Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist

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Greenbacks Project

The Greenbacks Project explores commonalities between the US and China through our currencies.

The US Dollar and Chinese Yuan are tied more closely, and affect more peoples' lives, than ever before.


For the project, five hundred US $1s and 500 Chinese bills are carved into the shapes of words people associate with money in different languages. Participants are all affected by fortunes tied to the Chinese and US economies. Mao and Washington's faces have been whitewashed over, leaving the verso of the bills green. All bills were purchased by the artist; the project has received no outside financial support.

~100 Greenbacks

Participants are asked: "Tell me a word you think of, when you think about money. Money is something we use every day, it has power over us, causes us stress or happiness.  But it has as much power as we give it."

When the artwork is finished, a total of 1000 now-useless pieces of paper will be transformed into a large-scale artwork (2m x 3m) with video and photos of contributors in Hong Kong and Beijing: cities where USD and CNY have had a particular impact. 

Central Hong Kong, outside Standard Chartered Bank, IFC. 

Sundays are the one day per week when Hong Kong's domestic helpers have time off. They are paid low wages (around US$600/month) and employed on visas which do not allow them residency in the city. Most are from Indonesia and the Philippines, must leave family and children behind, and send the majority of their salaries home to their families.


"Dahilan" = motivation, or excuse, in Tagalog.

Dahilan is her motivation for leaving home and family to work in Hong Kong.


Description was auto-translated into Traditional Chinese for Hong Kong residents:



A contributor shares words in different dialects from the Philippines

An extension of the Greenbacks Project is included in a London curatorial exhibition, 13th May-22 May 2016

Performance #2: Washington, DC, Summer 2016

Money Shot

500 USD$1s purchased from Chungking Mansions and various Hong Kong HSBC branches for the project

[It is illegal to carve RMB in China, and USD in the US, though many artists have done so.]