Ain’t no $20 bills on this Cambridge sidewalk…not any more…

An art installation made up of £1,000 worth of penny coins left in a disused fountain disappeared in just over one day.

The 100,000 pennies were placed in the fountain at Quayside in Cambridge at 08:00 BST on Saturday and were due to be left for 48 hours.

All of the coins were gone by 09:00 BST on Sunday, but the In Your Way project is not treating it as theft.

Artistic director Daniel Pitt said it was “a provocative outcome”.

The work, which used money from an Arts Council England lottery grant, was one of five pieces staged across the city over the weekend.

Cambridge-based artist Anna Brownsted said her fountain piece “was an invitation to respond, a provocation”.

Here is the full story, via Adam, S. Kazan.

Comments

Shame it wasn't euro cents instead of pennies - that would have been an amusing provocation, since it seems as if come March 29, 2019, the euro will suffer eurogeddon.

Cute, Prior, but such coins would not be simply changeable to Sterling. They might indeed have been left in the fountain for longer!

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And as a note, the Germans have an expression to cover what happened - 'Gelegenheit macht Diebe' ('opportunity makes thieves' is close enough as a translation).

It is always so funny to hear German society referred to as being 'high trust' - no German would be surprised, at all, by all that pence disappearing as quickly as possible. Though many Germans would also be busy calling the police to report what was going on.

Nobody ever leaves doors or bicycles unlocked here, for example, regardless of how small the town is. As a matter of fact, the vast majority of German house doors are not possible to leave unlocked - go outside your house and have the door close behind you, the basic options are to have a key available or hope someone else is still inside.

"As a matter of fact, the vast majority of German house doors are not possible to leave unlocked"

That seems odd from an American point of view. Different cultures.

It's rather interesting to see many doors in Germany with "dumb knobs"; they don't turn and don't operate the door. You need the key in order to do that.

I know one dumb knob in Germany that posts here often.

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Can I borrow your time machine? Yeah, 1517.

That's Hadith 2517, it's a citation not a year.

Thanks. Wow, at least 2517 of them. I better get started.

Yep. American fashion door knobs are basically unknown here, and the idea that you can have a front door that closes without being locked is difficult to explain, especially with the normal options an American door knob can offer (like needing to lock it from the outside, so you can never be locked out of your house, or how the lock is automatically opened by opening the door, again so you do not need to be worry about being locked out). Though it is possible to make a distinction between closed and locked in German, when talking about a front door, the distinction is basically between locked and better locked - that is, the key is turned in the lock so as to basically drive a bolt. That bolt is integrated in the normal lock, and is not separate.

The really funny thing is that a German I know just spent six months in SC, and one of her comments was how one the one hand, Americans seem obsessed with home security, while on the other hand the doors are incredibly flimsy - and don't lock as a default. Just like the lack of door knobs in Germany struck me 3 decades ago, the ease of going through an American front door struck her.

Germany is not a high trust society, by the sort of reasonable measures that I would apply to a place like Canada.

You're high trust compared to most places in the world.

Trust me.

Not compared to Canada, or much of the America I grew up in. Or compared to other European countries like France, Switzerland, or the Netherlands, which seem to be quite similar to Germany in this regard.

Big cities are the same pretty much everywhere, transcending national boundaries in terms of trust.

Your Eurocentrism is showing again. Forgetting about the other 6 Billion again...

Agree about cities; though that could well be an ethnic diversity effect and social trust dominating the density-stress effect. Monocultural high trust cities like Salt Lake City and Wellington are still nice places to live compared to equivalent sized "diverse" cities.

"German house doors are not possible to leave unlocked...the basic options are to have a key available or hope someone else is still inside."

Germans don't have doormats to hide a spare key under? How about a fake rock [https://www.amazon.com/Ram-Pro-Hide-Spare-Key-Fake-Rock/dp/B018RH0TYE]?

Doh, now I have to find a new hiding place...

I think the 'key available' part covered the idea of a hidden key outside.

However, as many Germans do not live in single family homes, the idea of leaving a key under a doormat would be viewed as stupid.

