What happens when someone decides to mix two (apparently) opposite worlds – like the artistic world and the financial one? This “someone” is precisely Sarah Meyohas, a conceptual artist based in New York who stages the fluctuating values at the New York Stock Exchange by painting them with an oil stick. And this is just one of her projects. Her artworks, as she says, take the different understandings of finances and art to a new set of possibilities. You should take a look, whether you wear a tie or not.
Hello, Sarah. To start, tell us a little about yourself. How would you define who you are and what you do?
I make investments – some are art, some are not. I live in an apartment-turned-art-space to show the work of others. I show my own work in other galleries. All of these activities are conflated within each other, and ultimately, part of my identity as an artist.
When did you decide to mix your financial education with your artistic side?
My financial education and my art education are two different ways of seeing the world. I decided to start mixing them when I began to look at one system with the viewpoint of another. That exchange started to feel like I was putting my finger on a pulse.
You've said that you see the artistic world as an economic thing, and that you don’t believe in separating one thing from the other. How do you perceive this connection?
Simply put, art is an economic thing, with its own professionalized industry to prove it. But it's obviously much more than that, and that is where a consideration of the economy as linked to being finds voice. Private property, the cornerstone of our society, conflates ownership with identity. I make art to deal with it.
You are reflecting this connection between art and economy in some of your works. A clear example is BitchCoin –by buying one of your BitchCoins, investors bet on the uncertain future of artistic works that still have to be created–. How did this idea come to mind? And how was the feedback with these investors?
I am a conceptual artist, but mostly I feel my way to an artwork. Ideas are teased out in a back and forth between emotional understanding and theoretical motivations. With BitchCoin, I was for a long time interested in the bit coin as a system of value, its relation to language and materiality, and its narrative in the world. But, for example, the name BitchCoin just struck me while I was having breakfast at a diner. Boom. BitchCoin. Couldn’t let it go!
With this project, I turned my work into its own currency. While they are physically tied to the picture that is backing them, in being forever exchangeable for new work they are always looking towards the future. Investors are part of the exchange of BitchCoin. They are in the block chain.
Relating to this project, can you tell us more about your perspective on the way art is valued nowadays?
The market tries to absorb the world within itself. The creativity of the economy to trade, value, distribute, buy and sell almost everything and anything is its strength. Art is one of the most difficult things to value economically because its nature is visual and it has no utility. That is one of its strengths, and gives it some effectiveness in commenting on the world.
Last month you were presenting a project at 303 Gallery where you discussed financial issues trough a performance in which you painted the fluctuating values on canvasses. What kind of goals do you want to reach with performances like this one?
The performance was a lecture, like a TED talks turned incantation. I discussed the financial markets as perspectival, and embodied as a way of creating a ground for the rest of the work. For the next ten days, I traded stocks on the NYSE and then redrew my actions on canvas. I was creating value by exchanging between drawing and trading, as the truth of one system was applied to another and then returned. The visual movement of the line guided my trading. Once I had created a line with the price of a stock, the painting was data visualization.
Your work has also a purely artistic side, most visible on projects like Speculations, where you use mirrors to create a new reality through the multiple reflections. Tell us more about this ‘other side’ of your work.
The process of the Speculations is very physical. I crouch behind the two way mirror, in a darkened space that occasionally gets quite hot, to disappear into the folds of the reflection. When I press the shutter, the camera captures the light bouncing back and forth between the two-way mirror and the real mirror. It’s a stasis, made of a constant exchange – a series of speculation relations that never find a definitive end.
The formation of value is traditionally likened to a reflection. A three-dimensional object appraises itself as two-dimensions, as a commodity to a price. But I find a two-way reflection a more accurate way of representing the current state. A space is created, leveraged by whatever is pictorially at the margin, magnified and repeated.
What's the profile of the spectator interested in your artworks? Who are you targeting?
There is an appeal to both finance types and art types. For both, they can enter the artwork from a place of familiarity but then, the artwork hopefully takes that understanding to another field, to a new set of possibilities.