A Sense of Place
If you have been passing the Main Library recently you will have seen the exhibition in the Library Gallery on the ground floor, of some of the more unlikely things to be found in the Library’s Rare Books collections. One exhibit you should not miss is the first thing you come to – the project by students of Illustration from Edinburgh College of Art (ECA), based on an album of German “emergency” banknotes from the years after the end of the First World War.
The schedule for printing the exhibition catalogue prevented us from including any of the student work in it, and in the exhibition itself we only had space for a selection of the student work, and none to include their own commentaries on it.
When we saw the students’ projects, one thing which struck us was how many of them link with items in the exhibition other than the Notgeld. These are entirely fortuitous connections; none of the group knew what the other exhibits were.
In this series of blog posts we want to showcase the student work, including the ones we couldn’t fit into the exhibtion, and make some of the juxtapositions with other exhibits which struck us when we were assembling it.
In Germany many local authorities issued “Notgeld”, “emergency money” during and immediately after the First World War. Initially, the diversion of all available metal to the war effort had caused a scarcity of small change. Locally-issued, low denomination notes, enabled the everyday econonomy to continue to function, even though they had the status only of tokens, and had no national authority behind them. They continued to be issued after the end of the war, into the early 1920s, when they were no longer strictly needed, but had become collectible. These notes were generally very attractive, celebrating the history, industry or culture of the locality which issued them, although they were sometimes satirical or contained propaganda or political messages. In our collections we have two albums full of notes from this late period, from all over Germany.
The ECA third year Illustration students were set a project to design their own Notgeld, exploring the features of the original Notgeld, looking at money and currency more widely, and developing their own ideas. They had to print their notes, using any printmaking technique available to them; some of these are referred to in their descriptions. (Risograph is a digital duplication and printing system, which builds up an image with layers of ink in different colours. The results are similar to screen printing)
The celebration of place is a strong theme in the original Notgeld. This was explored by the students in a number of different ways.
Several used the landscape, landmarks and distinctive features of their home towns.
My ‘Notgeld’ notes are designed for imagined use on the South Downs Way, a long distance national trail running through the South Downs in Sussex. The wildness and variety in
the environment inspired me to choose this location, and provided a rich resource from which I could develop my imagery and portray some key sites. For my notes, I aspired to create three very different denominations, portraying the contrast in the landscape and present a sense of each place’s distinct history. I have depicted Devil’s Dyke, the Charleston house (home to the Bloomsbury Group) and the Seven Sisters.
For my currency inspired by the German Notgeld, I chose my home of the Isle of Wight to create my notes for. I wanted to combine some of the local landmarks, such as Osborne House and the Needles, with the element of nature to create my work. To achieve the clean and precise look I was after, I decided to risoprint my design.
My inspiration for my notgeld notes was my hometown, Kilkeel, which is a small fishing town in Northern Ireland. My notes feature the most iconic parts of the town: the faerie trees, the harbour, and the legendary fish and chip van which is known across the country.
Kaunas is the second biggest city in Lithuania. Founded in the 14th century, the city has gone through many changes: an important city in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, part of the Russian Empire, the temporary capital of Lithuania during the Interwar period, a city in the Soviet Union. Now Kaunas is in a cultural upheaval preparing for the role of the European Capital of Culture for 2022. All this history has left a mark on Kaunas and made it into the quirky, welcoming city that it is today. This set of Notgeld aims to show the special spirit of Kaunas by including elements unique to it: the green trolleybuses, the bison statue in the Oak Park, and the smiling sundial all with a backdrop of Soviet blocks of flats that make up the suburban areas of Kaunas.