Stephanie Syjuco, 2015
Commissioned for the Asian Art Biennial at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung, Taiwan. Sept. 19 – Dec. 6, 2015
“MONEY FACTORY: Economic Reality Game” is a 3,000 square foot exhibition space that engages museum visitors to playfully yet critically explore a contemporary economic predicament faced by Taiwan’s young people: the high cost of living the “good life” and what it would take for them to literally afford it. Part economic reality game and part communal crafting space, visitors are invited to sit together and cut and glue stacks of simulated Taiwanese currency in order to “make money” (one year’s worth of a young person’s wages, or roughly NT$300,000) which they can then “spend” by purchasing souvenir cards that represent desirable life goals: starting a family, buying a car, buying a house, opening a small business, etc.
Upon finishing their stacks and purchasing their items, the collective stacks of money are displayed in the installation space much like an accumulated bank vault, and becomes a physical representation for an abstract thing: economic labor and time made “real” in a compressed and simulated timeframe. It is a visual result of all the people that have worked in the space and created a collective representation of labor.
Long interested in issues of economy and labor, this project directly relates to my desire to create spaces in which the average person can reckon with and come to terms with local and global economic conditions. Money Factory, although appearing to be a playful installation by using a cut-and-glue exercise similar to a children’s game, becomes a way to tackle deep-rooted fears and desires that many young Taiwanese face. With stagnating wages, the shift in the Taiwanese economy away from the factory production prevalent in the post-WWII years, the desire for a happy and convenient lifestyle fueled by cheap goods imported from overseas, and the high cost of an achievable middle class life (house, car, family, etc.), Money Factory also creates a social space where visitors can ask themselves what they desire and if it’s possible to achieve these goals given limited resources.
By not providing easy answers and presenting a game that reflects actual price structures, Money Factory becomes a public forum for discussion and poses the question “is this a viable system?” And if the answer is no, what is next?