1. the practice of living as a parasite in or on another organism.
2. habitual reliance on or exploitation of others.
Colonization is a forceful embedding of a foreign prevalent belief system and material culture.
During the Spanish colonization of South America, a new material was imposed as a form of currency. The extrinsic value and belief system shaped the contemporary traditions of the region. The Spondylus shell was the currency used by precolombian communities located in the Pacific coast of Ecuador. The object not only represented monetary value, but cultural and religious values as well. The casted bronze represents gold, currency of the Spanish Empire, slowly consuming the Spondylus i.e. its host, until it is fully assimilated.
Culture is embedded in objects, the duality between the Spondylus shell and gold serves as an example of how deeply intertwined the notion of value is with identity. If currency is defined as a mutually agreed value structure, what is colonization if not cultural parasitism? A forceful implementation of a new reality, exploitation of native resources and appropriation of material culture by a foreign organism.
Materials: intervened Spondylus shell, lost-wax casted bronze (“gold")
Dimensions: 5.25” x 5.25” x 4.50”
Part of “Token Economies” exhibition by artist & designer Alex Thompson, May 2019.