John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Since when does currency show people fleeing buildings in terror?
Things have not progressed well for Greece since its former debt-straddled government took a second bailout in 2012. The country still owes some €317 billion to its creditors—an amount that "might as well be a million bajillion euros" given the likelihood it'll be paid back, writes the Washington Post—and unemployment is at a shockingly high 25 percent.
Greece's leaders are in thorny talks this week to renegotiate the bailout before it expires at the end of the month. If a suitable deal isn't struck, some are speculating the dead-broke government will be forced to leave the euro zone. With such uncertainty in the air, and social unrest in the streets, it's no wonder that migrants who came to Greece for work now want to get the hell out of Dodge.
Those who actually have money might have noticed this doom and gloom reflected in the E.U.'s physical currency. A handful of euro notes have circulated depicting ominous events like people fleeing buildings, hanging themselves, and writing bloody-looking graffiti that reads, "THE END IS NIGH." Playing off the typical euro note's blandly interesting and politically approved historical architecture, this altered money strikes right to the heart of the crisis.
The bills are the work of shadowy artist Stefanos, whose project, "Euro Banknote Bombing," is spreading Greek strife all over Europe like a wallet-dwelling virus. Since 2014, Stefanos has drawn on euros and then spent them, an act he hopes conveys the "economic and social instability in Greece" to consumers. He explains more about the project:
observing the euro banknote landscapes one notices a lack of any reality, whatsoever for the last five years the crumbling greek economy has hatched violence and social decay—so, I decided to fuse these two things. through hacking the banknotes I'm using a european [document] that is in cross-border circulation, including greece—thus, the medium allows me to 'bomb' public property from the comfort of my home.