|Purves, Ted, ed. What we want is free. SUNY Press: New York, 2005, pp. Ix, 61, 166, 171, 179-80.|
This book has it's roots in a series of artists' projects and talks that were held in early 2002 at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts under the title Generosity Projects, Strategies for Exchange in Recent Art. This series of programs was undertaken with a spirit of investigation. As the twentieth century drew to a closeand one looked at the trajectories of contemporary art that had been intesifying in the final decade it seemed necessary to ask a simple question: Why were artists beginning to give things away? When one looked around it became clear that somehting was "in the air." Within the established gallery and museum circuits one could see works by artists such as Felix Gonzales-Torres's scuptures of piled candy which could be taken away and consumed by the audience or read reports of Ben Kinmont's "street actions" wherein he approached strangers on the street and asked to help them with their housework.
Free is an alternative economy accessible and a means to empowerment. From waffles to clothes, I have given in order to find out what it would feel like and to see. After all, what would happen if an economy other than the professional capitalism of the art world were pursued? T fade together and become.
After twelve years of these projects, I now wonder about this point of disappearance. Most of my friends whith whom I discussed ideas of interaction, value, and generosity have followed their art practice out of the area of art. Social workers, yogis, and hermits they have become, which in a sense is quite beautiful. I am reminded again of the idea that art bout life is not so important for what it does for art but for wat it does for life. But perhaps this was already happening. Perhaps this is simply to acknoleges a space in between where exchanges is a reciprocal act of shaping a given.
The last decade has seen an increase in artworks that use generous exchange systems as the primary medium for social sculptures. Artists such as Felix Gonzales-Torres, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Ben Kinmont provide excellent examples of theis medium in action — questioning the role of the artwork in the context of the art economy, and the role of each participant in that economy, including those typically left on the margins. Their works have brought these questions into the rarified atmosphere of the high-art world and its holy inner sanctum, the gallery. Historically, Joseph Beuys's concept of social sculpture wsa an example of the broadened definition of art that encompasses — among other things — varioussocial activities, exchanges, and relationships. This "new" type of art looks at social reality as a dynamic flux, a moving network of rules/morals and social grouping/alliances that changes and responds to itself. The art in question draws vieers into a focused space to experience this reality, to question/change it, and to integrate it into their understanding of self-in-context to the larger social reality.
A further challenge to the market value of the art piece can be found in Ben Kinmont's work. Besides challenging market value by giving awy his paintings in his dealer's gallery in his work: For You For Me For Painting, Kinmont also poses "use-value" against "exchange-value" in works such as Forse (Perhaps) or Ich werde Ihr schmutziges Geschirr waschen (I'll Wash Your Dirty Dishes). In these pieces, Kinmont agreed to do house work or wash dirty dishes of strangers he met on the streetin exchange for the stranger agreeing to be a part of his social sculpture (or "third sculpture," as Kinmont terms it). To the stranger, having someone else do her or his housework is more valuable than the expense of being part of an artwork (e.g., the risk of inviting a potential "weirdo" into ones home, or enduring a conversation about art); to Kinmont, however, creating a "third sculpture" is a bargain at the mere expense of doing an hour or two of housework. By playing off opposing concepts of worth, Kinmont creates an exchange that conceivably invokes the win-win fantasies of postmodern negotiating strategy, and more importantly, opens the door to uncondition hopitality: equals meeting and exchanging.