Best known as co-founder of crowd-sourced conceptual art Tumblr The Jogging, as well as one of the weirdest Etsy stores around, artist Brad Troemel‘s The Edward Copy, 1796-2014 exhibition at Berlin’s Future Gallery is all about coins. A focus on counterfeit currencies and their ongoing relationship with US history connects this show to his recent series based on infamous “black market eBay” site Silk Road by bringing bitcoin into physical space.
A three-page press release, published alongside the exhibition on the Future Gallery website, introduces the reader to the world of coin-collecting, derived from Troemel’s own experiences and observations as both buyer of rare and historic coins and as a seller of counterfeit ones. He’d put coins into chemical baths and drive over them to make them look “old and lived”, then sell them on eBay with a fake history. Those make-believe blurbs resemble the descriptions of his older works on Etsy, where he’d present sculptures made from mass-produced and cheap objects as “irrefutably rare” or “immeasurably valuable”.
In Future Gallery, however, it’s a mix of original and counterfeit bills and coins, neatly organized and hanging in white frames on the walls of the gallery; trolley straps splitting the room into several irregular spaces, forcing the viewer to arrange their path around the exhibition. Attached to those strings are four copies of art theorist Gerald Raunig’s Factories of Knowledge, Industries of Creativity, presented as Troemel’s own on Etsy, and vacuum-packed with four keys each, one original bump key (used for lock-picking and potentially bought from Silk Road) and three coloured copies. US pennies cover the floor and are mingled with ten Chinese counterfeits that are impossible to discern.
During an artist talk held that same weekend, Troemel discussed his Tumblr side with The Jogging, the “accidental audience” it reaches and how Internet accessibility means extending its interactions beyond the art world. Not only that, but Troemel expounded on his observations on the reactions of these new viewers when stumbling upon posts from The Jogging, which they often have a hard time situating.
Such investigations can be interesting in relation to exhibitions like this one, where “non artistic” objects are exhibited and aimed at “art audiences”. They go hand-in-hand with Raunig’s recent book on the industrialisation of knowledge and creativity that Troemel included as a part of The Edward Copy, 1796-2014. They both confound ideas of value and originality, compare counterfeits to originals and ask, ‘What’s the difference anyway?’ **