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Over the next month I’m delighted to be involved in Traversing Borders.
A project and online events programme culminating in a non monetary art auction, where you will be able to make any kind of offer you can think of in exchange for an artwork by myself or one of the other participating artists.
The programme of Traversing Borders sets out to challenge perceptions and ideas about how art is consumed and commodified in a capitalist art market and aims to design a space where other ways of valuing art can be explored.
We hope to explore wether replacing financial transactions with human interaction and exchange can lead to more fulfilling and ultimately higher value transactions.
The project is organised and curated by two London based collectives, Yami-Ichi (‘Black Market’ in Japanese) & Exotero and will feature three UK based artists alongside myself.
WHAT IS YAMI-ICHI
Yami-Ichi is an international art project, which has so far produced four non monetary art auctions in Tokyo & London and Holland.
The goal of the events is to encourage young and emerging artists to re-evaluate the perception and value of their work and aim to connect them with potential clients or future collaborators.
Past events have seen artists form long lasting collaborations or relationships with the buyers of their work and have also seen artists exchanging work for opportunities or experiences hugely beneficial to their practise and careers, which would not have been possible otherwise or if they had simply sold their work for cash.
WHAT IS EXOTERO?
Exotero is a new creators’ collective which aims to support and connect artists and audiences by offering accessible and communal projects which encourage dialogue and collaboration through meaningful experiences.
WHO ELSE IS TAKING PART?
Exotero and Yami-Ichi have curated a line up of four artists, including myself, whose work will be available in the auction.
A Glasgow based sculptor and artist creating work based around duality and paradox using motifs and symbols.
A performance artist based in London creating performative interventions in public and reimagining what is possible on and in the land around him.
Painter and artist based in London taking inspiration from human experiences. Currently making paintings based on images taken at protests in Israel.
WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN?
There will be a series of online events from the participating artists including a group performance over zoom, a studio tour from Shani as well as a panel discussion and more.
The final event of the programme will be the online non monetary auction. Participants will have the opportunity to bid offers to exchange for artwork from the four artists. There is no limit to what can be offered for the artwork and it is up to the participating artists to choose wether to accept any of the offers put forward.
THE UPCOMING PROgRAMME OF EVENTS
April 22, 18:00 – BEYOND THE PRICE TAG Webinar Panel Discussion
April 24, 13:00 – Studio Tour with Shani Haquin
April 24, 17:30pm – Work Mud, Play Bingo with Rebecca Tucker
April 24, 19:00 – What We Do At Parties with Henry Blackwell
Digital content by artist Mernywernz
FINALE May 8: Non-Monetary Art Auction [tickets coming soon]
SO WHAT ARE MERNY’S THOUGHTS ABOUT NON MONETARY ART EXCHANGE?
If you are short on time and can’t be bothered to read my thoughts on non Monetary Art Exchange the simple answer is that I like it!
I have the feeling that art sits above money and profit in terms of sacredness. Pure human expression existed long before we invented money and creation is something that humans appear to be compelled to do.
Things get weird when money and art intertwine.
Pricing artwork is very tricky and my own work is lightyears away from selling in Christie’s for tens of millions. How do you decide what something should cost? Should it depend on size, time, materials or even who’s buying it. The value depends on the person seeking to buy it. There’s no wrong or right answer and I suppose that over the years I have begun to have a feel for what I want when someone asks about buying a piece of work from me. I’ve been interested in alternative forms of economy for a number of years.
I read Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein several years ago and was inspired by ideas in that book about gift economies and barter. I realise now that ideas on these themes have permeated my practise in subtle ways and influenced my way of life over the years.
I’ve informally experimented with gift exchange, having swapped murals or paintings for food, places to stay, and other things whilst travelling in Mexico, living in a camper van in Portugal and living in Berlin.
Here is a handful of notable swaps I’ve made in the past. In 2016 I swapped a mural for a weeks stay at a diving center in Mexico. I got to learn scuba diving and hang out in one of the most amazing places i’ve ever been to.
I painted a bike shop with BILLY in Berlin and got to use a room in the back of the shop as a studio for a month along with unlimited pale ale.
I painted a store with Billy on the west coast of Mexico in exchange for a bucket and a packet of menthol cigarettes.
I painted walls in the UK and Germany , hoping that the building owner will like the painting so much that they will feel compelled to give me something in return and often came away empty handed.
I painted a shutter for a man who owned a shop in Berlin who made me buy a bottle of Coca Cola off him whilst I was working painting his shop for free.
Sometimes these experiences can be extremely rewarding for example in Oaxaca, Mexico when BILLY and I painted on a tyre shop wall and ended up having food and drinks with the guys who worked there and their friends. We all got one so well we ended up being invited to paint one of their houses the next day.
Sometimes they can be disappointing and leave you feeling undervalued and insulted. One owner asked me how much i would be paying him to paint his wall.
