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 the 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.

Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash opening at Art Laboratory Berlin curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz. Photo Regine Rapp

 

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 and nationalist interests and traded globally. When looking at a bill with microbes growing you will not be able to see individual bacteria or viruses without high power magnification, however, you will be able to see fungi growing in colonies of many different colors.

Microbes are the original colonizers of us. We can even trace their influences back to the origins of eukaryotic cells. 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.

 

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

 

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.

The failed proposal of the USA / Mexican border wall by former US President Donald Trump, further adds to the dialogue of Borderless Bacteria and colonialist cash.  Money and power have always been a part of the spread of colonialist and racial divides however, bacteria and fungi have an upper hand, and become the ultimate victors in the end as his loss to Joe Biden demonstrated in 2020.

Ken Rinaldo Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash opening at Art Laboratory Berlin curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz. Photo Regine Rapp

With the outbreak of the Sars Virus and now the Coronavirus, likely both transmitted from bush meat, we are seeing another form of colonization from one species to another, and again bacteria and viruses are equal opportunity invaders.

 

Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash opening at Art Laboratory Berlin curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz. Photo Regine Rapp. Regine places a British pound with the queen and Sudanese bill (former British Colony) in the case.

 

As money is a potent signifier of identity, nationalism, and a symbolic medium of exchange, it also possesses constitutional beliefs with iconic invocations of wealth and national trust. In God and monarchies, we trust. Money implies all the attendant deities and symbols of nationalist power and oversight.

Ken Rinaldo Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash opening at Art Laboratory Berlin curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz. Photo Regine Rapp

 

Money also possesses formal symbolic memories of a colonialist past, such as the monarchies ruling over their colonies for generations. The British Royal Family one of the oldest monarchies, ran the Royal African Company, extracting 5000 enslaved peoples each day, and becoming the primary driver of slavery in the Americas. Yet the queen’s image still remains on most money in former colonies such as Canada, South Africa, Australia, etc, though the royal family has changed its image through clever public relations, focusing instead on diplomacy and family ceremonies and weddings.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (b. 1926) appears on the coinage of at least 35 different countries – more countries than any other living monarch. With the Industrial Revolution, goods produced by slavery became less important to the British economy.

 

Ken Rinaldo Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash opening at Art Laboratory Berlin curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz. Photo Regine Rapp

 

In many of these works as the fungi and bacteria literally grow over the heads of these rulers curator Regine Rapp notes “On an aesthetic level, the iconography of the currency literally loses face as microbial growth undermines the representational aspect of the banknotes. The official character of money is subverted. As its microbial nature comes to light, it appears far less representative

Ken Rinaldo Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash opening at Art Laboratory Berlin curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz. Photo Regine Rapp

 

England was not the only player in the game of colonialism. The United States, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Denmark, Norway, The Netherlands, Portugal, Russia all have their colonialist pasts. Indeed we are learning Russia has a colonist present with its threat of Ukraine and its sovereign borders.

Ken Rinaldo Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash opening at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago Galleries curated by Dr. Giovanni Aloi and Andrew Yang

 

Dr. Giovanni Aloi notes in a recent exhibition in Chicago: “Harnessing the highly charged signification of banknotes as markers of national identity, Rinaldo’s work points at the untamable bio-flux of invisible organisms that travel the world unmonitored. Encompassing past histories of colonial contamination as well as very current concerns for widespread contagion, Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash is equally fascinating as it is unsettling.

 

Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash opening at Art Laboratory Berlin curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz. Photo Regine Rapp

 

The Belgian Congo in 1914, British territories since the 16th century, British colonization in Australia, British possessions in the south of Africa, 1885, British influence in Iran beginning of the 20th century, British settlements in India 17-18th centuries, The “Nouvelle France” in the 17 and 18th centuries, French settlements in India 17-18th centuries, French Western and Equatorial Africa, French Somaliland in 1908

Ken Rinaldo Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash opening at Art Laboratory Berlin curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz. Photo Regine Rapp

 

Morocco in 1912, divided between France and Spain, German colonial empire before 1918, German southwest Africa in 1904, actually Namibia, German Eastern Africa before 1918, Italian Eritrea in 1908, Expansion of Japan 20th century, Dutch settlements in India 17-18th centuries, Portuguese Empire (1415-1999), Expansion of Russia 1300—2020, The Spanish colonial empire, and overseas territories of the United States at the end of the 19th century, which continues today with the power of the US military.

