Life on the Roll

The Lost Wallet.

In autumn 2005 I stuffed 17 wallets with fake money and personal artifacts and dropped them on the streets, in coin laundries and subway systems to see how people would respond to the dilemma of promised wealth and codes of expected behavior.

photosWallet reports

The process of purposefully "losing" the fat wallets and stealing myself away unnoticed turned out to be a challenge and needed careful preparation. Also this project was my first experimentation with video documentation where I needed to find ways to make the setup of the video cam look somehow 'natural' and less interfering with the flow of the situation...

Video Documentation Nov 2005 (3:30min, 16.1MB), uncommented.
videosClick below to watch.

Momentarium Movie.


Coin Mosaic

Dropping and losing 17 wallets on purpose...

Eventually I made every intervention into one narrated performance where I imagined myself as a tourist planting his camera in front of a site. Since "accidentally" dropping it and running away often didn't work that well (alert witnesses) I either 'forgot' the wallet in the act of lacing my shoes or unpacking my bag.

As you would expect there was a wide array of responses. A coin laundry user stole it with a big grin, the train station police treated it like a bomb threat and most tried to desperately figure out who its owner is. The best episode took place at the Berkeley campus when a student spent more than 20 minutes with the wallet, approached fellow passerbyers about it and made inquiries by calling the number on the business cards that were included.

Coin Mosaic

...stuffed with fake money and personal artifacts...

In Japan it was interesting to observe that most people wouldn't want to engage with it (dealing with the police or lost and found offices is time consuming). When I dropped the red wallet in the middle of the gate of a temple in Kyoto — a prime photo spot for the numerous tourists — nobody would pick it up for three hours... The slightly cunning and admittedly silly wallet exercise brought also puzzling reactions. A man about to leave the subway exit in Shinsaibashi (Osaka) returned to where he came from, abruptly changing his original intention, after thoroughly examining the wallet...