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Tom Badley 1000 $PAPER - A1000 20

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Date Minted:  June 28, 2020

Artist Description: The world's first physically-backed social token! $PAPER is a token with associated NFT artwork, made in the likeness to real cash. The plan will be to 'back' each NFT artwork with a physical artwork, made to the same level of quality as circulating cash. Holders of $PAPER can claim these artworks.

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CohentheWriter’s Commentary:

Tom Badley 1000 $PAPER is artwork in the most expansive sense of the word. But that’s okay! Badley’s $Paper project wasn’t necessarily designed with aspirations akin to what we’d expect from more traditionally-minded artwork. In Badley’s own words, “$PAPER NFTs are digitally scarce artworks, on the blockchain. They take the form of banknote designs – you could call them ‘digital banknotes’. These NFTs are purchased for ETH (Ethereum). As well as the NFT artwork, the buyer receives an amount of $PAPER token…Every $PAPER digital banknote NFT will correspond to a unique artwork, in the form of an individually serial numbered physical banknote. Holders of $PAPER token can – when the physical notes are available – swap their $PAPER token for a real paper ‘banknote’.” More a social experiment than an artwork, $PAPER holders are spoiled, what with the fact that the actual banknotes in question, of which Tom Badley 1000 $PAPER is an example, are beautiful and elaborately-designed creations. Owing to the fact that Bradley, “has rare civilian access to the secret world of money design and printing [,] his artwork is imbued with some of the qualities of circulating cash – hard to counterfeit, government-level printing methods, and the aesthetic gravitas of the foundation of our world.” Perhaps it’s too on-the-nose to mention when discussing a cash-approximate, but it’s easy to get lost staring into the folds (no pun intended) of Tom Badley 1000 $PAPER, the way it fades between states, in a constant state of animation, intricate and dense.

What never changes is the likeness of someone who I suppose is Tom Badley himself, positioned very regally, an homage and bastardization of the high-minded expressions and characterizations of most individuals enshrined on a banknote. His visage realistically-rendered, Badley’s bust is positioned on the left side of the image, his gaze looking towards a middle-distance somewhere on the other side of the banknote. A tight haircut, bearded, unusually small ears, Badley is lord of his own financial network. To the left of him are other recognizable features of paper currency, like the serial number painted green, or the symbol of the currency itself, a “P” that has its dangling point sprout a perpendicular cross-line akin to the female symbol: ♀. All around our friend Mr. Badley are these repeated, almost psychedelic symbols. Elongated dollar signs. Other dollar signs arranged as if the rays erupting off the surface of an unseen sun, flowing on an invisible conveyor belt off towards the edge of the piece. Everything in the piece’s initial state is bright pink, including the object that takes up the most space, a swirling outline of Earth itself which spins alongside the word “PAPER” written onto it in a calligraphic font. In front of the Earth, the bill’s denomination: “1000, One Thousand Paper Token”. The number is written in the top-right corner of the note as well. Then, slowly, the entire image begins to shift colorization, trading its pink for a dark and luscious purple, most of the previous images and symbols fading as it does so. Now we see, emerging slowly with a slight white and green pallor, outlined in red, the word “HODL.” To its right, another word appears, both written vertically in a highly decadent and stylized font, this one saying “Banknote,” and flanked by thick swirling lines reminiscent of uncoiled scrolls. Slowly, the image reverts back to its previous state. And then back again. Badley’s face remains unchanged —always serious, always stoic— no matter which has hegemony.

Again, I know quality of artwork isn’t necessarily the highest ideal of a social experiment as unique and money-minded as Tom Badley 1000 $PAPER, but it really is pretty special artwork, full of varied detail, intense colors, and symbology. I find my thinking deflected off of this piece itself and towards actual physical currency, these pieces of paper artwork, lovingly crafted at some point by someone somewhere which we hardly even consider the aesthetics of when exchanging for an iced coffee or power drill. I remember visiting the Harvard Art Museum a few years back and finding myself struck when coming upon the original painting of George Washington which has been reproduced (and reproduced and reproduced. Ha, a little inflation humor for you) on physical U.S. currency, the ubiquitous One Dollar Bill portrait. All hard currency is artistic in a way, and if not in philosophy (argue away) then to an extent in its aesthetics.

Remember, the actual physical organization of any given dollar bill is arbitrary. It could look like anything, and across the world, they do change a bit! But so often, they share crucial characteristics: The visage of a great person, the denomination of value in the corners, the serial numbers and hidden symbols and repeated patterns, the colors of a kind we rarely see elsewhere in the world. The green of an American dollar. The muted blues and reds of a Euro. We have chosen this to be our financial emissary. It was always a choice.

Now, a great artwork will often do one of two things: force you to feel something unusual, or force you to see the world unusually. Does Tom Badley 1000 $PAPER not do that, albeit in a roundabout way? Does currency itself not gain added value? Might you, even once or twice, linger your gaze on a buck the next time you take out your wallet?

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