Ken Rinaldo Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash opening at Art Laboratory Berlin curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz. Photo Regine Rapp. Curatorial Statement ALB Press text_RInaldo-BBCC_ENG

 

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, diseases like smallpox and measles took a massive toll on indigenous populations.

 

Ken Rinaldo Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash opening at Art Laboratory Berlin curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz. Photo Regine Rapp

 

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] 95% of the native populations are believed to have been killed by diseases that were brought by the Europeans; these microbes colonized themselves.

There was tremendous damage to indigenous Brazilian tribes by missionaries invading the jungle in the 1970s and 80s. They were unexpectedly carrying viruses and bacteria with bibles as vectors killing the people meant to be “saved.”

 

 

Ken Rinaldo Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash opening at Art Laboratory Berlin curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz. Photo Regine Rapp

 

Now we have emerging DATA colonialism, where a select few corporations (Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft) collect and extract data and cookies from individuals, and use analytics to become a means by which wealth is collected and national power is exerted. Cryptocurrencies can be seen as another form of colonialism, benefiting mostly a wealthy elite.

 

Ken Rinaldo Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash opening at Art Laboratory Berlin curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz. Photo Regine Rapp

 

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 beneficial inexpensive products fueling our economy, though also trade deficits that have spurred our current and past presidents to create tariffs hurting both cultures.

 

The curators at the opening of Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash at Art Laboratory Berlin were curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz. Photo Regine Rapp

 

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.

Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash opening at Art Laboratory Berlin curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz. Photo Regine Rapp

 

Of course, putting money in the nose likely introduced other species of bacteria, fungi, and viruses and many a nose infection likely ensued.

Here we are in 2022, transforming slowly from real money to plastic and digital exchange systems. Cryptocurrencies are also now being used for international payments and will we now lose our immunity to certain bacteria and viruses because of the plastic or crypto revolution? I doubt it, as travel remains and we carry our microbiomes with us wherever we travel.

Although, for many countries the slow acceptance of digital transactions, leave cash as one dominant vector of disease and inoculation.

 

Ken Rinaldo Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash opening at Art Laboratory Berlin curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz. Photo Regine Rapp

 

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 reverse monetary colonialism as different countries swell with product production, export, and foreign influence?

 

Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash by Ken Rinaldo at Art Berlin Laboratory. Photo by curator Regine Rapp

 

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?

 

Ken Rinaldo Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash by Ken Rinaldo at Art Laboratory Berlin. Photo by curator Christian de Lutz

 

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?

 

Closeup of Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash by Ken Rinaldo at Art Berlin Laboratory. Photo by curator Regine Rapp

 

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?

 

Close-up Columbian Pesos and below American Dollar of Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash by Ken Rinaldo. Produced at Cultivamos Cultura curated by Marta De Menezes.

 

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?

 

Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash by Ken Rinaldo at BioArts Lab School for the Visual Arts NY, New York 2017 curated by Marta De Menezes

 

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.

 

Close-up of Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash by Ken Rinaldo. Produced at Cultivamos Cultura curated by Marta De Menezes.

 

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.

 

Close-up of Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash by Ken Rinaldo. Produced at Cultivamos Cultura curated by Marta De Menezes.

 

Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash was first produced at the Cultivamos Cultura lab site in 2017 during a residency invited by Marta de Menezes, and then photographed, documented and or sealed, or destroyed.

 

Close-up of Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash by Ken Rinaldo. Produced at Cultivamos Cultura curated by Marta De Menezes.

 

Preliminary works were shown in Portugal and are in the permanent collection of the estate of Marta de Menezes and Luis Graca.

 

 

Additional works to unify the four other cities were produced in Columbus, Ohio as digital prints, and shipped to NY for further travel.

In 2020 Art Laboratory Berlin produced 12 more plates for an exhibition running from Jan-March 2020 curated by Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz.

Much of our dialogue was spurred by discussions about not using international travel to do the exhibition given global warming issues, and my desire to fly less and reduce my carbon footprint.

