The Fivespot

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The Fivespot, formerly at (I regret letting that domain expire) was an experiment in culturejamming, in my passive style. It involved printing and dropping fivespots, an edited image that, when folded, appears to be a lost five-dollar bill. The back is supposed to be used for subversive, funny, or profound messages. A stranger will pick up the paper, thinking it money, find the message, and react somehow. It was created in 2001, but wasn't moved when servers were upgraded in 2004 and disppeared at that time. My current opinion is that, while an interesting concept, it doesn't really do a whole lot: there is neither purpose nor validation of success, so there's not much reason to participate.

The fivespot.

The following sections are from the original website:

what is the Fivespot Project?

The general public has ideas of how their world works. There begins to be a regularity. Everything becomes a fact, a facet of the same complex jewel. People wander around within the box of their lives, taking the regularity for granted, not worrying about changes or variance within their lives.

This is a dangerous state of mind. Once people forget the randomness & complexity of the world around them, nothing new is accomplished and creativity is destroyed.

Culture jamming is a recent practice, taking cues from propaganda, marketing, advertising, absurdist art, performance art, and the need for eclecticism in the world. Culture jammers act to force recognition in the people who have forgotten about the excitment of the real world. It can be done many ways, in subtle ways or very obvious ways. Forcing the world to react, any reaction, any emotion, there is a shock to the system which reverberates through society. If enough effort is put into opening people's eyes to what happens within their world, a new relization of reality is created.

I came up with the Fivespot Project as a quick, little idea. Take the natural greed of people, and turn it against themselves. The promise of free money is something humanity rarely avoids. The sight of cash outside of a person's posession automatically means that it is fair game. The Finder of a Fivespot reaches down, makes the Fivespot their own, but then realizes that they were decieved: their new posession is not money, but is, in fact, a hidden message. The hidden message is not something expected, like a coupon or an advertisment for a auto-repair shop. It is a statement, or a question. It may be a poem, it may be an accusation, or it may be pornographic. In any case, there is an instantaneous reaction within the Finder.

The Finder begins with elation - Free money! Elation turns into confusion. Once the Finder realizes that it is not hard cash, they are struggling to find meaning. If they are deep into the rut of reality-for-granted, they will be ready to accept any new definition for what they have found. The statement inside the Fivespot is taken as the reason for why the Fivespot is there, but unfortunately the reason that they find is absurd. Some people are ready to accept that they were tricked, but cannot find a reason for being tricked. Others may recognise the Fivespot as an attempt to confuse, and eventually becomes a participant in the Fivespot Project. Reaction is the purpose of the Fivespot Project. The public needs to react to the things around them, but all too often ignore things which do not automatically fit into their perception of the world.

No matter what happens, something is put into motion. The ultimate hope is that the people leaving Fivespots will force the general public to doubt the sanity of the world they live in. The universe is an insane place. Ignoring that fact will never accomplish anything. Creation is the ultimate accomplishment. Living life in a creative, perceptive manner is the only proper way to live.

how to participate

First: Read the rest of the site, read the Important Rule, and then you can download the Fivespot image.

Next: Print out the Fivespot. The image itself is 8" wide, with the 6" bill in the center. This is done so it can be printed by most graphics software. If you print it out, portrait, and set it to "fit to page", it should come out fine. I've tested it with Wang/Kodak Imaging (which came with most Windows 95 installations, and I believe it's standard on Windows 98). If not, use whatever your favorite graphics program that you're comfortable with. Even try loading it in your webbrowser of choice and try printing it fron there. There are so many ways to print out a graphic, I can't explain them all here. If you're not sure, print it and get out a ruler - as long as it's close to 6 inches, give or take, it should be fine. if it's too big or two small, it won't be convincing. Try it out a couple times until you get it right. Once you got it printed out, cut the white away, around the outside of the image. Print out a whole bunch -- you're going to need to do more than one.

Next: Write some interesting, confusing, abusive, funny, offensive, or otherwise strange statement on the back. Check out the examples page for more ideas. If you quote some other source, try to cite it. Full paranthetical references & footnotes would be great!

Next: Fold the bill in two, trying to line up the crease on the dividing line between the two halves of the image, so that the 'front' image is on one side, and the 'back' image is on the other, and you can't see the internal text from the outside. Crumple it a little bit, make it look forgotten, accidentally dropped, abandoned.