It’s important not to get offended or take things personally. it’s just hard to understand why some people would say no to the offer of a painting for free. Especially when their wall is in need of a spruce up.
I have also disseminated artwork, posters, stickers and booklets on the street, through letterboxes and to strangers in the past. All in the spirit of observing how people react to these things and inviting the universe to make connections and cause something unexpected to happen. Sometimes this happens and sometimes nothing happens. It’s luck of the draw.
I remember seeing the Osaka Tigers baseball team logo in a restaurant near my house in Berlin. I painted it on a piece found wood from the street and left it outside the restaurant one morning. A few weeks later I walked past and saw they had hung the picture on the wall in side.
I’m excited to be taking part in the forthcoming programme of Traversing Borders and I hope to develop my own and the participants ideas around transactions, exchange and more over the coming weeks.
27th APRIL TRAVERSING BORDERS UPDATE
I’m back again with some updates on how the project has been going over the last two weeks. BUT FIRST!
Would you swap a paperclip for a house? Kyle Macdonald did and you can find out how in this video. . .
Kyle’s story is a testament to what can happen when you start tihnking outside the framework of money and start inviting the universe to make connections. Now back to Traversing Borders. . .
After a lot of deliberation I managed to come to a decision about which artworks I will be offering in the non monetary auction on May 8th. My two pieces “Tips For Nice Life Part no.1” and “Friendly Priest” will be up for grabs. The audience at the auction and also people online will be invited to submit offers in exchange for those artworks. It will be up to me and the other artists to weigh up the offers and decide wether to accept, negotiate or decline.
As well as deciding which pieces to exhibit in the auction Yami-Ichi and Exotero asked each artist to come up with some imaginary offers which we would like to receive. I chose the following. . .
- A stay on a boat or another interesting location to get inspired by.
- Help getting my work into shops, gallery or reach a wider audience.
- Opportunities to paint a large wall or produce further projects .
- Sponsorship for materials
- An unusual experience or activity
Some examples of exciting offers thought up by the other artists taking part in the project include requests for studio space, exhibition opportunities, help with photography, a rail pass, collaboration opportunities, help with social media or press and more. You can read all of the requests on the Exotero Website.
In the beginning I found it difficult thinking of offers which I would like to receive. Because I didn’t really know what I wanted or what would make sense. I imagine it won’t be easy for the initial bidders to come up with ideas either. We’re certainly not used to thinking outside of money or in swapping terms and it takes more mental work to weigh up proportionate offers or requests. It can feel as though your ideas are weird. But, much like creating art you can’t do it wrong. Maybe someone’s offer won’t be successful but a bidder in the traversing borders auction can never really know what the artist might be prepared to exchange for. So, it must be worth a try. Once the ice is broken and the ideas start to flow things start to get interesting and I hope in the real exhibition we will get some crazy offers being made.
During the last two weeks we had a series of online events as part of the Traversing Borders program. Starting with a panel discussion / conversation between Gatekeeper Zine, Groock’s Gallery and New Grooves Gallery. Three creative projects engaged in exploring new ways of valuing, democratising and interacting with art. You will be able to watch that back online soon. I will add the link.
Then on Saturday 24th of April we had three events starting with Shani’s studio tour, which you can watch back on Instagram. It was great to get an insight into how she makes her work, see her studio and watch her mixing colours and painting.
Later on in the day Becky did a presentation on Zoom about her pottery throwing methods and invited everybody watching to play a game of bingo using the symbols which are important in her work. Again it was great to learn more about how she works and the meaning behind her work.
Finally Henry gathered everyone back on Zoom to tell them the thought process that goes into his performance pieces and managed to coordinate everybody into a piece of collaborative performance art, in which a a party was choreographed and recorded live on zoom to a musical backdrop. I felt awkward at first, but then had a great time playing my part in the multi screen choreography and i’m looking forward to seeing the result.
The next event on the calendar is the Traversing Borders Finale! The non monetary auction where you will have the chance to bid anything you can think of for a chance to get your hands on the selected artworks. I will update here with more information on the process as the auction draws nearer. In the meantime you can find out up to date info on the Exotero and Yami-Ichi websites and socials.
There are also some intersting conversations and posts below on the theme of swapping.
Buying Art Without Money
In Conversation with Sachiko from Yami-Ichi
Stories of successful swaps from past auctions
Traversing borders is finished and I’m pleased to say that I swapped one painting for a week’s stay at the new owner’s house in Italy and I swapped another painting for two weeks of accomadation in London at the other owner’s house. The auction was a big success and all of the artists involved ended up swapping something for their work. Time will tell how enriching the experiences turn out to be in the end. :D I had a great time being part of Traversing Borders and my thanks go out to Exotero & Yami-Ichi. I look forward to fulfilling my swaps soon.
Also a big thanks to FAD Mag and Moogz for posting about the upcoming event. You can read the article here . . .
If you have any thoughts about this project or you would like to tell me about interesting swaps you’ve done in the past I would love to hear them. Send me an email on