penny monument

2016 Museum of Capitalism Competition Entry

Through a monumental act of preservation, this project proposes that all United States coin currency be removed from circulation, smelted and cast into solid rail, and laid in a straight line at ground level from the northeastern most point in the continental United States to the southwestern most point. This project further proposes that all parcels of land in the monument’s path be declared eminent domain by the Federal government, seized, and turned over to the Museum of Capitalism. Parcels seized in the process are to be clearly demarcated and maintained in in their current state by the museum in perpetuity as artifacts of capitalist land ideology.

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    Perhaps nothing in the history of capitalism has produced more violence and destruction than the processes surrounding resource extraction. Over and above the wars that have been waged, the stream of environmental catastrophes, and the fluctuating vitality of human laborers operates a cultural logic that views land, as well as what is below or above or occupying it, as an object of ownership. One of the great metaphors of capitalism is the mining, smelting, and minting of heavy metal ores into currency, the literal transformation of land into money. Every single penny embodies a physical agreement between individuals, their governing institutions, and the cultural logic of ownership. Whether or not that agreement and logic persist into the future, inflation and digital technology will gradually erode the production and use of coin currency in society, rendering this ubiquitous mass of copper, nickel, and zinc a peculiar artifact in the history of capitalism. It is the aim of the following project to speculate upon how such an artifact might be appropriated in service of historicizing land parcelization and ownership.