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NOTHING (but work and possible memories)

February 23, 2012 - Posted in art Posted by:

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The time has come to bring to fruition the various more conceptual art projects I have stored in my imagination in the last couple of years, having been too busy with commissioned work. They will be completed in the order of deadlines (if they can submitted for something) or in the growing order of time necessary to complete them.

This first project, THE SELLING OF NOTHING, is something I have been thinking about every since I started giving lectures on green/sustainable design (at the architecture/urban design firm I used to work at, Jerde, and in the last three years as invited by Otis College of Art and Design).

Basically, since the advent of the industrial revolution, we have been producing goods at faster and faster rates. In the industrialized nations, we have, for at least several decades, reached the point of overproduction. Many of the items we make are unnecessary for survival and basic happiness and simply pollute our vision and space. Though each item might be beautiful, useful or interesting in its own way, piled together they create CLUTTER.

CAPITALISM AND SHOPPING ARE SEEN AS THE CULPRITS TO THIS PROBLEM. Many environmentalists and concerned citizens have advocated that people stop buying things, such as the “BUY NOTHING DAY” campaign. Aside from its dependence on availability of affordable items, shopping is really the direct result of a true democracy.

DEMOCRACY MEANS SHOPPING. You are allowed to do whatever you want with the money you yourself earned. I lived in a communist country as a child, and remember it as a totalitarian dictatorship, with the government acting as the evil monarch. That is what happens when you give one body total control. You were not allowed to own property or things of value (such as art). You were not allowed to drive your car on particular days to save the country fuel. You were not allowed to buy milk unless you had a newborn baby. You were only allowed to buy a certain amount of sugar and flour per month. You were not allowed to buy a good quality pair of shoes because it was intended for export. You were not allowed to go into stores open only to foreigners, which sold foreign brand cigarettes, chocolate, liquor and gum. Yes, Wrigley’s Doublemint was off limits, as was Nutella and original gummi bears… The result of these handcuffs placed on millions and millions of people… poverty.

SHOPPING MAKES MONEY MOVE. As I learned in my UMass Boston summer macroeconomics course, and as is evidenced by history, money needs to circulate in order for the economy to survive, prosper, exist at all. Reducing shopping, means cutting into the economic cycle.

So this project, which may look like a parody, is really the only solution I could think of whereby the economic cycle was kept moving by employing people for work, consumers had the ability to buy and receive something, in this case NOTHING other than potential memories, and the environment wasn’t polluted with more CLUTTER. In a way, it’s a call to transition to more service based rather than object based work, and to embrace temporality. In terms of art, it could refer to projects which are more performance based or disintegrate with time, such as “Street Art” or any art done outdoors that isn’t cared for, or art that is intentionally built to disintegrate, as in this outdoor park in Denmark called Krakamarken. Though these examples don’t completely respond to the personal desire to spend money on something for the self.


This here below are the images from and THE PROJECT SALE LISTING IN MY ETSY SHOP:

This listing is for NOTHING packaged in a reused cardboard box.
An address label printed from the USPS site will avoid adding any handmade/artistic value to the box itself.
Box dimensions: 6.5″ x 10″ x 4.5″. Weight: 6 oz.

Just as (the passing of) time makes possible the very existence of our lives, money needs to constantly circulate in order for the economy to exist. And people need to work.

To avoid further polluting the environment*, and your personal space, with more unnecessary stuff, NOTHING has been put up for sale.

The shipping container for NOTHING has been assembled along the Los Angeles shore of the Pacific Ocean, and carried through with as average as possible skill so that no artistic value has been added by way of packing. This open environment/romantic setting was chosen to allow possible positive memories to filter their way into the work. You could thus say that the box is a shipping container for its own memories, probably the most valuable possessions any of us have.

Although you will be buying NOTHING, work has been/will be involved in the packaging and shipping which translates into a financial exchange: selecting the box, riding the bike to the ocean, assembling the package, riding the bike back from the ocean, + an estimated bike ride to the post office. This amounts to 2 hours of work. The hourly rate for an artist has been set in California by the minimum wage of $8/hour. To this have been added the cost of the paper tape, which is new, and the Etsy shop fees. Water and time spent buying the tape, photographing the process and posting this listing have been waived for the price would have otherwise doubled-tripled-quadrupled…

The international shipping cost is an estimate based on longest distance I have guessed. If it costs less I will refund the money.

While great care has been taken to avoid including SOMETHING with NOTHING, as with other Beach Art projects, some environmental elements may have made their way to the inside of the box (air, water, and/or sand molecules). This is an unavoidable result to working in this type of outdoor setting. If discovered, they should not be considered to contain any material value.

*The work put in did not pollute the environment as it was done outdoors, without the use of high-tech machinery (a bike, scissors and a brush). The box is sent via the US Postal System, which functions with or without this shipment (the carrier comes to your house/office to deliver mail everyday). Could this work simply as an internet exchange without actually shipping something? No. This is not the “BUY NOTHING” campaign. This is the literal buying of NOTHING, the real substituting of SOMETHING with NOTHING. It’s fun to make a purchase, it’s fun to receive a package, and people need employment making things, even if those things are NOTHINGS. You can, however, in turn, reuse the container NOTHING comes in to sell and ship your own NOTHING memories.