THE SOCIETY FOR THE PRESERVATION OF OUR ATM MACHINE HERITAGE
“The Society for the Preservation of Our ATM Machine Heritage” is a moveable piece that calls attention to a variety of behaviors that capitalism has acclimated us to. It consists of a janky, graffitied ATM shelter (of the type commonly encountered on the sidewalks of New York City in the 1990’s) attached to a granny cart which enables it be transported and installed around the city. I, as an operator, perform the dual role of machine and spokesperson for the Society.
Commonly known as ATMs (believed to be an abbreviation for Automated Teller Machine), they are more properly referred to as ATM (Automated Teller Memorial) machines. These wonderful monuments not only serve to call attention to the constant flow of capital and the commodification of the means of daily survival, but also to honor the memory of the human interface between man and money—bank tellers who willingly sacrificed their lives to a robotic society and faith in the machine.
I would wheel the ATM to a location—a bank lobby after-hours, a park, an institutional hallway—where I would set up the ATM shelter, assume my place within it and entice passers-buyers to withdraw money and make a donation to the Society. When people would withdraw their money, they would be given a receipt for their transaction that also explained the purpose of our Society.
Participants, when confronted by the piece, reacted to the performance in a variety of ways. On one hand, there was the not totally unexpected skepticism and lack of trust involved in giving their credit card to a stranger in exchange for money—though I feel I was more accountable than a random machine outside a bodega. On the other hand, there were people who accepted the Society and its mission as just the latest project of a non-profit corporation.