Interview with David Greg Harth

February 20th 2010

Interview with David Greg Harth

When I came across David Greg Harth’s currency works, I have to admit I did start obsessively checking all the notes that passed through my wallet.  I loved the idea of these works being circulated throughout the country and that most of their owners would be unaware of their art status. I have yet to come across one yet …… but I’m still looking.

Currency Works, David Greg Harth, Multi-Media Work Stamped ink messages on currency Ongoing Project  New York, New York

IS: Can you tell me a bit about the work you’ve been doing with the stamped currency? How did it come about? What are your plans for it in the future?

DGH: In 1998 while staring at a dollar bill, I wrote “I AM AMERICA” across it with red ink. This began my messages stamped on currency. Over the years I have stamped several messages on currency to spend them and circulate them. Most messages are sparked from current world events, political situations, or injustice. Some messages in the past have been I AM AMERICA, I AM NOT TERRORIZED, I AM STATE and I AM NOT CHURCH and I AM HIV+ and I AM HIV-. When I feel the need to stamp a past message or develop a new one, I do so.

IS: I am really interested in the circulation of these works and the fact that people may be in possession of your art work unknowingly.  How do you feel about the issues of ownership, value and status of the ‘art object’ brought up within this body of work?

DGH: Distributing the message on currency is just an excellent way to have the important message reach the public at a larger scale and to stimulate a dialogue. The message is the artwork, not necessarily the ink on the physical bill. It’s the idea behind it, which also includes the social interaction when one spends or receives the currency with the message on it. Right or wrong, when it comes to the injustice in our world, I feel like we all, as a human race, are responsible for the wrong doings. We are all in ownership of those wrong doings. And we all should correct them and stand up for what is right in this world.

IS: Much of your work has an element of public involvement.  What is it that draws you to these situations? What is your interest in ‘the public’ and social interaction?

DGH: We all have a lot to learn from each other. I can learn something from those I interact with and I hope they can learn something as well.  By engaging with the public the viewer is able to experience something they can’t necessarily experience by standing before a painting or work of art in a frame. Often my work is out of the context of a museum or gallery space. Being outside of the cube, anyone can participate or experience my work. No matter their income level, educational or cultural background. It is art for the person of the human community, not just the person who is an art-goer or art appreciator.

I AM SAD Multi-Media / Performance Work Silk-Screened Shirt, David Greg Harth, Ongoing Project New York, New York

IS: What is the role of dialogue within your practice?

DGH: A dialogue between artist and viewer (or participant) is important, but what is more important is a dialogue among the community. One that may enrich, one may that provoke, one that may develop critical thinking, one in which a person may learn from. Without a dialogue, without communication, we are only warriors at war. Instead we must question and converse.

IS: Born and educated in New York, what advice would you give to artist when they move to the city?

DGH: If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. In all honesty, there is a truth to that. Don’t be afraid of the city, there is too much inspiration and too many great things, one doesn’t have time to fear.

"Dependent Independent", David Greg Harth, 2009 Performance Work Documentation Photograph By Douglas Laing Size Variable Bir Zeit, Palestine