by Björn Schöpe
translated by Annika Backe
February 26, 2015 – The Greek artist Stefanos considers the euro banknotes cold, soulless and impersonal. This reproach is anything but new. When the illustrations for the banknotes were chosen the aim was to prevent any country from being discriminated. Today, though, nobody really feels connected to the lifeless depictions of stylized architecture.
Stefanos expresses his critique through an art project. Since February 2014, he uses ink to draw tiny stick-figures on the banknotes and hence fill them with life. The figures visualize the dismal atmosphere in crisis-ridden Greece: the Grim Reaper strides through the halls of the 100 euro note; another one shows a man hung from a noose while onlookers are standing by. Such is Stefanos’ environment on the banknotes.
Sometimes a person drags a corpse along him, sometimes protestors climb over barriers, angry little men deface the architecture with slogans, while on the 20 euro note a beggar with crutches crouches in front of the Gothic pointed windows. The arches on the 5 euro note suddenly become a broken wall with myriads of figures pushing their way through, flocking to the map of Europe: desperate Greeks who are hoping for a better future far away from home? Non-citizens of the EU who are trying to get into the EU? A panopticon of the crisis, incorporated with ink into the sterile artificial world of the banknotes.
On his website banknotes.gr, Stefanos presents all the notes he has worked on. After scanning them for posterity, he then puts the original note back into circulation. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, he calls his art project “Euro banknote bombing”. He wants the banknotes to spread his critique through all of Europe. They might very well do so, unless careful collectors withdraw them from circulation…
The Süddeutsche Zeitung has reported on the project and interviewed the artist.