The #exstrange exhibition catalog will be published in the spring of 2017. It will document the artworks-as-auctions presented during the exhibition and the exchanges that occurred between the artists/sellers and the bidders.
It will include essays by Renee Carmichael, Padma Chirumamilla, Mark Dery, Marialaura Ghidini, Rebekah Modrak, Gaia Tedone, and Rob Walker, that will reflect on the many disciplines intersecting within this project (Art, Consumer Culture, Information Technology, Law and Sociology)
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#exstrange expands on the idealism of such groups as New York Correspondence School and Fluxus by utilizing online commerce as a tool for interconnection, shared interests, social responsibility and exchange. The project builds upon interventionist art by providing a forum for artists to reinterpret the structures, conditions, and topics of eBay both as individuals and as a collective force. #exstrange attempts to exert a spirit of self-determination into the consumer cultural industry of eBay through the conscious rejection of conventional organization and practices of the art world in order to assert creative freedom, independent of market forces.
#exstrange uses eBay as a kind of testing ground for experimentation with ideas, consumer choice, and social interaction. By playing with the online dynamics of database categories, assigning monetary value to an item, and receiving ratings through user-feedback systems, #exstrange will work with ” the performative power of the language of business” (Bazzichelli and Cox, Disrupting Business: art and activism in times of financial crisis, 2013; Autonomedia, New York. DATA browser, no. 5, vol. 1). Neoliberal capitalism has long promoted “technology-mediated cool culture” (McGuigan, The Neoliberal Self, Culture Unbound, Volume 6, 2014: 223–240) that suggests that citizens have unrestrained choices and self-governance when, in reality, all choices are mediated through consumer culture. Our intention with this exhibition is to disrupt the illusions of capitalism by shifting the goal from the “purchase” to the “participation.”
Inspired by participatory democracy, making and hacking, and open-source models, #exstrange uses existing technology as a basis for the creation of new modes of artistic production. This curatorial project builds upon the pre-existing network of eBay (such as the communities formed through categories, the rating system for monitoring buyers/sellers, and the comments) to create opportunity for reflection, declaration, questioning, nonsense, analysis, and evocation, expanding the potential for participation.
According to Lawrence Lessig, contemporary research into intellectual property offers a vision of the world where enormous opportunities await those who view art as a resource to be shared openly rather than a commodity to be hoarded. In the fields of intellectual property, public domain, and culture sharing, the idea of ‘borrowing’ is relevant to our thinking about the use of platforms such as eBay, intended for one purpose involving exchange of money, but co-opted for artistic engagement. The goal of this project is to, in the words of Lawrence Liang, invest the commercial marketplace and the exchange of images with a “soul.”
#exstrange comes from the working title Exchange with Stranger, influenced by Georg Simmel’ s understanding of the “stranger,” a role characterized by nearness and remoteness, who enters into a community with the ability to perceive entrenched dynamics with new eyes. eBay offers the opportunity for artists, designers and curators to reach out to members of online communities clustered around object experiences.