‘FIAT - All Money Is Ours’ is a lavishly produced hardcover book from PC Press of currency based art produced by the Slovenian NSK State collective. PC Press is known for its counterculture themed music based publications such as the recent reprints of Vague fanzine, Richard Cabut’s Novel ‘Looking For a Kiss’, books on Killing Joke and Massive Attack, and the impressively complete ‘Total State Machine’ history of Test Department, but this feels like something very different to those. Although NSK State has a strong link to Slovakinan music collective Laibach, this is so much more than just a spin off project. For a start, NSK State is more than just Laibach, being a collective of different artists and intellectuals. You know, it is actually quite difficult for me to describe exactly what it is! Lets try though.
The NSK State itself, despite having no borders or territory, has a slightly creepy (to my mind) cult-like quality, with a plethora of officious sounding rules dictating what members of the state can and cannot do, even how they will be punished for not following the rules. Compliance is a recurrent theme throughout the 21 ‘basic duties’ of NSK members, stating that “Once a member is inducted, the association denies each member his own freedom of choice..” and even that “Members are recommended to devote their spare time associating with those who cooperate with the Organization.”, setting down principles of friendship and requiring members to renounce personal practices of the past and “devote himself [yes, it is patriarchal too!] to work in the body whose integral element he has become by joining the Organization”. If that sounds alarming, it is probably intended to, as I can’t help feeling that there is a strong element of black humour in all of this, aping as it does the behaviour of cults, religious orders, and totalitarian regimes down the ages. In many ways it is reminiscent of Psychic TV’s ‘Temple of Psychic Youth’ project or even the tongue in cheek US ‘Church of the Sub Genuis’. The NSK State operates across the world and claims to be a true state, with embassies and passports and issuing its own currency and bonds, which are not backed up by gold reserves in the same way most national currencies are.
All of which brings us nicely on to the NSK State Reserve, which produces the currency which forms the body of art captured in this book. Essentially, FIAT and the Reserve is a provocative art project falling under the NSK State banner, over printing new designs on old physical currency in the same way that, going back further in time, many ancient civilisations would re-stamp local coinage with their official image once they had conquered a territory. FIAT means a decree or literally 'let it be done', and FIAT money gives central banks greater control over the economy because they can control how much money is printed. Most modern paper currencies, such as the U.S. dollar, are therefore FIAT currencies. In this case, the currency itself could actually become more valuable over time as an art work rather than as currency, transcending its initial face value. In fact it is stated in the book that they have more usually seen it being framed on the wall rather than any attempt being made to exchange or spend it. That lack of circulation and spending, if you could even get anyone to accept it as a valid currency, challenges what we understand currency to be and underlines how currency has become an important lever of control for nations and states and how state banks and governments manipulate currency values and supply to reinforce their power over the population. For proof, witness all the fuss in the UK about the outside possibility of the UK joining the Euro at some point and abandoning sterling as a currency, the fear of which contributed to the UK catastrophically abandoning its EU membership, leading in turn to the current chaotic state of the UK government and economy. There is a huge amount more on all this and more on the NSK website here, and its all interesting stuff, but let’s go back to what you get in this book.
Exchanging £25 or equivalent of dull old normal currency gets you 175 glossy pages describing in detail the ideas behind overprinting old and obsolete currencies to create a new currency, NSK State and the links to Laibach in some of the imagery used, the relationship between NSK and the Reserve and political upheavals in the former Yugoslavia, links to the New York art scene and other art movements and anniversaries, and, of course, a set of lavish full colour reproductions of the full series of artwork/notes/bonds themselves.These are impressive to look at and seeing Eastern European, Iranian and Korean currency transformed into a series of works of art is a concept that is very well executed. You can see some examples here, but there are far more in the book itself and the icing on the cake is the inclusion of an original NSK printed bond in a gold envelope with the book, meaning you actually get to own a genuine example of NSK Reserve currency/art.
It is impossible to do full justice to all the ideas presented here in the limited space I have available, but that is par for the course with anything produced by Laibach. You will just have to explore it for yourself if you want to get the full experience. You can start that journey by ordering the book in hard or soft cover versions from PC Press at https://pc-press.co.uk/product/nsk-state-fiat/. I guarantee that if you do, you will be as intrigued as I was.