1,500 one-dollar bills, dropped around Santa Fe New Mexico: Aug 19 - Sept 14, 2014.
The Dollar Distribution book, available from Axle Contemporary Press
Read about the project at Money.com here.
Read about the project in the Santa Fe New Mexican here.
Dollar Distribution is a financial intervention by Matthew Chase-Daniel. Crowdsourced fundraising yielded 1,500 individual dollar bills which were left on the streets of Santa Fe from August 22 - September 14. The bills were distributed, at random throughout the city, one at a time, left on street corners and sidewalks, on the floors of local businesses, in shirt pockets at clothing stores, in front yards, and countless other locations. Prior to the distribution, the 1,500 dollar bills were exhibited in the mobile gallery.
Last year, while driving into town, a dollar bill blew past my windshield. Then I noticed a little clump of bills blowing across the road. Then I noticed cars around me braking and swerving. It wasn't much money at all, but it inspired a strong visceral reaction in all of us there. I got to thinking as I drove away about money, about cash. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, the sight of cash blowing down the road gets attention and provokes reactions and thoughts and reflection of all sorts, positive, negative, joyous, angry, liberated, stressed-out. Cash has so many associations is so prevalent and widespread, can be used for so many different things (but not, I've heard, buying love).
So this blow-by cash experience sparked ides in my mind as I drove on into town. I decided I wanted to replicate my experience for others, to spark associations and reactions in others by simply leaving some cash around Santa Fe for others to happen upon by chance. Most people (but not all) would be pleased to find a dollar on the street. So i decided to raise money to fund my project. I'm not making any money from the project, nor donating any to it. It's a crowd-sourced pass-through project. And the money isn't to "fund" the "expenses" of a project. I don't need to by a new video projector or rent a performance hall. None of that. All the money given to the project IS the project. So after a month-long Kickstarter campaign, I've got about $1,500 raised. I went to the bank and withdrew to money, all as 1-dollar bills. I wasn't clear how much space that would take. I brought a zippered duffel bag into the bank. It turns out 1,500 bills can be quite compact. 1,000 of them were handed to me fresh from the vault, in a nice brick: 10 banded bundled of 100 ones, sealed in a plastic bag, straight from the Federal Reserve in El Paso. That brick has power. Holding it made me a little giddy and giggly. I brought it home, showed it to my wife, my son, friends. And I worried about it. I was reluctant to leave it locked in my car in a busy parking lot in the middle of the day, tucked away. I worried much more than I would have about leaving a $2,000 computer or a camera. Cash is powerful.
So from this experience, I decided to create a short exhibition in the Axle mobile gallery. For one day (Tuesday Aug 19th) I put the glass on the back door, spread the money across the floor, and headed around town to park here and there for an hour or so and show the money and watch people's reactions.
Then, over the course of the next month, I’m distributing the bills around town: On city sidewalks, tucked in bushes, pinned to telephone poles, in pockets of thrift-store clothing, in books in bookstores. 1,500 people will have 1,500 unique experiences of finding an unexpected dollar.
So, Dollar Distribution, has three distinct parts:
1- The fundraising
People loved the idea, hated the idea, though it was brilliant, thought is was frivolous, wasteful. Some gave nothing, some one dollar, some 150 dollars, some a jar of pennies. Many just handed me a little cash when I ran into them at the post office or the market. Just the idea of the project provoked a huge range of reactions. Now people are still asking "Is it too late to contribute? I meant to but..." I tell them, "Just do it yourself! Help me out. Drop a few bills of your own on the street. It doesn't matter if I do it or you do it. The effect is exactly the same."
2- The exhibit of cash
Folks came to see the a big pile of money and feel whatever it makes them feel.
3- The distribution
I was not strolling along throwing handfuls of cash in the air. This was not a treasure hunt. This is not charity. I aim to be surreptitious and elusive. It isn't about me dropping the money.. It's about others finding it, surprised, unexpecting. The bills were not be marked with a message. I expected and hoped that most people finding the money would have no idea that it was placed intentionally or is considered a "work of art". I shot some photos of the bills as I left them, when possible, as a way of documenting a small portion of the project.
“A dollar picked up in the road is more satisfaction to us than the 99 which we had to work for.”- Mark Twain
“What a thrill it was to find the first rolled bill in a sidewalk crack. When I happened upon the 2nd, I felt like the cat who ate the cream.”- a dollar finder
This project was part of Axle Contemporary's Economologies series in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The series explores art and action related to the ecology of economies, art related to money, innovative and creative approaches to economics, and interrelations between the fields of economics and ecology. The series includes an exhibition of visual art, roundtable discussions, performances, and installation.