Bridget Moreen Leslie
Bridget Moreen Leslie is an Australian artist based in Brooklyn, New York interested in collapsing spatial and psychological barriers between class, architecture, noise, location, and repetitious body language. She received her BFA from Sydney University's, Sydney College of the Arts in 2015 and received her MFA Fine Arts with Honors from Parsons School of Design 2017. Bridget will be releasing a book in 2020 that explores the paradoxical nature of Non-Spaces through a series of essays and art projects on subjects such as Non-Wealth, Ai celebrities, Ideological State Apparatuses, and the developing world. Her work has been shown internationally from Sydney, Australia at Project-X, Ded-Space gallery, the Queen's Museum in New York, the National Humanities Center in North Carolina, IAO in Oklahoma City, to the CICA Museum in South Korea. She was a resident at the Hollows, Brooklyn and has had work published in Vellum Magazine, EMERGENCY INDEX and other international publications.
FINANCE— NON WEALTH
While wandering in my adopted home New York, once the newness of the city has worn off, I begin to notice all of its nuances. While there are many curious occurrences in a place that packs this many people in it, nothing appears out of the ordinary. It is then the more mundane things that catch attention— most recently— ATMs. I found that in places like TriBeCa, reliably discovering an ATM was like finding an empty subway car at 5pm— extremely rare and unexpected. I noticed that in ChinaTown, and the LES (Lower East Side) there were ATMs on every corner— sometimes even more frequently dispersed. However, finding an ATM that worked was another thing.
In Bushwick finding a working ATM was also difficult, as it was in Washington Heights, and Harlem. Around NYU, and 14th Street every ATM was thoroughly intact, their service lights blinking at me, almost gesturing to something more insightful than notes waited inside. I began seeking out these faulty ATMs— documenting them, noting what neighborhoods had the most and where on the street they were more commonly found. Unsurprisingly ATMs that didn’t work were always located on the outside of a shop or places with no clear ownership in sight. They were always in recently gentrified areas, demographically diverse neighborhoods, attached to delis, or between two establishments.
The space of margin.
I began to wonder about the lifespan of these machines. I speculated that the account holder had stopped paying the bill or perhaps had moved, and left the ATM there without someone to take over the maintenance. Maybe rain or snow had short circuited them and they had failed to be fixed. Perhaps they only recently broke... but I speculated further, did the owner of these ATMs know that they were out of order? If not, what is the protocol for closing out one of these machines? It seemed to me that the state of the ATM was that of abandonment— tombstones of failed capital, which led me to the second part of my question. How much uncirculated money exists in the world because it sits inside of these broken ATMs? On July 31st, 2018, I got off a bus in ChinaTown at 7 am after a long-haul trip. It was early, but I wanted some bananas to use in a smoothie when I got home, and nothing but bodegas had opened yet. I picked one of the more “gourmet” places, an organic deli, and stocked up on things that I didn't feel like going back for later on in what would no doubt be a sleepy, stuporous day. While checking out, the card reader had a little sticker on it that said, “$10 minimum”. This is a common finding at stores in urban areas, sometimes because the owner gets charged a fee for smaller payments but more commonly to entice customers to spend more. The owner told me I was fine at $8.90, and we proceeded with the transaction. However, his cash register declined both my cards. I grew concerned that I had been hacked, but quickly found his conveniently located ATM near the store entrance. The ATM was unable to connect to it’s server, so my withdrawal couldn't dispense any money even though it appeared to be working up until the moment of connection— a network timeout. I informed the shopkeeper, who looked mildly confused, that I had no way to pay and I left. Instead buying my bananas at a nearby Starbucks— both my cards were intact during this transaction. There was no sticker insisting on a minimum purchase. In this instance the independent shop owner, who appeared to be of South Asian descent lost out on a sale, and now has an ATM presumably with cash but no reliable connection to the bank. Furthermore, a cash register that currently does not work. I can only conjecture the loss of uncirculated cash in this instance is (x + $8.90). I can’t help but think that another small business owner lost a sale to a large conglomerate chain, due to lack of up-to-date services. How much of this uncirculated cash contributes to the economic status of the US? If the amount of uncirculated funds was collected could it have an effect on the trillions of dollars worth of debt? Definitely not, but the discrepancy between rich and poor or changing one person’s life could be affected by a sum like this. I frantically began discussing this idea of non-wealth my