Exeter ‘Money talks’ press release.

Exeter students understand the financial crisis through ‘making money’.

Local people have been enjoying work by University of Exeter Geography students at an exhibition at The Hub on the Green this week. ‘Money Talks’ features artworks showing the human stories in our cash, credit cards, bank accounts and money markets.

These works were produced by University of Exeter Geography students who have been trying to understand the ongoing financial crisis and the Occupy activism that it has provoked around the world. They were inspired by the giant Monopoly set made by the artist Banksy for the Occupation site outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London. They were challenged to rethink, modify and design new kinds of money that could tell us about the lives of the people who had made, earned, spent, borrowed and traded it. They discussed these issues with people participating in Exeter’s Occupation on Cathedral Green. Their class met there, rather than on campus, throughout the project. This exhibition was the result of the conversations that took place.

One group of students asked people to write on the back of a five pound note what they had done to earn it. ‘Sell two copies of the Big Issue, which usually takes an afternoon’ wrote one. ‘My Dad gave it to me’, wrote another. Another made a stamp for visitors to print the question ‘Whose is this?’ on the banknotes in their wallets and purses. Another designed credit cards that would stop them from using them so often, covered with ‘health warnings’ like cigarette packets for example, and hung like baubles from the gallery’s Christmas tree. Another created a new online bank (http://bank.dotbill.co.uk/) based on the recent Justin Timberlake movie ‘In Time’.

Student Olivia Bailey, one of the online bank’s creators, said “We want visitors to go away, look at their statements and see much more than the numbers”. Charlotte Edwards, whose group designed the banknote stamp, explained, “We want it to act as a catalyst to debate alongside the Occupy movement, to encourage people to think about their money. Where’s it from? What’s it been spent on? Who will have it next? What’s the true worth of that money? And what’s it worth to you, its temporary owner?”

Their lecturer, Ian Cook said, ‘Working this way is much more exciting and relevant for all of us than hours of lectures where I’m supposed to be the only expert on these issues. Students have had to understand and imagine things differently, get out of our campus comfort zone, try to find new ways to talk to people about the financial crisis that we’re all experiencing, and work like artists. This is so much more than learning what you need to know to pass an exam! Huge thanks must go to Occupy Exeter and the Hub on the Green for being such generous hosts. This has been an important example of what can happen when ‘Gown meets Town.’

‘Money Talks’ opened at the Hub on the Green, 8 Cathedral Close, Exeter on Saturday 10th December, and is open to the public from 12.00-1.30 every day this week, except Thursday.

To find out more, see what visitors are saying, and join the conversation, please see our Facebook page here.


Photos by Ian Cook, Maura Pavalow & Tom Surr.



  1. Jasper

    As a University of Exeter Geography student, I was surprised I knew nothing about this, pretty sure I didn’t get an email from the geography department….?
    When reading this I was excited for its prospect to be a really interesting project, the ideas were good and everyone seemed to understand a simple point that needed to be put across.
    ….But as much as I applaud the ideas behind this it seems that the actual creation of the ideas into visual pieces has in all honesty, failed. I think that part of being a geographer is coming up with good reliable data and ideas, but the other half is how we present and sort data for other people to understand. The presentation here is what I would expect from GCSE or below standard.
    Information can be beautiful: http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/what-are-wallst-protestors-angry-about/

    Have a look around that website just as an example of the tip of the iceberg of how presentation can really get a good point across very clearly.
    I have to admit that I do not know much about the background behind the work, such as how much time was allowed for this and I guess wether or not this was graded would probably apply, but it doesn’t take a master artist to know not to use wordart for titles.

    I guess it’s still a step in the right direction!


    • thecasiokids

      Hi Jasper, hope you don’t mind me saying but I think that you’ve slightly missed the point of our work. We’re not simply trying to trying to convey information, although I’d have to argue that in many ways we do, we’re trying to spread an idea

      Seemingly like you, I love graphic design and I’ve actually got the book “Information is Beautiful” and it sits proudly on my bedside table

      However, to me “Information is beautiful”, is exactly that…its pretty- which is not a bad thing because that’s what it aims to be. But when I close the book, the pictures disappear, and almost as quickly, the information evaporates from my mind as well.

      I think our work is a little deeper than that. We want to involve people, get inside their heads, question concepts that we think really ought to be thought about.

      One example: A £5 note scribbled on by a big issue simply explaining its personal value is now in circulation and will be passed, or traded, from one person to another. Each person who holds it will question its meaning, its origins and in some ways become personally involved and hopefully… make them think.

      Although it’s simple, crudely implement and certainly not going to win an aesthetic design award…to me its far more involving than a 2 dimensional vector drawing ever could be.

      Anyway, thanks for input and interest but I hope you took a little more out of our work than simply our love of WordArt (which, for the record, is set for a vintage revival in 2012)!


  2. Ian Cook et al

    Hi Jasper

    Thanks for the comment. It’s good to get one.

    ‘Failed for whom?’, I would ask. The students who made the work (they can speak for themselves)? The people who visited the exhibition (comments were tweeted using #moneytalks)? The people who read this press release and looked at the photos?

    informationisbeautiful.net is a good site for visualising information – thanks for passing it on – but the ‘money talks’ work was trying to do more than visualise information. Students drew on academic literatures on the financial crisis, culture jamming and art/activism to produce work that provoked thought and conversation about money: what it is, who it belongs to, the connections it makes, how and by whom it gets valued, etc.

    There’s an interesting discussion here about geography and public pedagogy. I hope it can continue. Any questions?!

    Best wishes



  3. Tom Surr

    Hi Jasper (and Ian),

    I am one of Ian’s students and worked as part of a group to help create one piece of work for this exhibition – the money stamp with which people can stamp the message ‘Whose is this?’ onto their banknotes. I found your comments very interesting and would welcome a more detailed explanation of why you think this work was a failure, and as Ian points out, for whom it was a failure also. Whilst I can’t speak for everyone here, I was very aware during the creation of our piece of work that less would probably be more. Whilst it is also true that we had 1-2 weeks to create our piece and a lot of other things on our plate, I still felt that making a simpler piece of work would be more effective. Our exhibition was pitched at the general public so we needed to ensure that it could be understood widely, or the central aim of our exhibition (to provoke thought and conversation in as many people as possible) would fail. By giving people a simple idea that could provoke lots of new thought, our idea would be more likely to stick. People could then take it away and build upon it through their own ideas and research. I admit that I did use wordart for my titles, not being the most computer-literate man in the world, and I would probably benefit from learning more about this. However there is much more to our exhibition work, I hope you will agree, than just whether or not it looks aesthetically pleasing. If not, then I would agree there are more reasonable grounds to say that we have failed.

    Looking forward to hearing back from you.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.