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Artist's Oily Alchemy

By Rhizome

If, in contemporary economics, the gold standard is no longer a viable model, users of Michael Mandiberg's new browser plug-in may believe that oil is the new currency par excellence. The American artist's 'Oil Standard' seamlessly 'converts all prices from U.S. Dollars into the equivalent value in barrels of crude oil,' on webpages. These values are updated in real time, according to the fluctuating price of oil on the commodities exchange, so that one always knows the relative cost of that new iPod or weekend getaway. As is typical of the artist who digitized Sherry Levine's 'After Walker Evans' series to bring internet users the 'After Sherry Levine' project, 'Oil Standard' is rife with ironic references. The concatenation of the gold standard, the Standard Oil company, and the project's title, in his personal statement, kick-starts the wordplay that makes Mandiberg's choice to write his project in the oily-sounding Greasemonkey Mozilla Firefox script all the more witty. And perhaps it does take a sense of humor to contemplate the crude equivalent of one's weekly lunch allowance in oil, considering the effect that this new currency is having on current affairs. - Marisa Olson

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