Bend, OR USA
Title: Untitled (Retail Pricing)
For the show Seeds of Capitalism, PoetHouse Art, May 4-May 28.
Description: Create a “theater set” consisting of a 3-D line drawing which houses the wall text “By entering the space defined by this drawing, and for the period you remain there, you will be charged for the air you breathe. The rate of exchange is to be mutually agreed upon by the viewer and the attendant prior to entry.” Text color: black; constructed in Blue Highway font. The drawing will be constructed using black tape that nearly matches the thickness of the letters. Dimensions of the block of wall text: 24 in high X 82 in wide. Dimensions of line drawing: variable, but must be larger than the block of text and must include at least one inside corner between two walls so as to allow the drawing to translate a space or volume in three dimensions.
Offer the viewer the unique opportunity of getting to stand inside of a drawing. Then engage in conversation about the price they are willing to pay to enter the drawing and why they chose that amount. Bring the conversation to the fact that the fee is for breathing the air, which is much more important to one's health, not for entering the drawing. In negotiating the price, offer to barter for items they have or are wearing. The rate of exchange per minute could be negotiated as being at a progressively higher rate every minute as the importance of oxygen goes up the longer you are without it.
Notes from the opening night:
- I was referred to as a "Fascist capitalist" by a serious-looking middle-aged gentleman.
- A woman shared that she had lost her job and her field of work to capitalist practices so she didn't have much good to say about capitalism.
- "It makes you think about something we take for granted" was what another viewer shared.
- Most viewers who engaged in conversation tried to come up with something creative to offer in trade for the air in the space. This was probably, in part, due to the fact that they did not have much on them to give up, but also due to the illogic of the scenario. They wanted to play along, but were caught between the huge value that air has for survival and the hilarity of me trying to charge for air in an open space connected to the rest of the room.
- One gentleman stepped into the space before he finished reading, or comprehending the text. As what he had just read registered in his brain I turned from my conversation with another visitor and told him I would have to charge him for the air. He immediately emptied his pockets, spilling change and a $1 on the floor as he tried to step out of the space and collect his money at the same time! We settled on a dollar and his sincere, heartfelt apology!
-"What is the going rate?" was asked a lot. My response was that "I had been offered lots of different things from cash, to goods, to services, some of which had been accepted and some of which had not." And that they should make an offer based on what they thought the air was worth.
- A number of guys, and one girl, offered me a hug as payment to enter the space. I questioned the value of the hug for me as I was already getting lots of great social interaction. I received various responses to this comment; none were able to convince me that a hug was worth the air. However, these conversations did bring up the interesting question of how people perceive giving and receiving physical acts of affection in our culture, as well as how much people value meaningful physical contact. Are we starved for such meaningful contact? Social grooming is an activity that primates spend as much as 25% of their day consumed with. It is theorized that language was developed to replace the need for social grooming as a way to develop and maintain alliances in a troop or tribe; however, we still need physical touch. Human babies who do not receive enough touch will suffer from development issues; or in the extreme will die!
- "We buy water already" was a statement that came up a number of times.
- A grandmother thanked me profusely for doing such work. As she said "it is up to people of my generation, and of her grand-kids' generation to do something about protecting the environment."
- A young man presented me with an autographed guitar pick from Los Lonely Boys. He said the bass player gave it to him after the concert they played at the Les Schwab Amphitheater last summer. He said that he too plays the bass, so it was a very meaningful experience, and a very precious object to him. I remarked that I could see why it was valuable to him, but that as I am not a guitar player, and not much of a music person, that it really had very little value to me. He asked what would be of value to me that he could do for me as he had nothing else to offer. To this I said that if he was to recount his experience to five different strangers on the street, plus give me the guitar pick that I would allow him five seconds in the space, and we shook on it!! I later had a couple tell me that a man on the street looked at them very seriously as he told them about his experience bartering for air and trading away his Los Lonely Boys guitar pick!
More notes from the project at: http://artcriticalthinking.blogspot.com/2012/05/normal-0-false-false-false-en-us-x-none.html