Rob Voerman’s work has been shown in museums and galleries around the world. Ranging from paintings to huge interactive sculptures, all with the design to question the world around us and serve as vehicles of change.
Rob has always been concerned about the rainforest. At the age of 16, he wrote a letter to the UN secretary and asked if could do more to protect the forest. He got a letter and a report back called Tropical Forests: A Call to Action. 38 years later, Holland, where Rob is from, is a top contributor to deforestation with palm imports and pork exports. Rob said, “I believe that more has to happen to stop it. In my eyes, we need radical system changes to ensure that tropical rainforests will remain, and are there for future generations.”
This viewpoint was the catalyst for his interactive art installation called The Exchange, for Sonsbeek16, curated by the Indonesian collective Ruangrupa. In it, issued currency, (called Squares) related to a square meter on Earth. The current value of that particular banknote was based on the clean or polluted condition of a square-meter on Earth, and was linked to a coordinate via a QR code. Detailed online maps that show pollution in those areas linked to the banknotes and with a computer program. Each coordinate got a value from 0 to 100 (100 is super clean and 0 is very polluted). The hope was that people would have an active and emotional response as they viewed currency values reduce as pollution rises.
Talks and debates were sparked with viewers about what is value and what is currency. People began asking “What can we do?” It triggered people. People started collecting banknotes and feeling invested, literally and figuratively.
Rob adds, “I have now taken the idea several steps further in developing a new currency, which will connect ecology and the financial world.” Since the number one concern is the rainforest, why not develop a currency for the whole tropical region? To look at the region without state and country boundaries, would be central to this next phase – as is collaborating with Indigenous communities in the Amazon Basin.
He hopes to have installations all over the world where people can get involved and see the importance of the rainforest with a new currency that has a radically different value system. Rob believes, “Money and the need for money are fundamental. Money is at the core of many good, yet, predominantly bad things happening in the world. Money is one of the most dominant forces worldwide. Therefore, it seems logical to me to tackle money or its meaning as value.”
As Amazon Aid founder Sarah duPont noted, “The timing is interesting because a lot of work in this space is about building new currency for indiginous peoples. Groups are coming together in a powerful alliance. Shamans, elders, spiritual leaders who are working on policy at the same time.” She believes that the confluence of experiences including art and activism, new economic realities and groundbreaking innovations, will be essential to a world-changing shift.
And with Amazon Aid Foundation’s focus on illicit and unregulated gold mining, Rob’s work inspires key questions: What if there was a crypto currency or physical currency with a value independent of gold? “It would be a complete paradigm shift,” asserts duPont. “Gold is destroying the rainforest and if we think in terms of reimagining what is valued that could be a game-changer.”
It is this kind of out-of-the-box thinking along with beautiful art that can help create positive changes in the world.
Please check out Rob’s work: