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Why this artist needs your fingerprints

December 8th, 2015

By Jon Davies, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art

Micah Lexier (born Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, 1960), A work of art in the form of a quantity of coins equal to the number of months of the statistical life expectancy of a child born January 6, 1995, 1995, metal, wood and enamel paint. Purchased with financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Assistance program, 1997, (97/5).

Toronto-based artist Micah Lexier’s practice draws on autobiography, portraiture and his close relationships, and he often translates this personal subject matter into acts of counting, mark-making and collecting. Intimate and emotional content therefore becomes a kind of information.

This work in the AGO collection uses 906 specially fabricated coins to tick down the statistical life expectancy of an imagined child born on January 6, 1995. Each coin is numbered, and one coin is transferred on the 6th of each month from one box to another until all the coins have been transferred, the orderly rows of the origin box giving way to the chaotic pile of the destination box. Lexier’s work traces the passage of time and, by requiring human contact every month, suggests that we cannot live our lives alone but must depend on the care and assistance of others.

Vitally, the coins are meant to be handled with hands — not gloves — so that each individual’s fingerprints mark a coin and become part of the work. Coins are a recurring form in Lexier’s work. They combine the intimate and the global as we carry them around on our person, but they are part of a system much bigger than any individual. Also, each coin begins life identical to the others, but as it travels from hand to hand they each age and wear differently, becoming distinct.

Join the coin transfer
A work of art in the form… is currently on view in the 5th floor exhibition Many things brought from one climate to another, a display of contemporary art from the AGO’s collection. The work acts as a rite of passage that AGO visitors can witness over the course of their own lives—and, from now until until July 6, 2070, members of the public are invited to participate in this monthly activation. If you are interested in transferring a coin, contact coins@ago.net.