Finally: Find a good place to leave it. It should be left someplace where a stranger will eventually find it, but you should not get caught abandoning what appears to be money - someone may try to be helpful and return it to you, or recognize you as the guy who left the strange counterfeit $5 bill there. You can be present when it's found, as long as nobody knows you're the source of it. If you work the night shift at Denny's, entertain yourself by watching niteowls finding the Fivespots. Beyond that, use your imagination. Leave it in a good book when you return it to the library. Mix it in with the tip at a restaurant. Leave it in an ATM. Drop it in the elevator as you get off. You'd be surprised how many strange places to leave a Fivespot.

Remember: The purpose of the Fivespot Project is to make people question the sanity of the world they live in. The stranger the handwritten text, the stranger the place it's found, the more likely the Finder will not disregard it and throw it away.

Finding a Fivespot should leave an indelible mark on the Finder's mind. Take the effort to make sure that your work is not ignored and tossed in the trash. It'll happen, but if you are creative with your Fivespots, it will succeed far more times than it fails.


Yes, I know that a bunch of idiots are going to participate so that they can write "Bill picks his nose", and watch their friend Bill laugh when he sees it. If you're this kind of person, then you are worse off than the general public, because you can't come up with your own ideas. There are plenty of ways to spread humor, so don't waste your time here reading all this just so you can abuse an open project for your immature purposes.

Although, if you were to decide to use this to try and act humorous, there IS a drawback. If you become known as "the funny guy with the fake $5 bills", eventually someone around you is going to find this site as well. People aren't going to think it's funny when those same fake $5 start showing up with phrases like "I fuck babies and grandmothers" written inside, like they are supposed to if you follow the instructions of The Fivespot Project. In order to avoid this, you need to follow the directions.

In case you've missed everything else on this website. remember this: the contents that you put inside the Fivespot need to cause the Finder to question their world. This isn't propoganda; you're not trying to get a specific point across. "Vote for Nader" is not appropriate. "School sucks" may be appropriate, if you're not in any form of school. "Ralph Nader thinks school sucks" is appropriate. "Vote for Ralph Nader High School" is also appropriate. "Nader votes for hating school", "Ralph Nader eats school lunches", "A vote for Nader is a vote for sucky schools", "Schools Kiss Nader's butt," I could go on, and I don't give a fuck about Ralph Nader! Got it yet? Once you cross that "aha!" threshhold, then it gets fun to think things up.

First, where are you at? Who is around you? What's going on? If you're disenchanted enough to consider participating in The Fivespot Project, then there must be something going on which everyone else accepts as truth, but you question it. Target that. It could be something big like politics, or something as small as street construction. A blank, unused billboard here once had the phrase "ENJOY WORK ROBOTS!" spraypainted across it, right where daily commuters could see it. That's culturejamming.

Considering the type of person who will find the Fivespot is very important. In some areas, profanity & pornography will only alienate the Finder, forcing them to ignore the Fivespot. Where I live, for instance, the people around me are conservative, they are older, they are religious, and they don't appreciate the humor in the word "fuck". Therefore, I must direct my comments at that: I must choose something to force them to question their safe, Republican lives, without causing them to immediately throw away the Fivespot and attribute it to some vulgar psychopath. In some places, vulgarity plays well. That is up to you. You won't be successful without dropping many Fivespots, so vary your attitude.

Piss people off, make then feel bad: "You make me sick, you ugly fuck" Or, make them feel good, but for reasons they don't know why: "you are beautiful today". Or, make them wonder whether they've been insulted or complimented: "you remind me of that one car, you know". Or, both insult and compliment: "you are the sexiest fuckhead that ever smelled like shit". Think to yourself: If I were a perfect stranger, finding this on the street, what would make me wonder why it was there? "What are you looking at?" Maybe put the effort into writing a love letter on the back, or a breakup note.

It doesn't have to be personally directed at the finder. How about you? "I KNOW ALL!" Maybe explain what you're feeling right now: "I am hungry, and a little gassy, but mostly hungry.". Mix both yourself and the Finder: "I wish you'd leave me alone, you bastard." Throw in some absurdity: "you make me wish I had wings instead of these eyes." Throw in some pornography with the absurdity: "Last time I fucked your parents, they wished I brought you with." Or, the ultimate statement to make the Finder wonder about the Fivespot's purpose: "I love you."

See: none of it is very hard.

I wrote all this in one sitting. Coming up with sentences that force the Finder to react, against their will, is simple. What you write should not be readily accepted by the Finder. It should induce a reaction, and they should not know why their reaction is justified. This is a stupid forgotten piece of paper - it shouldn't affect a person who is on their toes, who are able to accept strangeness in their world. Once in a while, that kind of person will find a Fivespot, disregard it, and throw it away. Your task, and a participant in the Project, is to make it difficult for the Finder to put it aside.

