In 2005 Dan Tague watched his life wash away before his eyes. A native of New Orleans, Tague was living in Mid City, which received about 7.5 feet of water, mud, filth, gas, sludge, waste and death when Hurricane Katrina hit. He witnessed firsthand the deterioration of local and federal government, the breakdown of human kind and felt overwhelmed by abandonment.
The shortcomings of the US government and its failure to protect the victims of the Hurricane by building a proper levee fueled Tague’s desire to communicate messages about capitalism and its hypocrisies in his artwork. By creating intricate layers of folds on currency, Dan Tague creates messages about the United States government on the very tender issued by the Treasury.
The first folded dollar bill photo was created at the KALA Art Institute in Berkeley, California. The bill read “The Osama Wars” and was a direct result of trying to grapple with the concept of creating a democracy outside of the United States while an economic war was raging inside the country. To create the folded bill photographs, Tague begins by using all denominations of US currency finding the majority of the messages from a one dollar bill, followed by a five and twenty. The process of discovery begins using the money from his own wallet or crumpled in his pocket and searches the bill to determine if the message is possible. Once the origami is underway, Tague revisits the bill over the course of several days allowing the crisp folds to gradually loosen and make any final changes to the folds to allow for a legible composition. Folded anywhere from 30 to 200 times without destroying the bill and without cuts or glue, the folds carry a loaded message in a neatly packaged composition.
The folded bills not only inspire curiosities about the messages embedded in the money that we carry with us and covet but the process of making these artifacts speaks to the idea of “dirty money.” In handling the bills Tague meticulously folds and folds so that the stain of the person who carried it before him wears on his fingers. The artist expresses a fondness for this sentiment, “I love the image of inky fingers, but the ink is very steadfast as the bills are made from a pulped fabric process. This allows the bills to be washed and not bleed. Sometimes on worn bills my fingers will pick up the dirt from the bill.” Loaded with opinions of political reform, Dan Tague finds solace in manipulating capitalism in the palm of his hands.
Featured image: Dan Tague, Trust No One, archival inkjet print on rag paper, 35″ x 38″, edition of 5 with 1 AP, 2011
All images courtesy of the artist