One of the most interesting-- and potentially frustrating-- parts of this exhibition is its exhibition "economy." People can take any piece at any time provided that they leave something behind of equal or greater value. Starting in 2006, I've been letting people take the art from my trash-based exhibitions, and their willingness, creativity, and generosity has lead to this current economy.
I've been having conversations with various people in the community about what might happen. Yesterday a man told me I ought to expect that if people left money, it would be five dollar bills and change. That surprised me. This is a community full of artisans-- at the Craft Connection, the local artisan craft store a few blocks away, a mug sells for at least $30. People know how much time, effort, and technical expertise goes into hand making a unique object-- surely more than $5. Perhaps I can only expect five dollars or change from him.
Another woman I spoke to, a fine artist (as opposed to a craft artisan) and a curator, wanted to know if things she left behind could then be taken by other people. There is no rule against that, so it is certainly possible. In theory and according to the rule of "equal to or greater than," if things are traded out more than once, the overall value can only increase or stay the same. But she and I both knew that if people consistently go after the best pieces and do not have "best pieces" to leave in exchange, the opposite might happen. Many years ago when I was a pre-teen, I was involved in a version of "equal to or greater than" with a youth group in Lac la Biche. We went door to door, starting with a dollar, and asked people to trade for something of equal or greater value. I remember one house in particular. We had something fantastic-- I don't remember what it was, but I remember what we got for it. The woman wanted the fantastic object so badly that she gave us the closest thing she had on hand: a brown macrame plant holder. We had a hard time trading that away.
On the other hand, in other exhibitions (like the Dawson City Trash Project), a moral economy developed where gallery visitors schooled each other and kept tabs on what appropriate taking behaviour ought to be. Only take one thing. Leave the best things for others to see. But that was also an economy where you could take anything you wanted at any time, period. At the time, I wasn't sure if people would take former garbage (they did. In spades). Here, since there is a market-like equivalency being determined, people might just do as they please, since they are technically paying for things.
We shall see. The opening is going to be a mad house. There were 41 people at the artist talk, and all of them seem to be coming to the opening to take/exchange art. At the end of the night, we'll see what remains behind.