Fauna

w/ Stuart O. Anderson + various illustrators
interactive custom-built penny-smashing machine + collaboratively-curated exhibition cases from museum collections

 

Debuting at Carnegie Natural History Museum in the Hall of North American Wildlife: February 2022

 

Fauna is an all-ages interactive mechanical sculpture that engages the public about extinction and wildlife adaptation in the Anthropocene through an elaborate, kinesthetic hand-operated “penny smasher.” Participants insert a US penny and turn a large wheel, easily pressing their penny with great force and, in the process, embossing unique illustrations on both sides. One side depicts animals that are critically endangered or extinct, and on the other side are the tracks and silhouettes of animals currently adapting to urban environments. 

 

Fauna is the first project involving a machine entirely custom fabricated by artists: I have been developing this project in several iterations since 2008 in collaboration with robotics engineer Stuart O. Anderson. The core Fauna machine is now in it’s third incarnation, and debuted at the Carnegie Natural History Museum in February of 2022.

 

While penny press machines are culturally associated with souvenir shops and roadside attractions, often positioned in gift shops and near museum exits, Fauna is integrated into the museum exhibition space as its natural “habitat.” Rather than exhibiting in art-focused venues, Fauna is at home in natural history museums, where visitors interact with the machine in exhibits co-created with museum curatorial and collections staff. These immersive exhibitions extrapolate on the themes and questions inherent in the pennies — extinction, adaptation, human relationships to animals — by showcasing the institution’s collection of specimens and artifacts to create an experience unique to each city and bioregion.

 

Above: details of Fauna machine at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, 2022. Photos by Amy Garbark.

 

The original, interpretive animal illustrations for the pennies were created by myself and eight other printmaker/activists: 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). Individual pennies from early, small editions pressed on the second Fauna machine can be purchased here.

 

Above: details of exhibition cases at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, 2022. Photos by Amy Garbark.

 

360 photo tour by Amy Garbark

Original Concept:

2008

First Machine:

2014

Second Machine:

2016-2020

Current Machine:

2021

Date

2021

Category

Sculpture & Installation