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Carstens Coin

Museum Link:

Source Link:

Date Minted:  November 13, 2019

Artist Description: "Stop trying to create money!" - Augustin Carstens, Head of The Bank of International Settlements (The Central Bank to Central Banks)  

CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

I admire Brandon Walsh’s focus. His discipline! His single-minded exploration of a single topic, the deep-diving and prolonged studies he engages in before shipping off into whatever arena next captures his attention. I’m going through Walsh’s SuperRare minted works now, and am surprised not just at the massive amount of them —248, damn— but at the fact that many of them exist within tiny intra-collection series. Like the 45 consecutively-minted pieces in the Art Bird v2 series, or the 20 pieces under the framework Another Whirled. There are certain similarities between these series, a lovely use and exploration of color, for one. But for the most part, the artist’s compositions bear the most in common with those immediately surrounding them, because some of these series have very little do with anything that comes after. The SuperRare Collage Square series is tongue-in-cheek and conceptual, for that matter, a collection of black words on a white background, and a sharp contrast to the intensely-colorful and mind-bendingly composed AI works in Art Bird v2. Even when not sharing a nomenclatural structure, we can see that Walsh likes to focus on a single idea or type of image, like with the colorful and abstract video loops from near the beginning of his SuperRare output, or the aforementioned SuperRare Collage Square series, or a later gaggle of minted poetry (of a kind), or a prolonged —but not perpetual— fascination with creating semi-low-effort, meme-inspired art. It is in this latter group that our object of interest day, Carstens Coin, belongs, this piece sharing thematic and conceptual components with other work from that period where it does not bear compositional similarities. Carstens Coin, a weird and funny and relatively revelatory comment on global capitalism —and a perfect example of crypto art’s often self-referential soul— is nevertheless a unique construction in Walsh’s works. I suppose that itself makes it worthy of special note. Well, Mr. Walsh, if it’s special note your coin wants, it’s special note it’ll get.

If for no other reason that Carstens Coin reveals a strange and slightly-concerning facet of the global economic world that we might otherwise have had no exposure to. In a Bitcoin-borne landscape that is so sensitive to the major movings of enormous and all-powerful financial institutions, it should seem strange that I —and I presume a lot of us— had never heard of the Bank for International Settlements. Indeed, it is as Walsh describes it in his Artist Description: A central bank for central banks. Central banking’s unilateral power was, in some large respect, a motivator for the creation of Bitcoin in the first place, the cryptocurrency itself codified in Carstens Coin, a piece which is in large part concerned with replicating —in shining gold and green and blue and red accents— the common rendering of what a physical Bitcoin would look like, the great dual-pronged “B” on its chest blazing like a Superman logo. Around its circular edges, the coin bears words like “Digital” and “Decentralized” and “Peer to Peer” which may be terms taken directly from Bitcoin’s whitepaper, or may just be comments on what the currency has become. But, of course, we’re burying the lede here, because the centerpiece of Carstens Coin is the smiling globular head of Mr. Augustín Carsen himself, he the Mexican-born current caretaker of the Bank of International Settlements, a role he inherited in 2017. Much of Bitcoin’s ethos of transparency stems from a perceived lack of transparency in the world of high-powered, international finance, and the fact that Mr. Carsten is probably one of the most financially-powerful people on the planet, yet has zero name recognition to even you and I —who I presume are more learned and/or interested than most— is slightly concerning. Fortunately, Walsh brings Carsten to us in the oddest possible way, his head erupting off of the Bitcoin “B” in the center of the coin as if he were a cancerous growth, or, if not something so sinister, than certainly something unnatural and unsightly: a mole, a boil, a wart. 

"Stop trying to create money!" - Augustin Carstens, Head of The Bank of International Settlements (The Central Bank to Central Banks),” reads Walsh’s Artisti Description. The follow-up to that quote is the following, taken from the BIS website:

Central banks are trusted, and that trust is something they have built up over decades and for which there is no substitute right now. Trust is a valuable commodity. It is easily destroyed, but winning it takes time. Money has become established. Young people should use their many talents and skills for innovation, not reinventing money. It's a fallacy to think money can be created from nothing.”

While the argument holds some weight in theory, I think the predominant attitude, perhaps one shared by Walsh (though I don’t want to conjecture for him) is that such an attitude as Carstens’ is facile, pedantic, and ultimately false. Are Central Banks trusted? Are they really? Perhaps by other financial institutions, but since 2008’s series of worldwide financial bailouts, probably not by the world populace. Probably not by you or I. And after all, who is money here to serve? If Carstens Coin doesn’t necessarily answer such questions, it does pique our interest, motivate us to get researching, get interested, and get informed. For there are leviathan forces swarming overhead undetected. Thanks to Walsh, at least one such force stands revealed. 

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