The students had to re-evaluate money for the project

Exeter students understand the financial crisis by ‘making money’

Local people have been enjoying work by University of Exeter Geography students at an exhibition at The Hub on the Green this week.

‘Money Talks’ features artworks showing the human stories in our cash, credit cards, bank accounts and money markets.

The exhibits were produced by University of Exeter Geography students who have been trying to understand the ongoing financial crisis and the Occupy activism that it has provoked around the world. They were inspired by the giant Monopoly set made by the artist Banksy for the Occupation site outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London. One of their challenges was to rethink, modify and design new kinds of money that could tell us about the lives of the people who had made, earned, spent, borrowed and traded it. They discussed these issues with people participating in Exeter’s Occupation on Cathedral Green. The class met there, rather than on campus, throughout the project. This exhibition was the result of the conversations that took place.

One group of students asked people to write on the back of a five pound note what they had done to earn it. ‘Sell two copies of the Big Issue, which usually takes an afternoon’ wrote one. ‘My Dad gave it to me’, wrote another. Another made a stamp for visitors to print the question ‘Whose is this?’ on the banknotes in their wallets and purses. Another designed credit cards that would stop them from using them so often, covered with ‘health warnings’ like cigarette packets for example, and hung like baubles from the gallery’s Christmas tree. Another created a new online bank based on the recent Justin Timberlake movie ‘In Time’. The website can be accessed here.

Student Olivia Bailey, one of the online bank’s creators, said “We want visitors to go away, look at their statements and see much more than the numbers”. Charlotte Edwards, whose group designed the banknote stamp, explained, “We want it to act as a catalyst to debate alongside the Occupy movement, to encourage people to think about their money. Where’s it from? What’s it been spent on? Who will have it next? What’s the true worth of that money? And what’s it worth to you, its temporary owner?”

Their lecturer, Ian Cook said, ‘Working this way is much more exciting and relevant for all of us than hours of lectures where I’m supposed to be the only expert on these issues. Students have had to understand and imagine things differently, get out of our comfort zone, try to find new ways to talk to people about the financial crisis that we’re all experiencing, and work like artists. This is so much more than learning what you need to know to pass an exam! Huge thanks must go to Occupy Exeter and the Hub on the Green for being such generous hosts. This has been an important example of what can happen when ‘Gown meets Town.’

‘Money Talks’ opened at the Hub on the Green, 8 Cathedral Close, Exeter on Saturday 10th December, and is open to the public for one week from 12.00-1.30 every day, except Thursday.

To view some pictures of the project, please go to the website

Date: 15 December 2011

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