"Money from lotto grant used for giveaway"

+100 LOLs

Also, if Art + Theft = Provocative Outcome then does Taxation + Art = Theft? I don't know I didn't major in math.

What’s worse, that someone would fund this or that some lowlife thief would steal it?

"...that every experiment you undertake in life will be at your own expense. Mark it. Well." - John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester.

(That someone would fund this...obviously)

Context is everything. From the photos, it the fountain clearly does look abandoned, and the coins were not scattered around the fountain, they were put in a pile. It was a pretty clear invitation, although the pennies must've weighed a lot -- so either a whole group of street people each grabbed a knapsackful, or some guy with a vehicle and some large bags or boxes came and scooped them up?

Throwing coins in a fountain is a popular activity in a lot of places, every once in awhile someone will steal coins from some fountain or wishing well but it's a rare enough event to be a news event when it happens in the US, a man-bites-dog story.

But someone grabbing coins from a pile that's just sitting there, like a man picking up a $20 bill from the sidewalk and keeping it, is a dog-bites-man story. (Obviously the intentional placing of the coins and the art project context make this incident unusual.)

Remember on Halloween when some houses put a bowl of candy out with 'take one'. Never saw one that wasn't empty.

TINSTAAFL

According to Google, an English penny weighs 3.56g

So, I suppose one person couldn't scoop them all up at once on impulse, but a small crew with a few implements should be able to Hoover them up pretty quickly.

I've always had trouble understanding this concept that one can be "induced" to commit a crime. I know there are laws against this but I still don't understand. What is the idea here? That whoever commits a crime did so without any outside influence? That is just dumb. Or that people are so gullible that if one tries hard enough, anyone would commit a crime? (also stupid in my opinion for the same reason)

What do you mean by "stupid"? People are gullible enough that yeah, under enough pressure (from authority or simply outside events), anyone would commit a crime. That a rather well-known fact. Do you think that it is so easily understandable, that this "art project" is too easy and really just a waste of money?

One more proof of the falsehood of the suggestion that transaction costs make pennies worthless.

A penny is worthless. Just like a grain of salt, 100g of steel or 100ml of oil isn't worth anything.

In bulk, however...

The fountain was on Quayside. Saturday night arrived. I'd imagine that lots of jolly drinkers were chucking them into the river, giggling the while.

Was Florence a provocation for looting?

Perhaps the artist should repeat the experience with his own money and we can see when provocation becomes theft.

Or better yet have him try to spend 48 hours on a bench with large sums of money, his own, and demonstrate provocation.

In defense of those who took the coins they might have assumed that coins in a fountain are abandoned property. In Germany they might just be good citizens trying to keep the thing clean

Btw to clarify my point, it’s sort of a model for how bureaucrats treat the value of public funds they are entrusted with

Of course you're fraud. Of course what people see is never you.

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It was a helicopter drop dressed up as art.

I like it.

"The work...used money from an Arts Council England lottery grant....Had any money been left over at the end of the project, it would have been given to a local homeless charity."

Wonderful artistic demonstration of Milton Friedman's teachings about the four ways to spend money. Government spending is an example of the least efficient type: spending someone else's money (taxpayers' money) for the benefit of yet some third party (the homeless). 0 for 100,000 ain't bad....

A few years ago, I was walking down the high street in Farnham, UK, when I noticed a pile of mixed coins placed in the middle of the pavement, surrounded by a chalk outline and the message "please do not touch". There was about £3-5 worth of coins, I reckon.

With my economist's hat on, I surmised this was some kind of social science experiment. Pausing to look around, I indeed saw a camera crew in the first floor window across the street.

I smiled, leaned down, and added £1 of my own money to the pile of coins.

I figured it should screw up their plot of the data royally.

It's obvious that the artists 'stole' the coins themselves. They have the means to move that many coins, and the motive -- gaining notoriety for their 'provocative statement' as well as the filthy lucre.

This hypothesis also neatly explains why the artists are so keen to avoid a police investigation.

Artist Michael Sailstorfer has done something similar, burying £10k of gold bars on the beach of Folkestone, UK.
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/aug/28/gold-sand-folkestone-beach-artist-michael-sailstorfer

That was art!

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