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Lena Ghaninejad
Lena Ghaninejad

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Liminal Matter — Future Money Final Grant Report #2

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Project Update

Hello, I’m Lena, food artist & researcher and this is my final report. As the project is coming to an end, I would first like to extend my deepest gratitude to the whole Interledger team for their trust and support throughout the entire process. It’s been a fun, fruitful, at times challenging, and ultimately stimulating enterprise for me, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity that I had. I hope that works like ours can continue to help foster conversations around the themes of financial equity and a humanistic future for technology.

Every year on the 1st or 2nd of January, I write down concepts and ideas that I wish to materialise in my practice during the year. In January 2023, two separate concepts on that list were “grain as the origin of money”, and “weaving food (material) with 3D technology (immaterial)”. When I applied for the grant, the work itself came together very naturally because it came as the perfect call to action to materialise these ideas together through a visual project. Organically, these ideas took the shape of an installation that aimed to illustrate the evolution of money from tangible matter that originates directly from the Earth (grains, food and stones) into an increasingly immaterial entity that leaves more people behind as financial systems complexify and access to technology remains limited.

As such, early on in the process I had a precise idea of what the final result would be. I sketched it out (after and during some visits to museums to look for inspiration for the hologram figure), wrote down and shared keywords of concepts and emotions that I wanted to evoke with the work, and then proceeded to organise how I was going to materialize it and go from point A (concept) to point B (the display). It was my first time experimenting with a 3D hologram before so that was the most exciting (but also challenging) part of the project for me: working hand in hand with the hologram studio designer, coming up with the best design so that the projected figure would come up precise, eye-catching and futuristic while still maintaining an aura of mystery and meditation. I also had to undergo a training day to put together the hologram machine (since I would be bringing it to the Summit in parts) and use the software to upload and project the design.

All parts of the installation (the hologram projector, the obsidian, the barley, the plexiglass platform) were sourced in France (the obsidian originally hailed from Colombia). They all arrived at different times so I had to test out the installation in small increments, but it was very important for me to put it together multiple times throughout the process so that I could make the necessary adjustments (again because I had never worked with a hologram before, I was a little stressed about that technical part !). Then it was mostly a matter of shipping and everything arriving safely on site at the Summit on the other side of the world –however, I took the barley with me in my suitcase because food wasn’t allowed to be shipped; and I took the hologram with me too because I absolutely did not want to take the risk for it to get lost or damaged by the transporter. My suitcase was mostly barley, a hologram projector and a few clothes.

As I previously mentioned, I feel that an artwork only truly comes to life when it reaches out an audience in the flesh, and it was a really powerful experience to witness that at the Summit. It was interesting to me that the audience was not primarily there to see art, but to exchange ideas on open and equitable payment systems. Therefore, the dynamic was quite unique and mutually enriching, because it quickly became evident that we were all making similar points, only using a different language (since many concepts and terms discussed during talks and conversations were new to us).

Progress on Objectives (KPI’s) (progress on project)

The objectives behind the work and their completion have remained the same with the addition of one:

"To weave together barley, obsidian and hologram technology to illustrate the evolution of currency": the aim of the project was to retrace the genesis of currency from something tangible that comes from the Earth (obsidian and grains), into something immaterial (represented by the hologram) which may leave certain communities behind if concrete solutions aren't found to use technology as a tool for inclusivity. Each element (barley, obsidian, hologram projector) was sourced 12 to 16 weeks (except the plexiglass platform -6 weeks) ahead of the summit for prior research testing and to ensure timely delivery. The option of using coltan was left out because of difficulties in ethical sourcing. The representation for the hologram figure (Shana, ancient Levantine goddess of agriculture) was sourced in the Louvre Museum, and designed for holographic projection with motion designer Tez over the course of 6 weeks, during which several options were tested (outlines, shadows, glitches, colour). We eventually decided to keep it as simple as possible in order to stay aligned with the futurist minimalism of the project.

The hologram projector was made to measure by Oversea Productions, pioneers of hologram technology in France. Its production was a three way process between their team, the 3D designer and myself, and included a 2 hours technical training and testing to learn how to operate the projector.

"The use of weblike networks such as myccorhizal networks, i.e. underground networks found in plant communities which connects individual plants together to transfer water, nitrogen, carbon and other minerals": although I was very keen on using this idea, together with the graphic designer we decided not to actualize it since upon testing we realised that those networks would be detrimental to the design of the statue itself, once it is projected as a hologram (blurred, unclear, less definition). Therefore, we decided to keep the statue as close as possible to its real life appearance.

"To include edible elements for the audience and turn the display into an interactive food installation": I had in mind to cook the barley and use it for a shared community dinner, but this wasn't possible due to logistics and legal reasons.

"To provide a vision for a post-anthropocene future where resources are shared in ways that are democratic, inclusive & equitable; and illustrate the idea that technology can be used to build new models for the greater good": the idea behind the project was to provide an allegory for a technological future rooted in material and financial equity. The conversations I had with visitors during the summit enriched the vision that I was bringing forward; meanwhile the exchanges that were made with visitors while viewing the work provided an added perspective and alternative narrative to their vision of financial inclusion.

There is one objective that emerged shortly before the summit, and that was to provide avenues of reflection on the human/spiritual dimension of technology. Although to me it was an obvious part of the work, upon first meeting the visitors I realised this may be an aspect that needed to be articulated. Technology is at its best when it operates as a tool at the service of people and following humanistic values of social equity and justice. To me, the project achieved its goal by prompting the question: how human do we want technology to be?

As I mentioned, I added another objective after the exhibition and it is that of writing an essay about the experience of the Summit in order to discussing some ideas that were explored during the process itself, and new ones that emerged during its presentation to its audience. I am still in the process of completing this task and aim to be done by the end of April.

What’s Next?

Besides the essay that I’m writing, I would like to experiment further with the food and 3D hologram mixed media and the food/technology axis. Food and technology both being resources which ought to circulate and be shared equitably, I believe there is a fertile crossover between these two fields and much to be said about how they can both be used as tools to design a more equitable global society. This time I would like to create an experiential, multisensory installation with edible components so that the audience can physically interact with it. In this way the idea of “sharing” could be conveyed through an embodied praxis and not just through a visual experience. I am currently talking about possible projects with Galerie Sainte Anne and The Community in Paris.

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