While processing submissions for our annual Postcards From The Edge benefit we came across an American dollar bill with the phrase ‘I AM HIV + ‘stamped over George Washington’s head. We posted it to Facebook and by the next day numerous people had liked it and we found out the artist who created it was New York based David Greg Harth, who goes by Harth.

According to his website, the stamped dollar is part of an ongoing project Harth started in 1998 when he stamped the words ‘I AM AMERICA’ onto a dollar bill and then put it back in circulation. Since then he has stamped other currency and used other phrases such as ‘I AM NOT CHUCH’, ‘I AM STATE’, and ‘I AM HIV –‘. Wanting to learn more about the project, we asked Harth a few questions.

Visual AIDS: We were really excited to receive the stamped dollar. When did you first stamp a dollar with the phrase ‘I AM HIV +’? What made you do it?

HARTH: I first stamped this message on currency in December 2005. (Officially it was released December 1, 2005). As you've said, I've done various messages on currency. That year, it just hit me, to do something to create more awareness that AIDS still exists and its a big problem, and in a way, forgotten. I feel like it was a more of a concern and more in the media in the 80s and 90s. I wanted to create a dialogue and make people think when they got these bills stamped with these messages. In a certain way, currency is spent and traded like the disease. You also never know who has it. In addition, people still don't understand how HIV is transmitted. So when someone would get a bill with "I AM HIV +" they may assume that the person spending is actually HIV +. People often automatically assume that the message on the bill is a direct translation to the person spending the bill. The very important thing is, that when this bill is spent, people see the message and the awareness is there.

Visual AIDS: What made you include both "I AM HIV+" and "I AM HIV-"?

HARTH: Partly because, well, some people are positive and some people are negative, but more importantly its how people are classified. I like spending the bills together as a pair. I think it makes people think even more about AIDS and a greater conversation can be had.

Visual AIDS: A defining aspect of your practice is the ongoing duration of the projects. Can you share with us why ongoing is important to you?

HARTH: In general I hate putting time limits on projects. I like letting projects grow. In time they could be come richer with meaning and their meaning can be better determined, developed, transformed, and matured. The concept of time is something we all experience and there is no escape from the inevitable, death. I think works that transcend time without the existence of the artist may become even stronger works of art. In a lot of my durational works, the process of the artwork is equally as important as the final work itself. Of course I'm also addicted to collecting things for artworks. Be it signatures in a Bible, used women's tooth brushes, wishbones, or photo booth strips. The more time you have, the greater your collection.

Visual AIDS: One of your ongoing projects is ‘Every Person I Know And Every Person I Don’t Know’, finds you getting your photo taken with another person in a photo booth. It is such a sweet act. I wonder if you have a story about one of the photo sessions you want to share?

HARTH: There isn't just one story. But many. What I love about the project is that it gives me the opportunity to meet people I would have never met otherwise. And quite often, when I meet someone for a portrait a conversation is had. The entire experience has been extraordinary. I will tell you that I made a special trip to Philadelphia this past summer to take a portrait with a person who had the same first and last name as I do.

Thank you Harth. To learn more about Harth's work check out his site: davidgregharth.com

images: "I AM HIV+" dollar bill, stamp; "David Greg Harth" Patrick McMullan.