 

Swiss Franc above and Brazilian Real below by Ken Rinaldo. The photo was taken by Maria Francisca de Abreu-Afonso. Produced at Cultivamos Cultura curated by Marta De Menezes.

 

As part of this exhibition, Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz did some very nice writing for the exhibition at the Art Laboratory Berlin linked above in addition to an interview about my feelings as regards

international travel and the future of art exhibitions. That interview can be found here: interview

Micrograph of Peso with unidentified growth

 

As 2019 is the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall it would be fantastic to have an older east Berlin bill, juxtaposed with the newer unified German currency. For me, it is also admirable that Germany has accepted so many refugees and exemplifies a good neighbor. Recently, Hito Steyerl and performers reacted against what they see as the “tacit” complicity Germany has with Turkey’s military offensive in Syria, not

Micrograph of Peso with unidentified growth

 

speaking up against the war with the Kurdish people in the Fourth Berlin Salon. The EU-Turkey refugee pact has left Europe vulnerable to intimidation and prevents sanctions against Turkey, which are killing the Kurdish. I also see waves of the past appearing in far-right government candidates, fortunately, many being held at bay, in Europe as Portugal’s recent election of leftist candidates demonstrates.

 

Microbiome art
Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash by Ken Rinaldo at BioArts Lab School for the Visual Arts NY, New York 2017 curated by Marta De Menezes

 

As the US and other European countries are moving toward fortification of borders, this work questions and provokes those tendencies and our own complicity in not accepting the “other”, which is us, with the subtexts of “purity”.

 

Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center 2018 curated by  Amandda Leigh Tirey

 

In terms of borders and colonialist tendencies, the US seems to be both the king and queen of international disputes. We have multiple simultaneous direct wars, officially undeclared wars, provocations to wars with many countries, and arming other Nation-states to feed our Military$Industrial$Complexes. Regretfully these Nation-states and political bullies use our munitions to fight battles, often leaving me, and

 

Borderless Bacteria / Colonialisst Cash at Mute Gallery Lisbon Portugal curated by Manuel Furtado dos Santos and Martha De Menezes 2017

 

a good portion of the US populace, feeling ashamed of our foreign policy and other nations in military ruin.

I acknowledge our own dark border/bacterial/colonialist/military propensities in time, even the suppression of our indigenous populations.

Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center by Ken Rinaldo curated by  Amandda Leigh Tirey

 

It is time we acknowledge our collective bacterial multiracial constituency, in the interest of acceptance and peace.

 

Microbiome art
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. Close-up of Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash by Ken Rinaldo. Produced at Cultivamos Cultura curated by Marta De Menezes.

 

 

Microbiome art
BioArts Lab School for the Visual Arts NY, New York 2017 by Ken Rinaldo

 

 

Microbiome art
BioArts Lab School for the Visual Arts NY, New York 2017. Curated by Marta De Menezes.

 

 

Microbiome art
Guna Nahardjin and Adam Zaretsky at the BioArts Lab School for the Visual Arts NY, New York 2017. Curated by Marta De Menezes.

 

 

Protocol

 

1) Order large 224 x 224 MM bioassay Petri dishes`

https://www.fishersci.com/shop/products/corning-245mm-square-bioassay-dishes-3/p-88159

2) Secure money from the airport exchange. Look for money that has been in circulation and not been cleaned. Do not worry about handling money, as it would seem normal, our bacterial exchange is a part of this project and our more thoroughly shared collective microbiome & holobiome. If possible, to secure money from countries that are experiencing border issues and conflict, it can demonstrate larger wars, and smaller ones on our skin and in our bodies, as our microbiomes react and interact with the worldwide shared microbes often experienced in travel.

3) Source for liquid agar with nutrients as a reference. Probably nearer sources in Berlin? https://www.sciencecompany.com/-P16230C2633.aspx?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI0bbO47fu4gIVAYvICh0X_gebEAYYBCABEgJ7oPD_BwE

4) Warm agar in the microwave until liquid, however not boiling. (Remember to remove the cap.)

5) When poured into dish agar depth should be 3-4 MM. After agar hardens 10 min, place two bills in each assay on top of liquid agar equidistant from sides. Make sure to press the bills into the agar.

