500 Yen / 20 ATS / HK$10

Shiro MASUYAMA

 
 

Imagine if you bent to pick up a coin on a street and suddenly a strong light flashed on you with the sound of a shutter release. You would be surprised and embarrassed at being photographed, even though perhaps a photograph was not actually being taken. This project tries to reveal the hidden sneakiness and stinginess of human beings. Despite its simple trick, 500 yen leaves the people who experienced it with an intense impression. Some critics criticized this, claiming that it resembles a plot of TV program. Some people hate this project even though some others love it. However, this project is very popular for people outside of the art world, including children, because it deals with money - a subject that everyone is interested in. 500 yen is one of the most important projects for Masuyama, because it asks for him questions about the intersection of art and TV program entertainment. He plans to install this project all over the world.

The coins are placed in various settings from on a street, on a floor or on a table in a gallery that look natural, as if a real coin had been dropped by someone. The setting varies depending on its situation. however, in all cases Masuyama does a perfect job of creating a setting where a coin is placed naturally, not looking like a part of the art piece. All the surroundings of the coins are staged and props. He chooses a strobe light for theater that has more intensity than the ones used for photographs, as well as using fake shutter sounds hugely amplified from a nearby speaker.

The trick is that the coin itself is a switch for the strobe and the shutter sounds. An auto-winding wire attached to the bottom of the coin means that the coin - picked up and then dropped by the shocked person - would immediately spring back into its original position. Masuyama has titled this project by applying the name of the coins that he used for the trick so that the project's title varies depending on the country in which this project has takes place: sometimes it is called 20ATS or 2Euro, and sometimes HK$10. He has also videotaped with a surveillance camera the reactions of people who picked up the coin in outside installations.


500 Yen, SCAI THE BATHHOUSE, Tokyo, Japan

October 2000


Photo: Masaya YOSHIMURA


20ATS, Kunsthalle 8, Vienna

September 2001


Photo: Wolfgang THALER


HK$10, Para/Site Art Space, Hong Kong

April 2005