Back-to-basics money shot shows a cent’s battle scars – New Scientist

The euro has taken a bit of a battering of late – and not just in the financial markets. As you can see for yourself above, the surface of a 1-cent coin, while smooth to the naked eye, is pitted and scarred when viewed through a powerful microscope.


To create this image, artist Martin John Callanan, a fellow at University College London based in the Slade Centre for Electronic Media in Fine Art, worked with Ken Mingard, Petra Mildeova and Eric Bennett at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory in London. The team used an optical microscope to create images of the lowest-denomination coins used in Australia, Burma, Swaziland and Chile, as well as the transnational euro. They took standard coins that had been in circulation and left the microscope to make 4000 tiny exposures overnight. It then took three days of processing to stitch these images together to create each final, 400-million-pixel version. The zoomable picture above is a low-resolution version.


The coin images are part of an ongoing series called The Fundamental Units in which Callanan explores “the atoms that shape the global economy”. Ultimately, the series will encompass all 166 of the world’s active currencies that use coins. The first five are on display as 1.2-by-1.2-metre prints, along with more of Callanan’s works, at the Galleria Horrach Moyà in Mallorca, Spain, until 17 January 2013.

Physics & Math, Picture of the Day, Science In Society

Sumit Paul-Choudhury, editor, 16:05 4 December 2012

Transaccions: de l’acció a l’objecte

Horrach Moya, Palma, Spain


Horrach Moya

According to elementary economic theory, specialization allows for the efficient use of economic resources. As slightly more advanced theory handbooks point out however, it also increases the costs of conducting transactions. Should you decide to buy an artwork (e.g. at this exhibition), in addition to the price tag, you would have to consider the effort of finding accurate information, traveling to the gallery and negotiating with the dealer, as well as the costs of transporting, hanging and storing it. All these expenses beyond the works’ nominal value are known as transaction costs and may be important when assessing a transaction. Most economic theories, however, surprisingly consider them negligible, and in order to simplify their analyses, assume they are zero.

Beyond such examples, transaction costs certainly play an important role in today’s hyper-specialized economy. Hardly measurable –in some cases, deliberately ignored or concealed- they nevertheless affect the millions of economic exchanges taking place every second and can create a considerable lapse between the economists’ representation of the world and our experience. Featuring works that deal with daily exchange processes or delve into the transactional dynamics of today’s global economy, this exhibition examines precisely such assumptions and flawed hypotheses, as well as the inherent limitations of the capitalist economic model. But rather than simply challenging economists’ fallacies, it explores the political and poetical possibilities of this gap.

Co-opting institutional structures and exploiting loopholes in regulation, the artists featured in the exhibition reveal the absurd economic logic governing everyday operations as well as the ethical and legal boundaries of today’s neo-liberal model. Aware of the difficulties of escaping it, the artists presented in this exhibition adopt them as their own natural habitat and political battleground. Such is the case of Liz Magic Laser’s Chase and Daniel Seiple & Kunst Re-publik’s Landreform Carousel, who turn symbols of affluence and commerce into unlikely theaters and circus attractions, or Katarina Sevic’s Social Motions, which uses codified forms of social interaction to re-establish the significance of a human presence in today’s dehumanized corporate structures. In what seems to edge on the grotesque, Santiago Sierra and Nedko Solakov repeatedly stage simple transactions to expose capitalism’s underside.

Engaging different networks of bureacracy, artists like Martin John Callanan or Julien Previeux, use the semi-automated processes habitual in government and corporate bureaucracy to produce their works. While others, like Nemanja Cvijanovic or Detext subvert the expectations of cultural bureaucrats to reveal these systems’ shortsighted logic and to question the role of institutional structures in the production and distribution of art. The free market’s alleged efficiency and uncontrollable appetite is echoed in Caleb Larsen’s non-descript, networked black cube, a sculpture that permanently tries (and often manages) to sell itself on EBay.
Concerned with less conventional systems of communication and transportation, Nikola Uzunovski pillages an archive of letters sent to Santa Claus to conduct a statistical study of the children’s wishes and map the influence of consumerism on them, while David Brooks and Aníbal López (A-153167) follow the routes of illegal smuggling to examine the legal and ethical boundaries of global trade.

Review by Pau Wealder: