Corrie Francis Parks
As an artist, I have worked with sand for over 15 years, but only recently have I begun to inspect it on the microscopic scale, where the individuality of each grain becomes apparent. Micro-sand animation involves moving grains of sand on a light table with toothpicks and tweezers, then taking a high-resolution photograph after each adjustment to create a sequence of animation. At this scale, the smallest movements have magnified consequences. Shifting the position of one grain can ripple through an entire pile. William Blake’s poem, Auguries of Innocence asks us “To see a World in a Grain of Sand”, drawing attention to the eternal consequences of seemingly terrestrial actions:
A Dove house filld with Doves & Pigeons
Shudders Hell thr' all its regions
A dog starvd at his Masters Gate
Predicts the ruin of the State
When I pull an individual grain of sand out of a pile and animate it, I see its dimensionality. It becomes a luminous being next to a hundred more luminous beings, finding its own direction in a world of miniature worlds.
But to think of the billions of grains of sand on a beach as individuals containing an entire world of autonomy is mind-boggling, so to preserve our sanity we filter and sift, sorting and classifying the world in a way that makes sense to us. In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig describes how we elevate our own limited perspectives, comparing our raw perception of the world to a vast desert landscape.
“From all this awareness we must select, and what we select and call consciousness is never the same as the awareness because the process of selecting mutates it. We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful of sand the world.” - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, p. 82
All the sand in Foreign Exchange can be encompassed in my two hands, but it is sand I selected from a collection of sands other people selected to give to me. The rest of the sand, lingering just outside the frame, or trapped in a glass jar on my shelf, or still sitting on the beach, is excused from the consciousness of the viewer.
Likewise, the currency in the film creates an overwhelming collage of details that must be sorted and filtered by the viewer. For this film, I asked colleagues, friends and family to send me their leftover banknotes. I received over 100 banknotes from 52 countries. In dissecting and examining them, a surreal landscape of the global economy began to emerge. Through the filter of my own limited perspective, I found national stories connecting and overlapping in unexpected ways. Canada’s interstellar pride meshes with the gothic arches of Prague’s St. Salvator’s Church. Portugal’s colonial conquests intertwine with a Singapore’s nostalgic market economy. India’s signature animals wallow beneath a Chinese waterfall.
The currency we use on a daily basis contains a nation’s carefully curated stories, its values and history physically embedded in a mix of ink, fiber, paper, and plastic. These banal artifacts may pass through a thousand hands before ending up tucked in the back of a traveller’s drawer, an archaic reminder of the individual’s experience of that nation.
Between the dazzling layers of currency and sand lies a subtext that can be mined in infinite ways. Each person who views this film will unearth different connections filtered through their worldly experience and national background. It is a film that can be watched a dozen times and still leave the viewer with more to discover.