My mother told me never to talk about money. Sara Juli's clearly did not. Next week, the New York performance artist will be London's Chelsea Theatre with The Money Conversation, her show in which she not only discusses cold, hard, cash with strangers, but gives it to them, too. The run is part of Chelsea's Sacred: US Radical season, which sees the venue hooking up with Brooklyn's PS122 space after 2009's successful collaboration with brut in Vienna.
Juli first noticed her strange relationship to the green stuff while planning her wedding, four years ago. "Every time my boyfriend and I spoke about our financial goals or how we were going to combine our finances, I broke out in sweats," she says. "I was in my late twenties getting hot flushes!" So she did what any self-respecting Brooklyn-ite would do: cashed in her entire life savings of $5,000 and decided to make a dance about her worries.
The resulting live-art experiment sees her questioning her audience's attitudes to money as much as her own. Over the course of an hour, Juli gives away every last dollar of the $5,000, leaving it up to us whether to return it or not. "I wanted to find out what it would mean if people took away my safety net. And I realised that while I'd be quite broke, I'd still wake up the next day as an artist," she says.
What started out as a personal show became more political as Juli toured it round the world in the wake of the recession: "A white woman from New York City performing with all this cash!" But she insists she did not create the show with that hook in mind, nor did she expect it to make her name. "By risking everything I had, I got everything I ever wanted," she marvels. "A career and livelihood as a performance artist. For me, the risk paid off."
'The Money Conversation', Chelsea Theatre, London SW10 (www.chelsea theatre.org.uk) 16 and 17 November