Although money plays a key role in our lives, the workings of our monetary system are a mystery to most of us. ‘The Waterworks of Money’ by cartographer Carlijn Kingma is an attempt to demystify the world of big finance. It visualizes the flow of money through our society, its hidden power made manifest.
If you see money as water, our monetary system is the irrigation system that waters the economy. The better the flow, the more prosperous society will be. Just as water makes crops thrive, so money sets the economy in motion. Or at least that’s the idea. In reality, inequality is growing and many countries are dealing with a ‘cost of living crisis’. The progress with making our economies sustainable is stalling, while financial instability remains an ongoing threat. These problems cannot be seen in isolation from the architecture of our money system. If we truly want to tackle them, we will have to address the design flaws of our current money system.
The second animation video of this series will be released on June 28, 2023 For more info check: or For the Dutch version of the animation check: Current exhibitions: ‘The Future of Money’ at Kunstmuseum Den Haag, 14 April, 2023 – 8 September 2023. ‘Plumbing The System’ at the Dutch Pavilion of the Venice Biennale, 20 May 2023 – 26 November 2023
The Waterworks of Money is a collaboration of cartographer Carlijn Kingma, investigative financial journalist Thomas Bollen, and professor New Finance Martijn van der Linden. Kingma spent 2300 drawing hours, based on in-depth research and interviews with more than 100 experts –ranging from central bank governors and board members of pension funds and banks to politicians and monetary activists.
The structure of our monetary system is not a natural phenomenon. We can choose to change its architecture. Designing the money system– and the laws and institutions that govern it–is ultimately a democratic task, and not a commercial or technocratic one. In practice, however, there is a major obstacle impeding the democratic process: financial illiteracy. By making finance and money needlessly complex, economists, bankers and tax specialists have turned most of us into ‘financial illiterates’. Everyone who doesn’t speak their financial jargon is excluded from the democratic debate on how our monetary system should work.
‘The Waterworks of Money’ bypasses the financial jargon. It is an attempt to boost ‘systemic financial literacy’. Only if ordinary citizens develop their own vocabulary to participate in the debate about their financial future, can they tell their politicians which kind of ‘financial irrigation system’ they want.
Authors: Carlijn Kingma, Thomas Bollen, Martijn Jeroen van der Linden
Animation: Tiepes, Christian Schinkel, Cathleen van den Akker
Narrator: Loveday Smith
Translation: Erica Moore
Voice recording: Huub Krom
Music and sound: Rob Peters Photography: Studio OPPA
Partners: Follow the Money, De Haagse Hogeschool, Stimuleringsfonds Creatieve Industrie, Brave New Works, Rabobank, Kunstmuseum Den Haag, Rijksmuseum Twenthe
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