Student Plans to Burn His Loan Money in the Name of Art

We've heard of burning through cash, but this is something else.

Photo: Facebook.
Brooke Purvis. Photo: Facebook.

Brooke Purvis.
Photo: Facebook.

We’ve heard of burning through cash, but what Central Saint Martins art student Brooke Purvis is doing is a little bit different. Purvis has decided to set his entire student loan of an unnamed amount on fire for an art project called Everything Burns.

By torching his cash, Purvis hopes to pose questions about the nature of money and what we really gain from it. Although, we imagine one of the things he’ll almost definitely gain from the project is the ire of fellow students who could have used the money for, you know, such things as food, shelter, and tuition.

“I could give that money to charity, but charity is capitalism’s solution to the problem it creates,” Purvis told Vice. “But it’s my money, remembering it’s a fiction, and like anyone, I choose to do what I want with it. Also, I believe I am doing something positive with it. The work I’m creating highlights what I believe to be very important issues.”

Purvis views the work as conceptual rather than performative, and so the actual burning will take place in front of just a single witness. It will be documented both in photos and in film, and the ashes will be collected for further documentation and, according to Purvis, “possibly display.”

“You give up your very liberty and time in exchange for pieces of paper that actually have no financial worth,” Purvis laments. “Money —in the UK, at least—holds absolutely no value whatsoever, other than that which you place upon it.”

It’s worth noting that one could make a similar argument about the worth of art.

Photo: Facebook.

Photo: Facebook.

Purvis, of course, isn’t the first artist to turn the destruction of money into an artistic act. In 1994, artists Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty of The KLF recorded themselves burning £50 notes in a video simply titled Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid. “Of course I regret it—who wouldn’t!” Drummond told BBC News twenty years later.

More recently, Dustin Yellin and the art collective Bazaar Teens shredded $10,000 at this year’s Spring/Break Art Fair in New York before using the remnants to create works of art. (It’s worth noting that Yellin used the proceeds from the paintings to create grants for high school art students.)

Purvis concedes to Vice that life will be difficult for him without the loan. The artist is currently employed and has a full course load, and he is living in what he describes as “a mouse-infested house with 11 other people sharing the same bathroom on the outskirts of London.” He also concedes that some people might view the stunt as juvenile.

“But compared to the stunts the right-wing fraternity are performing right now, this is nothing,” he says. “And in this day and age, how do you get people interested in a subject that’s important? There’s so much background noise that the only way to make people look up and pay attention is to perform a shocking and outrageous stunt.”

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