Boggs, JGS

JGS Boggs is an artist known for making meticulously rendered drawings of currency. Instead of selling these one-sided "Boggs bucks" for money, Boggs attempts to use the art as money, in exchange for goods and services. He does not consider the artwork complete until such a transaction has taken place with one of his bills (or "notes", as he prefers to call them). Whenever he exchanges a note in this way, he erases the boundary between money and other kinds of objects (including art)--as well as the binary distinctions between sales and barter, and between valid and counterfeit money that governments strive rigorously to maintain. In fact, his hand-drawn bills are detailed enough that government authorities in the United States, Australia, and England have arrested him for counterfeiting on various occasions. (The U.S. Secret Service declined to prosecute, while Boggs was acquitted of the counterfeiting charges in the other two countries.)

Boggs represents a boundary case in fictive art in that he assumes an authority not open to an ordinary citizen--manufacturer of money--and follows out the implications of this decision in his daily life. In effect, he has created an alternate montary system within the existing one, a throwback to an era when the government was not the only entity that could authorize the issuance of currency. Like forgers and counterfeiters, he attempts to erase the distinction between the real and the fake; more interesting, however, is the way in which Boggs bills collapse together the symbolic order (money as a stand-in for valued items) and the literal order (the valued items that money is used to obtain). Boggs bills make visible the consent-to-value that is implicit in any montary system, thus bringing anyone who takes part in a Boggs bill transaction inside his alternate universe, at least temporarily.

A short documentary about Boggs, Money Man, was made by Phil Haas in 1993 for BBC-TV.