The wild dance of the dollar

Philly Fringe 2020: TONGUE presents ‘Currency’

2 minute read
Unexpected lessons in capitalism: a scene from TONGUE’s ‘Currency.’ (Image courtesy of the artists.)
Unexpected lessons in capitalism: a scene from TONGUE’s ‘Currency.’ (Image courtesy of the artists.)

It's no surprise that money runs the world we live in. How much we're making and how much things cost is an endlessly changing relationship that grows more strained with time. Using Elizabeth Kübler-Ross's now-standard model of the five stages of grief, TONGUE performance group presents Currency, a Fringe Festival study in capitalism's realization and grieving of its terminally ill status. Five different masked speakers illustrate the stages in their own words, with occasional dance/movement interpretation.

The 48-minute video presentation starts by telling viewers, "We are going somewhere new together." Short cuts of first-person views in an airport are narrated by a speaker musing on money. To them, the circulation of the dollar is a wild dance, and the shape of that dance is traced in the idea of currency.

The bulk of the film follows a formula of sorts: five different speakers (each in varying obscure and creative costumes) stand in front of a black backdrop to the right of a screen split in half. Images related to the discourses appear on a graphic of a projector screen to the left, including the rise of theism, empires, and the modern European/American domination of capital. A few times through the speeches, we see outdoor dance/movement interpretations of the speeches performed by the speakers themselves, following the language as they try tracing ideas about currency. At times the performers are joined by partners whose bodysuits denote their invisibility, generally controlling the speakers in movement, representing the controls of currency and capitalism.

Currency works best for people with specific interest in deconstructing capitalism. You're going to spend the majority of the video watching these creatures speak to you. The breaks for movement are sparse, but when they happen, it's fun trying to figure out where in Philly they were filmed. The amount of information is somewhat disorienting, but still interesting.

The presentation ends with another first-person perspective, this time a trip to the Pacific Northwest. The camera spends time in beautiful forests that lead to a shore of refuse and death, hinting at the changes of Nature brought on by capitalism. A voice harkens back to the primordial darkness of the sea at night, a darkness of renewal we desperately need back.

Image description: A split field with a vintage photo on the left showing the exterior of London’s Bank of England in the late 1800s, and a photo on the right of a person in a blue mask and a copper breastplate, arms outstretched as if asking a question.

What, When, Where

Currency. By TONGUE. Streaming on Vimeo through October 4, part of the 2020 Philadelphia Fringe Festival. More info here.

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