“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.” —Dwight Eisenhower
New Orleans artist Dan Tague has been using money to bring to light the same social issues Eisenhower lamented in the quote above.
“In a capitalist society cash rules everything,” Tague explains of his art. “Society teaches us that you can buy love, happiness, and status through possessions. You can even right wrongs by taking away a bit of someone’s happiness through fines and lawsuits. Politicians buy votes through claims of lowering taxes, in other words letting us hold on to a little more status…”
Dan’s current body of work — photography of folded bills displaying written statements like “We need a revolution”, “Don’t tread on me”, and “Trust no one” — is some of his best known. These pieces are a hybrid of sculpture, photography and found art in which his strong political statements are at once familiar and serve to trigger our conscious thought of injustices we already know to be happening.
Further explaining his art, Tague explains: “Military aggression costs billions of dollars and often leads to economic strain resulting in job loss, decline in education, and further restrictions in medical resources for citizens. In this light some of our basic freedoms are compromised to protect our more capitalist interests.”
In his artist statement, Tague also includes a quote by Charles Sumner, an American politician and statesman in the 1800s, which surely served as inspiration for the series of folded bills. “Give me the money that has been spent in war and I will clothe every man, woman, and child in an attire of which kings and queens will be proud. I will build a schoolhouse in every valley over the whole earth. I will crown every hillside with a place of worship consecrated to peace.”
“The cost of war has created an internal war on our economy, where the generals are CEOs and the tanks are toxic assets. This is a costly war under the camouflage of billion dollar bailouts,” says Tague.
As always, the looming question is “Where do we go from here?”
Dan Tague is represented by Jonathan Ferrera Gallery.