IMPORTANT RULE: NEVER MAKE A THREATENING STATEMENT INSIDE A FIVESPOT. Making the Finder fear personal harm is not a proper reaction - everyone fears injury, regardless of who they are. Bomb threats are not allowed. Threats directed at a specific person are not allowed. Hurtful bigotry is not allowed. People already know that they are hated by others for their personal choices. Use the Fivespot to counteract that societal norm. You do not have permission to use the Fivespot image if you cannot follow this rule.

No, this isn't a stupid rule ruining your fun. It gives participants a better challenge. Like I say above, we all know that society already has conditions of hate and pain integrated within it. The purpose of the Fivespot Project is to force people to reconsider their understanding of the world: Rather than making a statement like "god hates fags", say "JESUS LOVES HOMOSEXUALS". Instead of saying "whitey must die", say "White people play damn good lacrosse!" The blank back of a Fivespot is there to make a statement which opposes societal norms. Fracturing the norms like hatred, pain, and bigotry, through random acts of absurdity, then it is all for the better. Offend people, but for the right reasons!

The Fivespot faq

Why? I'll toss in a phrase here: culture jamming. Culture jammers even seem to disagree about defining the term, which is an act of culture jamming in itself. What it comes down to is forcing people to question the reality around them. This usually involves a trick, in this case, the promise of free cash left in a conspicuous place. The note left inside the folded Fivespot is the culture jamming itself. Not only do you not expect to find a fake $5 bill, but inside is a special note, just for you. Your reaction to the note is what I've attempted to accomplish: to force regular people to think hard about what has happened to them, tell stories to their friends, maybe even attempt a Fivespot dissemination on their own.

Where'd you get the idea? I first read about this during the Gulf War, and saw a very convincing sample of what counterintelligence used. Psyops print up very convincing versions of local currency of enemies, and on the back they write instructions on how to surrender to the US. The currency-side is used to give the Finder incentive to pick it up, and to help conceal the existence of the surrender instructions (so the enemy soldiers can carry it around without worrying about being found out as a defector before getting the chance to surrender).

Secondly, around a year ago I was given a dollar bill in change. This unique bill had this written in the margin: "This Dallar Belongs to god!" (sic) I still have this 'dallar' -- the impact of finding a strange little message prevented me from parting with it. I mean, heck, it's one of God's dollars! Over the years, I've seen lots of stuff written on money, and I always equated it with the psyops use of writing-plus-money.

This concept has been tumbling around in my mind for some time now, and finally fell into place when contemplating this project.

How do I participate? Go to the Instructions page.

Have you really dropped Fivespots? Sure have! It takes practice to act with ninja-like stealthiness, and get over the nervousness of soing something subversive. Eventually, you realize it's not subversive, and nobody's watching you.

Why are there so few Finder responses? Not everyone has internet access, and not everyone will take the time to find the URL, go to the site, AND leave a comment. Please, PLEASE, please don't go leave your own comments. Leave that pristine so we can see real Finder's thoughts. It'll take time before there's enough public saturation to make the Finders noticeable. That's where you can help! There won't be a cause/effect relation until after we've spreaded enough causes around.

Isn't this counterfeiting? Nope. The Fivespot is not intended to fraudulently replace any American currency. If you pass this to a cashier, and they accept it, then you could be guilty of counterfeiting, but nobody should consider the Fivespot as currency. It's half of the back of a bill, half of the front, and nothing on the reverse except for a handwritten sentence. There is not a complete bill here, and it's been altered to as to appear differently than the actual currency.

What do you get out of all this? The satisfaction of messing with people's minds.

What can I write inside? Anything you want, the more confusing, the better. Doesn't matter, as long as it's not this: NO hateful or threatening statements (no bomb threats, no racism). Basically, nothing outright illegal. Read the 'Important Rule' for use of the Fivespot Image. There's a good reason for the Rule - go read it. On top of that, I still retain the rights to the fivespot collage, so if you can't follow that one rule, then you can't use the image anymore.

Why a $5 bill? I would have used a $10 or $20, but I didn't have any on me. Maybe I'll add them in the future, for a little variety. The purpose is to fool people into picking it up, thinking they've found some money. Greed is the key to getting this project to work. If there are any Canadians, Brits, Germans, etc., who want to contribute local currency, let me know.