up to you to decide how it relates, that’s not up to me.

Widewalls: It is a sensitive topic to tackle. What was the reaction of the viewers?

RYR: They loved it. It was one of the first pieces I sold after the show.

Widewalls: What are your next projects? What’s in store for you for the rest of 2017?

RYR: I want to expose my art as much as possible, so I am currently working on a new show.

RYR artworks, exhibition view
RYR’s artworks

Featured images: Portrait Photos of RYR. All images courtesy of the artist.