Scientists have identified up to 3000 types of bacteria on dollar bills from just one Manhattan bank. Most of the bacteria found were skin, mouth and vagina microbes according to a study conducted by New York University Center for Genomics & Systems Biology. Bacterial cultures, fungi, and viruses finding transport on monetary exchange systems do not respect or understand borders. There are no visas or passports for microbes that hitch rides from hands, noses, and genitalia. Money travels freely nationally and internationally. Cash is a vector of biological cultures traded globally. It possesses formal symbolic memories of a colonialist past as well as emerging colonialist presence, driven by both microbes and now psychometrics with data analytics. As money is a potent signifier of identity, nationalism and a symbolic medium of exchange, it also possesses constitutional beliefs in iconic invocations of wealth and national trust. Money implies all the attendant deities and symbols of nationalist power oversight.

Chinese Yuan on top and US Dollar below sharing bacteria, viruses and fungi mounted permanently in agar as a growth medium in square Petri dishes.

 

Microbes are indeed the original colonizers on so many levels that we can even trace their influences back to the origins of eukaryotic cells; us. The ideas of symbiogenesis and endosymbiotic theory as an evolutionary explanation of the theory of the origins of eukaryotic cells were first researched and proposed by Russian Konstantin Mereschkowski. Later advanced and scientifically substantiated by Lynn Margulis, lines of evidence have mounted in support of symbiogenesis, Prokaryotic organisms formed over time into organelles (i.e., mitochondria) of the eukaryotic cell.

Swiss Franc above and Brazilian Real below by Ken Rinaldo. The photo was taken by Maria Francisca de Abreu-Afonso.

 

Author Steve Mann writes in his book 1491 that Indigenous peoples of the Americas were a keystone species, which affected the survival and abundance of a myriad of other species. As Europeans arrived in the Americas, they supplanted the thriving indigenous populations who were almost eliminated. In the colonization of the Americas, 95% of the native populations are believed to have been killed by diseases that were brought by the Europeans; these microbes colonized themselves.

Diseases like smallpox and measles took a massive toll on indigenous populations. When looking at Australian History and the history of South America, we can look at the Aboriginal Australians and the Khoikhoi populations also being decimated by smallpox, measles, influenza and other diseases.[1][2]

The recent proposal of the USA / Mexican border wall by US president Donald Trump further adds to the dialogue of Borderless Bacteria and colonialist cash.

Mexican Peso above and US Dollar below in the process of growing. by Ken Rinaldo. The photo was taken by Maria Francisca de Abreu-Afonso.

 

We are also experiencing other forms of colonization both financial and product based, with free trade pacts like NAFTA and our extensive trade with China creating inexpensive products fueling our economy though also trade deficits and high levels of job loss associated with these trading conventions.

 

Chinese Yuan above and US dollar below. by Ken Rinaldo. The photo was taken by Maria Francisca de Abreu-Afonso.

 

Years ago I had also read that during the cocaine crises in the US and with our illicit trading with Columbia that most US money was coated with cocaine dust. Of course putting money in the nose likely introduced other species of bacteria, fungi and viruses and many a nose infection likely ensued.

Columbian Pesos above and US dollar below. by Ken Rinaldo. The photo was taken by Maria Francisca de Abreu-Afonso.

Here we are in 2017, transforming slowly from real money to plastic and digital exchange systems. Although for many countries the slow acceptance of digital transactions, leave cash as a dominant vector of disease.

Questions that arise:

Money is a vector of ideology, status, and power as well as borderless natural living systems. Do large and small monetary denominations reveal class divides? Are microbe culture hitchhikers on one-dollar bills more prevalent than on large denomination $100 bills?

Will AGAR media growing cultures in support of bacteria inhabiting US dollars share common microbes with the Chinese paper Yuen, given open global trade and international travel vectors? Is there a reverse monetary colonialism as different countries swell with product production, export, and foreign influence? As we are beginning to see, China further dominates the manufacture and distribution of goods exchanged with the US and internationally, how is the balance of the microbial exchange economy affected?

Given the Israeli blockade of Gaza, would bills from Palestine, having difficulty engaging in free exchange, show a reduced microbe count? Will they reveal no border for their mutually shared bacterial and historically linked cultures or can cultural differences be explained in isolated and unique bacteria, fungi and spores based on currency boundaries?

Will money from Portugal share more in common bacterially with the colonialist past of Portugal colonizing Brazil? If microbes have been coevolving with money as a vector since colonialist times, what is the collective cash microbiome developing from intermarriages between continents?

Does money from Switzerland (hiding wealth and power internationally) reveal “microbes of wealth” vs. money from Brazil, a nation with great material wealth and high working class yet a different socioeconomic tier? Can bacteria create signatures of wealth and status? Which microbes might we associate with wealth and class?

Microbes have no borders and represent the original colonizers of us all.

Paper money microbes don’t respect money or borders and travel freely both enhancing and simultaneously challenging the collective human body, microbiome, constitution and postcolonial ecologies.

Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash was produced at the Cultivamos Cultura lab site and then photographed, documented and or sealed or destroyed. Preliminary works were shown in Portugal and are in the permanent collection of the estate of Marta de Menezes. Additional works to unify the four other cities were produced in Columbus, Ohio and shipped to NY for further travel.

Method:

Collect cash denominations from the monetary exchange at the international border in Lisbon Portugal Airport.

Culture microbes in agar media with nutrients at Cultivamos Cultura and grow for 2 weeks.

 

Upcoming Exhibitions:

MUTE GALLERYLisbon, Portugal, September 23, 2017
FACTT exhibits Borderless Bacteria; Colonialist cash;  Lisbon; bioart project unifying four cities invited by Marta De Menezes and Manuel Furtado dos Santos

SCHOOL FOR THE VISUAL ARTS, New York, NY, September 29, 2017
FACTT exhibits Borderless Bacteria; Colonialist cash;  Lisbon; bioart project unifying four cities invited by Marta De Menezes and Manuel Furtado dos Santos

MUSEU DE LA HISTORIA DE TIALPAN, Mexico City, October 6, 2017
FACTT exhibits Borderless Bacteria; Colonialist Cash;  Lisbon; bioart project unifying four cities invited by Marta De Menezes and Manuel Furtado dos Santos

FACTT, BIO ART EXHIBITION, Berlin, December 6, 2017
Borderless Bacteria; Colonialist Cash;  Lisbon; bioart project unifying four cities invited by Marta De Menezes and Manuel Furtado dos Santos

NEW ART FESTIVAL 17, Lisbon Portugal, 2017
Borderless Bacteria; Colonialist Cash; invited and curated by Antonio Cerveira Pinto

Special thanks to Marta De Menezes and Dr. Luis Graca for the invitation to produce this new works and supporting production at Cultvamos Cultura in San Luis Portugal.

Thanks to Dr. Mario Ramirez Group Leader at iMM; Microbiologist for information about the best ways to culture microbes on the money.

Thanks to Amy Youngs for her Photoshop mock-ups of how it will all look when finished growing.

Thanks to artist Maria Francisca de Abreu-Afonso who is documenting these works in process in Portugal.

Thanks to Dr. Adam Zaretsky for editing help on this text.