The Greatest Stories Ever Told: 14 Books in 14 Languages

Folio is a section bridging the printed page with unexpected media, hosted by a different artist or curator in each issue. In this issue, multidisciplinary artist Ho Tam creates a complete 14 language collection of books created with international banknotes.


I’ve always been interested in international banknotes. About eight years ago, I started making collages with images taken from a variety of bills, intending to make a story out of them. I soon realized that each of the collages begged for some explanation, so I began to write stories for each of them, in the style of fables, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes. Since these are money tales — and money is always a matter of power — the stories are meant to examine and question inequality and dig into the unbalanced power structure that we live, work, and pay into every day.

After making and publishing the original book of 22 vignettes in English, I had many friends offering help to translate the collection into other languages. As a result, the “same” book was made over and over again, producing a new interpretation and a new form with each version. My process was very organic, and I did not try to make any particular association for the aesthetic or format. Each version took a form that I had been wanting to experiment with. Very often, this was where pleasant surprises happened.

Up to now, there are 14 different language versions in the collection — Arabic, Catalan, Chinese, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese.

The banknotes I used come from all over the world. The translated books return them to the places from whence they came.

Ho Tam was born in Hong Kong, educated in Canada and the US, and worked in advertising companies and community psychiatric facilities before turning to art. He practices in multiple disciplines including photography, video, painting, and print media.,