Shaun Slifer

photo by Amy Garbark

Fauna: an Anthropocene Penny Press
(w/ Stuart O. Anderson and various illustrators)
interactive custom-built penny-smashing machine
2014 - present (original concept 2008)

Fauna is an all-ages interactive mechanical sculpture that engages the public about extinction and wildlife adaptation in the Anthropocene. The work uses the human desire to identify with wild animals to present questions about how extinction alters our experience of nature, how adaptation drives our ecological future, and how an animal’s symbolic and cultural value can determine its survival.

Fauna is entirely hand-operated. Participants insert a US penny and turn a large wheel, smashing the penny and embossing unique illustrations on both sides: one side depicts animals on the verge of extinction and, on the other side, the paw prints of animals currently adapting to urban environments. The person turning the wheel chooses the animals they will pair up on their penny, which they take home with them.

Influenced by roadside souvenir penny press machines, Fauna is the first such machine created by an artist. I’ve been developing and fabricating the machine for the last four years in direct conversation with robotics engineer Stuart Anderson, and the original, interpretive animal illustrations for the pennies were created by myself and eight other printmaker/activists.

Fauna will tour the country, exhibiting for several months at venues such as natural history museums and zoos. The machine will thrive in site-specific installations that I will curate in collaboration with museum curatorial staff, using the institution’s collection of artifacts - taxidermy, tools, etc - to create an experience unique to each city and bioregion. Critically, this project gives the participant a memento to keep: a unique embossed penny which they created that will become a long term reminder of how our actions affect the environment and animals around us.

Individual pennies from early, small editions can be purchased here.

Artists who have participated by providing illustrations: Josh MacPhee (Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle), Katie Kaplan (Caribbean Monk Seal), Bec Young (Red Wolf), Mazatl (Jaguar), Mary Tremonte (Eastern Cougar), Ally Reeves (Passenger Pigeon), Pete Railand (Eastern Elk), Roger Peet (Great Auk), and myself (Mexican Grizzly Bear).