Preferably use bills and colors with human figures, to draw us in, and understand our own colonization by these multispecies microbes and our colonization of other countries/peoples juxtaposed with our national currencies and political desires.

6) Close dishes and place in a moist area, without any direct sunlight for two to three weeks. Allow the humid and dark space to promote the growth of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Do not seal them as they need oxygen to grow.

7) Before display, tape off the Petri dishes around the edges with clear sealing tape.
NOTE: (I have purchased some resin and will also be experimenting with using that, to seal the works.  Perhaps if that works, I can advise on how?

8) They can be mounted in wooden frames with bills visible from both sides to allow lighting or lay flat on light tables, which may be preferable. My experience with putting them on their sides, in the hanging wooden frames, is eventually the agar delaminated from the Petri plates, which was kind of lovely.

I really liked them on light tables with backlighting and perhaps this is our best option with the hope we can use a video microscope for exploration.

9) If you wanted to create the CNC frames, I used the outline of the petri dish to define the cutout in 5/8-inch plywood and used rounded L brackets screws with threads on one side to hold them in place. I can provide the illustrator files if you wish to go that route.

10) If yes, use a clear and strong monofilament to hang. 200 Kilo test.

11) Place direct spotlights on at 45-degree angles to allow viewing of both sides of currency.

12) Placement: Avoid sun or near heat or HVAC source to keep moist.

13) Currency mixes, which stimulate discussions of current border tensions or trade disputes would be preferred.

Possible money mixes.

Any of the colonialist relationships mentioned above in this post.

Chinese Yuan on top and US Dollar below

Swiss Franc above and Brazilian Real below

Mexican Peso above and US Dollar below in the process of growing.

Chinese Yuan above and US dollar below.

Columbian Pesos above and US dollar below.

English pound top/ Euro bottom.

Turkish Lira and Kurdish Dinar mixed with German currencies

Russia on top / European Union bottom

French / Gambia/Mali, Togo, Sudan, Gabon or Tunisia

US / Iranian currency

Austrian / Hungry currency

German / Ghana / Kameron currency

Italy / Euro 

Mexican / US / or Canadian mix

North Korea / South Korean currency

US / Cuban currency

US / Columbian / Guatemalan currency

Oman Real / US Dollar 

Hong Kong 20 / Chinese Yuan

US / UAE / Syria

Syrian / Russian currency

Brazil / US

Venezuela / US currency

Egypt / US

Pakistan / Indi

 

Exhibitions:

THE ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO    Chicago, Illinois, Aug 30-Dec 3 2021
The Earthly Observatory exhibits three works from Borderless Bacteria; Colonialist Cash invited and curated by Giovanni Aloi and Andrew Yang

ART LABORATORY BERLIN                                                                            Berlin, Germany Jan 24-March 7, 2020
Borderless Bacteria / Colonialist Cash, invited by directors Christian De Lutz and Regine Rapp

THE CULTURAL ARTS CENTER                                                                              Columbus, Ohio Sept 26, 2018
Hypotheses: art inspired by the many worlds of Science” curated by Amandda Leigh Tirey invites the premiere of Spider Haus Movies, Borderless Bacteria, and Colonialist Cash as well the Moss Gardens.

UNIVERSIDADE FEDERAL  DO RIO DE JANEIRO,                                                      Rio de Janeiro, BRAZIL, 2018
FACTT exhibits Borderless Bacteria; Colonialist Cash;  Lisbon; bio-art project unifying four cities invited by Marta De Menezes and Manuel Furtado dos Santos

MUTE GALLERYLisbon, Portugal, September 23, 2017
FACTT exhibits Borderless Bacteria; Colonialist Cash;  Lisbon; bio-art 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; bio-art 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; bio-art 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

MUSEU DE LA HISTORIA DE TIALPAN, Mexico City, October 6, 2018
FACTT exhibits Borderless Bacteria; Colonialist Cash;  Lisbon; bio-art project unifying four cities invited by Marta De Menezes and Manuel Furtado dos Santos

 

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

Special thanks go to Regine Rapp and Christian De Lutz for inviting this work to Germany for a one-person exhibition just before the 2020 pandemic hit.

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 a much earlier version of this text.