The All-Seeing Eye

Artist John Chirillo has created a work of art that required almost 15,000 one-dollar bills.  Chirillo took each dollar bill, carefullly cut out the all-seeing eyes from the reverse, until he had a whole jar-full of ‘em.  The whole lot of them were then mounted in rows, creating a fast expanse of eyes.

According to the notes in the Imgur page, all bills were put back into circulation.  Legal?  Yes: the mutilation wasn’t done to devalue or otherwise falsify the bills, and well over 2/3 of the original bill was intact.   This means that banks and businesses would have accepted them fine, but pretty much the instant they made it to a reserve bank they’d have gone into a shredder to be replaced by crisp new bills.

The all-seeing eye on the back of the dollar is one of the most controversial parts of our money.   First, its connection to Freemasonry squicks out a lot of people right off the bat. Created in 1935, the designer of the new dollar, Henry Wallace, found the symbol relevant and did some due diligence by asking a Catholic if he thought there’d be any problem with it.  That hasn’t stopped Christians from going off the deep-end over its symbolism, though.  From the other end, the recent overwhelming evidence of all-seeing government surveillance has brought the the all-seeing eye out as a symbol of the fascist surveillance state.   As a symbol, I think it worked, although maybe not as the original engraver intended.  When a symbol loses value, it just becomes an image lacking definition.  When it becomes a representation of an important concept, good or bad, then some Milwaukee artist feeds off that meaning and spend three years of his life cutting tiny triangles out of dollar bills.

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