Take a Penny
As things depart and leave us, something else is left behind, a memento, a memory, a trace and a relationship of both it’s absence and also what it’s presence had meant. In the case of the fast fading penny, relationships that are both personal and collectively shared come to mind; from the loafers that will no longer be adorned by them, to the drugstore candy that can no longer be bought with one, to the purposeful and helpful jars that used to be full of them until cashed in for a few crisp bills. Like one’s omniscient little pal, the penny served us in ways small and great, a relentless if progressively ignored member of our national currency family, cute and charming yet no one’s fool….it was always there for us, jangling in the bottom of our pockets, clogging up the fountains, cluttering up our cash registers, ever engaged in widely inventive modes of exchange. Take a penny leave a penny. But no more…We are on the cusp of a new age. Penniless.
This was the theme of our installation conceived for placement within the downtown Royal Bank Plaza property during Toronto’s Nuit Blanche 2013. Only the Canadian mint might provide a more fitting site for this memento mori, homage for, temporary monument to the penny. Building upon the notion that there is a deep relationship between the lowly penny and the world of high financial currency exchange, we metaphorically emulated this pillar of power at the same time as providing a space in which to reflectively visit this sweet, little copper button ‘thing’.
Ghost pennies (300 pounds of scotch mints hand-stamped with the image of a 2013 Canadian penny) spill across the marble top of a substantial antique candy -come-banking counter and overflowing penny jars abound, celebrating the spirit of the penny as well as the happy memory of penny candy that so many of us remember with such pleasure. Penny-mints to savour and enjoy, until like the real penny…. they melt and fade away.
At a table suggestive of an old-style banking hall, participants were invited to ‘take a penny’ and partake in the collective archival process by filling coin-roller sleeves with penny-mints thus keeping the memory alive for this communal little mitzvah, this impressive level of exchange, this very storied thing called the penny.
Royal Bank Plaza, Nuit Blanche, Toronto, 2013