Transaction Attraction
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Transaction Attraction

Vladimir Kato’s Not In Service (actual photo, but screen contrast enhanced). Photo by Marc Lostracco/Torontoist.

Making an ATM withdrawal is a mundane task, and one that doesn’t differ much across the different banks or types of machines, but the Edward Day Gallery is aiming to shake up the experience by injecting a little art into every transaction.

Located in a nondescript alcove at Queen and Shaw streets, an independently owned ATM is surprising customers with unusual imagery as part of the Bank on Art project. Users making transactions are exposed to a rotating series of six images per day (forty in total) ranging from Vladimir Kato’s streetcar inferno to Evergon’s photo of a half-naked sailor sporting a grass skirt and a mermaid tattoo.

The ATM is tucked away in a nook at Queen and Shaw. Photo by Marc Lostracco/Torontoist.

Conceived by Edward Day Gallery co-director Kelly McCray, Bank on Art aims to showcase Canadian art to a momentarily captive audience using the dead space between button presses. For the first month, the curators have chosen to feature the fork of artists at the single ATM location (952 Queen Street West) who actually hail from West Queen West.
Though only one ATM is currently hosting the exhibit, the organizers say that the project is not restricted to this location, or even a particular bank or credit union. Because the machine in question is owned by Gilchrist Games and not a megabank, some of the imagery in rotation may be getting exposure where they otherwise might not. As such, users shouldn’t be surprised to see the odd caged woman or wayward penis while they wait for their twenties.
Bank on Art would like to see the program rolled out on a wider basis throughout the city, but West Queen West was the location chosen to launch the series because of its high concentration of artists, galleries, and creative activity.

Self-Portrait as Pesia Krongold, b. Poland 1860s, d. Poland 1930, by Rafael Goldchain (left), and WASP, by Doug Guildford.

We’re all for showcasing local talent, but there are elements of the program that aren’t so rosy. First of all, the artists aren’t getting paid, while Gilchrist Games charges an above-average $2.50 service fee for every transaction (on top of existing Interac fees). This is particularly unpalatable when featuring local artists who aren’t particularly wealthy and who could use a few bucks thrown their way.
The other problem is in the actual display of the artwork. Clearly, an ATM was never intended to present high-quality imagery, and the matte privacy screen is the most significant handicap. While it may look nice at night, the art is washed-out and virtually invisible in the bright daylight, especially with the animated, muddy reflections of street life surrounding the machine. Flashing on the screen for only a moment, there also isn’t much time granted to really get a good look at the art—especially when the ATM is in screensaver mode, which rotates the imagery with the usual introduction screen in five-second bursts.

In daylight, the imagery on the ATM screen is barely visible. Photo by Marc Lostracco/Torontoist.

Nevertheless, it’s a welcome idea, and the art chosen for display is charming, competent, and unexpected. The hyper-local aspect of it works very well, and we’d like to see a major partner get on board. We’re still a little uncomfortable with artists not getting paid for lending their work to an entity that dispenses cash, but perhaps the ATMs can be programmed to accept a voluntary donation alongside a transaction—money well spent.