Brad Troemel’s Coin Collection

Brad Troemel, 2 Authentic / 9 Counterfeit AOCS Live Free or Die .999 Copper pieces, 2014. Courtesy of Future Gallery, Berlin

The Edward’s Copy is the latest solo show by young American artist, writer and academic Brad Troemel. Exhibiting at Berlin’s Future Gallery, Edward’s Copy is a personalised and politicised exploration into numismatics – the study and collection of currency.

Troemel’s interest in collecting currency began from an early age. Collecting American coins with his Grandfather, he was drawn to the mechanical mistakes and production traces left behind by minting machines. This early curiosity lead to research into the history of coins and to experimentation with his own production processes, which resulted in the artist creating his own counterfeits.

Replica American coins produced prior to 1792 are readily available for purchase by coin collectors from antique fairs. These are often stamped with COPY to distinguish them from the genuine thing. To mimic years of wear, Troemel would scuff, scrap and chemically wash these copies, obliterating the markings and creating a counterfeit coin. Posing as a naïve beneficiary, fortuitously endowed to a Mobsters Estate, he would sell the counterfeits on eBay, targeting unsuspecting collectors and boring dads.

Walking into Future Gallery you are struck by a sea of American pennies almost floating on the brown wooden floor. Somewhere in this ocean lie a handful of Chinese fakes, purchased online from a collector. You are left wondering if these are actually legitimate or not, given Troemel’s own contribution to currency folklore. The repetition of pennies means they are indistinguishable from one another. Lining the walls are framed collections of various contemporary and historic alternatives to the American fiat (money issued by the Federal Reserve). There is the marijuana leafed American Open Currency Standard (AOCS), a common standard for the many and numerous community currencies developing across America. And the Confederacy dollar, created in an attempt to establish economic independence from the Union during the American Civil War. Time based community currencies, crypto-currencies and an assortment of alternative stores of value make up the remainder of the objects. Interspersed among these various bills and coins are both legitimates and fakes, which to the untrained eye appear indistinguishable from one another. Unless you are spending them, coins can be boring, but it is what they represent that is significant and it is this symbolism which Troemel is referencing.

The currencies are complemented by vacuum sealed copies of Gerald Raunig’s book, ‘Factories of Knowledge Industries of Creativity’, with the inclusion of several skeleton keys. This Semiotext(e) publication explores the potential for political activism within the academic and creative spheres – a reaction to the domination imposed by cognitive capitalism. The vacuum sealed books are a smart piece which contextualises the show politically while creating an art object from art criticism, thus inverting criticism in on itself. 

This is a decidedly reflective show for an artist who is responsible for Athletic Aesthetics, a phrase describing the hyper productivity of an Internet connected artist. The work is in further contrast to Troemel’s online pieces which are often fun and playful. Edward’s Copy is informed by a political consciousness, one that is unique to the American experience of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the love of money. 

Review by Tomasz Kobialka 

Brad Troemel
The Edwards Copy, 1796 – 2014
February 1 – 28, 2014

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