DIY currencies, otherwise known as complementary or local currencies, have been known to emerge during times of economic uncertainty. During the Asian financial crisis of the nineties, villagers in northern Thailand began printing their own bills, and citizens of China and Kenya have been known to use alternative methods of payment for black-market goods like cell-phone minutes and porn. This weekend, one such currency surfaced in New York. It was called Slime. Composed of guar-bean powder, water, food coloring, and Borax (a laundry detergent), it was the brainchild of Berlin-based art collective Zentrale Intelligenz Agentur (ZIA), who distributed it by the handful — or in plastic cups, for those unwilling to dirty their hands — as part of their “Slow Capitalism: Slime Economy” installation at the Goethe Institute’s Wyoming building.
“We wanted to do something that deals with the financial crisis, but not in an ordinary way. The idea of ‘slow capitalism,’ which can be symbolized by something viscous, is what we used,” ZIA member Holm Friebe told Daily Intel.
The slime, which traded at roughly one cup to the dollar, was offered to those willing to perform jobs “which are normally not merited with any economic value,” members of the collective said, in order to increase “deceleration.”
One of them was Jamal Burgess, an unemployed 18-year-old from East New York who was lured in off the street on Friday afternoon by Friebe and his pals, who told him they were looking for “unmotivated individuals” to perform temp jobs. Once in the gallery, Burgess was instructed to fill out a lengthy application (“Work is a four-letter word. Agree or disagree?”), subjected to an interview, and given the choice of several positions, among them “lonely drinker,” “aimless reader,” “Internet-porn consumer,” and “lazy dog,” which required simply sitting in the sun.
He chose Internet-porn consumer, but soon requested a transfer to the “lazy dog” department after becoming frustrated by slow buffering speeds. The request was granted.
In the end, he earned about eight handfuls of slime for an hour’s work, which he cashed in for $10. “I earned a few bucks, so I can get me a couple slices of pizza,” he said.
But others hoarded their slime, like Diana Ro, 18, an art-history student at Bard, who grew a bit nostalgic: “It’s like you are a little kid and have a Halloween party. This is what you’d make.” By Saturday evening, owing to declining quantities and higher demand, slime rose against the dollar. ZIA members were careful to warn buyers that the bubble could burst at any moment.