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Sculpting a 100 Euro Note


Four- Channel Video Installation

Wandering through different Parisian neighborhoods on a daily basis, Qingmei YAO rubs a new 100 euro note between her fingers until it becomes worn, removing a minimal amount of cotton material from its center. Deteriorating over a few months, the 100 euro note is presented as a "sculpture" and auctioned off. These actions are documented in four videos.

Meticulous, repetitive, and provocative, this rubbing gesture of the two fingers, symbolizing "money" in many cultures, leads to the deterioration of the note and its transformation into a sculpture. The term "sculpting" etymologically originates from the Latin "sculpere," meaning "to carve" or "to remove pieces from a stone." Thus, "sculpting" is the act of "removing material."

Qingmei's videos, portraying her as a "sculptor and carver" of banknotes in the street, capture various urban landscapes and gather unexpected reactions from passersby.

Video 1: Avenue de Montaigne, 7'22''

In front of the luxury stores on Avenue de Montaigne, the appearance of the 100 euro note arouses little interest.

Video 2: Aubervilliers, 7'22''

In the working-class neighborhoods of Aubervilliers, tension arises when a teenager shows interest in the action and asks the artist if she can give him the note.

Video 3: Champs-Élysées, 7'22''

On the Champs-Élysées, the action creates a crowd of tourists who surround and imitate the artist, exhausting herself with her ritualistic gesture. The action is interrupted by the arrival of the police, who request the note to be put away.

Video 4: Auction, 4'22''

After months of rubbing, a subtle small hole appears in the center of the note, indicating the loss of material and the artist's working time. Qingmei auctions this sculpted 100 euro note, setting the starting price at 100 euros, which is also the production cost of this art piece. The work eventually sells for 450 euros, creating a value difference of 350 euros attributed to the tiny piece of cotton removed by the artist.

The production of the 4th video was a collaboration between Palais de Tokyo in Paris and Pavillon Blanc in Colomiers.

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