ABOUT MONEY AND ZEROS
Nothing gained with dice. (P. Celan)
Dear Irwin, Malevich and Stilinović,
I have heard that you are saving money and that you have already collected more then thirty-five thousand. Why? Why collect money? Why not share what you have with those who have not even got a pair of trousers? After all, what is money? I have been examining this question. I have photographs of the most famous banknotes: for one, three, four and even five rubles. I have heard there are even banknotes worth 30 rubles each. Well, why collect them? Me, I am not collector. I have always despised people who collect post stamps, buttons, clocks, etc. They are stupid, dumb and superstitious. (D. Harms)
We have seen, we have realized – the more zeroes the less value. One zero, we know, is infinity; but two – two infinities?
A more and more evident transformation of all things into money. (P. Valery)
Zero as nothing, the beginning and the end, a state of immobility, in essence a non-language, incomprehensible, a monochrome. Money, the most accessible and the most comprehensible means of communication in languages. As many stories there are in money, that much is every story superfluous in zero. Zeroes are sad, absent – money is cheerful and present.
If art has realized harmony, rhythm and beauty, then art has realized zero. (K. Malevich)
Art is zero, art is money and vice versa and vice versa.
nothing begets nothing
nothing rears nothing
nothing waits for nothing
nothing grants pardon (T. Rozewicz)
But zero this is me, certainly I am not money yet.
Mladen Stilinović, 1994
SUBTRACTION OF ZEROS
Mladen Stilinović’s zero math paintings progress through a systematic subtraction of null values. While the zeros employed in Rivane Neuenschwander’s blank flip clock suspend the experience of duration, Stilinović’s zeros enact a subtle critique of value, progress, and production. Each small panel wryly goes through the mathematical motions, yet its value remains constant at nothing, even while each zero is carefully subtracted. Signified emptiness cedes more ground to the spatial emptiness of the canvas.
Parceling out nothing for the simple sake of counting it, Stilinović’s equations seem to inhabit time. His zeros are embedded in Eastern European cultural and political conceptions of time – namely its supposed abundance in a society formed outside capitalism’s emphasis on competition and accelerated production. Stilinović in fact praises Eastern European artists’ embrace „laziness“ and „dumb time“ as crucial to creativity. He explains in his text „The Praise of Laziness“: „Laziness is the absence of movement and thought, dumb time – total amnesia. It is also indifference, staring at nothing, non-activity, impotence. It is sheer stupidity a time of pain, futile concentration. Those virtues of laziness are important factors in art.“
Daniel Byers, “Subtraction of Zeros”, from: Peter Eleey, The Quick and the Dead, WalkerArtCenter, Minneapolis, 2009