partner, when somehow data sharing as a means to make websites money came up (websites like Facebook are free because they take your info and sell it to advertisers). Targeted advertising. Today advertising on Instagram and Facebook is so integrated into the interface it’s barely noticeable. I realized an obvious fact that I already knew, the circulation and exchange of currency was completely imaginary. While traveling in the Himalayan area of Pakistan known as Hunza Valley, wealth was something which kept bubbling to the surface of my thoughts. This region was one of the poorest in the world. As in more agrarian times, land was the only real status of wealth because it is the only source of livelihood in the region. Please, don’t imagine that all the people lived with no internet, and that a Kardashian meant nothing to them. This is not the case. To put it less than eloquently, things are simpler, the food you eat consists of whatever is in season, and during springtime, that means apricots—almost exclusively. Your options for dining are not broad and a grocery store stocked up on products originating from Mexico to Mozambique is not a space that exists there. Your food comes from your land, as do your clothes, perhaps the corner stores will have shipments of new products but in limited quantities. I met with the chairman of Ganish village, “It is the oldest and first settlement on the ancient Silk Road in the Hunza Valley, and is the site of various ancient watchtowers, traditional mosques, religious centers, and a reservoir,” “Popularly known as Ganish Khun, this town is about one thousand years old, with a small community working towards improving its quality of life. With the spread of Islam, the Yarikutz, the Rupikutz, the Kuyokutz and the Mamorokutz - the then leading families of the area - constructed four mosques and watch towers dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. These unique structures, which were decaying owing to the ravages of time and lack of financial and technical resources, have been restored to some of their old glory with assistance from the Embassies of Norway and Spain, UNESCO, and the Aga Khan Cultural Services Programme (AKCSP).” He spoke with me about Ganish, and Donald Trump, pulling up news sources on his iPhone. He spoke perfect English, as did all the other natives I met in the region, as well as their native languages, and Urdu. Aga Khan University and Unesco resources have allowed the Hunza/ Balitistan region to send every child to school. That means every person in the region is literate to high school level, a fact that cannot be stated for most countries like the United States. Many of the people had children at schools like Berkeley in the US. The Chairman told me his son wished to come back to Ganish after school and marry a woman from his village. I was somewhat shocked. It seemed strange to me that someone would ever give up living in the United States for a life in a desolate, and geographically dangerous region to share single room homes with generations of family members instead of living in a place like San Francisco. Why choose this simplicity?
Rubble, and rock, and root I would never define the
region as impoverished yet in the eyes of global
standards it falls far below the poverty line They have
everything they need and because of that capitalism
seems like a superfluous system. The whole of their
economy is insular, merely shifting between patrons and
goods. The act of exchanging these paper notes is only
symbolic They know that fundamentally, it doesn't really
Wandering around the middle Hunza region one afternoon, I found a USSR trekking map. I went to purchase it, but unfortunately didn't have enough money, so the storekeeper said to take it and pay for it another time.I ran back 30 minutes later with the money and he seemed taken aback by my promptness. I asked my partner why he thought this man would let me walk out without paying in the first place? I could've very easily never paid him back or just left.— I mean, he didn’t know me at all. He responded that it was about trust in his community and that money is not seen as an immediate, quantifiable defining characteristic of the people here. I’m the only 6ft tall, blonde, woman for hundreds of miles, so I wouldn't be hard to track down anyway...
Capital can be used as an imaginary tool, and we seem so sure that the world would fall into anarchy and chaos without it. Historically we’ve stopped a few times to think that capital serves politics as a means of oppression. The faulty ATMs force owners to enforce cash only policies or deplete their own accounts through service and maintenance fees, or simply lose customers to mammoth institutions like Starbucks. So inflation serves what purpose? The imaginary trillions of debt that the US accrues will never be paid off, so what is the economy? What is the currency and what flaw in the system do hundreds of stocked, faulty ATMs reveal?
Perhaps the young man left San Francisco to share a single room with his family, and marry from his village because the simplicity of that statement lies in the tangibility of life. There is no imaginary force that creates winners and losers. Only the enduring apricots that come each season.