The Ryder is pleased to present “An Ornament and a Safeguard”, a solo exhibition by American-British artist Jason File. The exhibition aims to show, as transparently as possible, the “total potential value” of a monetary art prize to an early-career artist, while also destabilizing the identity of contemporary currency as a pure symbol of exchange value. The exhibition is entirely funded by the Mead Fellowship for graduates of the University of the Arts London, which the artist was awarded in 2014.
Expending £4,999.00 of the £5,000.00 grant on legitimate exhibition costs intended to maximise the exposure value of the award, File will display the ephemera generated by this process in the form of a physical “balance sheet” ranging from documentation of the costs* to evidence of the value produced, including a published catalogue and, the potential acquisition of the installation. Even this press release, to the extent that its development and distribution requires an expenditure and generates attendance and/or press coverage, will be included somewhere in the balance sheet of the exhibition.
Titled using the English translation of the Latin phrase “Decus et tutamen” commonly found on the edge of a contemporary British one pound sterling coin, the exhibition will also feature the remaining one pound coin, invested in a sense with the remaining value of his prize money and acquiring the added value of its new condition as a work of art. Electing to conserve a coin for display in this manner, File poses questions about the symbolic, commodity, and exchange values of both currency and works of art, and the complex and often fraught relationship between the two. The display of a single coin in the gallery space harnesses the pathways of belief-creation that exist in the art world and uses them to destabilize the fixed exchange value of currency, replacing it with a new value that emphasizes the materiality of the coin as an aesthetic object.
Taking into account the art market’s almost alchemic power, File has observed that “perhaps only in the art world can a £1 coin be legitimately offered for sale for £10,000”
(* labour, materials, space, time, travel and transportation, and publicity such as dinners for selected critics, curators, journalists and collectors and fees for authors and speakers)