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Boggs: A Comedy of Values by Lawrence…

Boggs: A Comedy of Values

by Lawrence Weschler

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man draws money & spends it

  aletheia21 | Oct 6, 2011 |
A funny and intriguing look at a conceptual artist whose work questions (and threatens) the philosophical foundations of our modern economy. ( )
  Katya0133 | Feb 23, 2009 |
Boggs caught my attention because when I first heard of him I was impressed that someone who draws well enough to be a counterfeiter (and indeed was charged with that by the Bank of England) instead is making social-commentary art - even, almost, performative art - out of his artwork. Read a bit about him via Wechsler in Google Books while surfing about, so got the real book to get the whole dose of it.

Some people have remarked that Wechsler's various digressive commentaries are informative and entertaining. I find some of them germane (such as the discussion of Fernand Braudel's writings about the history & evolution of money) but much of it I personally find falls into the "trivial pursuit" category of boring miscellanea. Neither especially informative or entertaining. This might be because I've already read Braudel's work (and others) and have been previously exposed to much of the historical sidelights contained in this book about money.

What I find most interesting about this work are the actual biographical details and facts about Boggs, his art, his actions, the legal trials against him and so on. I would rather get my historical discourse about money from the other eclectic sources I've already used, but insofar as this contains interesting biographical detail, it is an entertaining read. Consider that as coming from a biography purist with low tolerance for authorial digressions and philosophies that go far afield. ( )
  Teramis | Mar 25, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0226893952, Hardcover)

James Stephen George Boggs is not a con artist, he's a talented artist who deftly renders his own currency and "spends" it. Struck by the value of money, and what paper notes represent, he draws U.S. dollar bills, English pound notes, Swiss francs, and other forms of paper money; then he barters his illustrious artwork in lieu of cash to willing merchants who agree to honor his currency for services and products. In Boggs: A Comedy of Values, Lawrence Weschler, author of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award-winning book Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder, documents Boggs's whimsical antics, offering a quirky and lively meditation on the value of currency and workmanship and a richly informative (albeit brief) social history of money.

Boggs does not sell his "money" directly, as Weschler learns, nor does he attempt to pass his drawings off as actual bills. For Boggs, the elaborate transaction of negotiation is a crucial element in his work, and the tangible proof of his success--receipts and proper change--is included in the final product. Of course, treasury departments from around the world are anything but pleased; the second half of the book deals extensively with the artist's court battle with the Bank of England. As Weschler notes, Boggs is not the first to question the value of money through art (Larry Rivers, Pablo Picasso, Timm Ulrichs, Adolf Wölfi, and Jurgen Harten are just some artists who have put currency to the test), but the author finds in Boggs's work an ideal subject for opening a probing inquiry into the economy of money, especially timely at the end of the 20th century as paper currency--which once directly represented precious-metal coins--evolves into "binary sequences of pulses racing between computers." --Kera Bolonik

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:38 -0400)

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