#exstrange was a live exhibition project that used the online marketplace eBay as a site of curatorial operation, artistic production and cultural exchange; a project that operated within the geographical boundaries enabled by the commercial platform the curators, Marialaura Ghidini and Rebekah Modrak, appropriated—the various ‘national’ eBay sites.
The exhibition presented a series of artworks-as-auctions that artists and designers created for eBay by using the entire listing as material constituting the artwork—descriptive text, images, pricing, and categories. The categories (such as Business & Industry, Collectibles, Consumer Electronics, Health & Beauty, Real Estate, and Warranty Services) also became a tool to reach particular and diverse communities of interest beyond physical and socio-cultural barriers. Live for 7 days only, each auction was launched and maintained by its creator so that the interactions with the bidders (viewers) and their comments were incorporated in real time into the work on eBay. In this sense, an #exstrange artwork would not exist before being an auction and would only be complete within the context of eBay.
The curators created #exstrange to explore collective strategies of production and communication online; strategies that they thought would enable more personal and meaningful encounters between auctions and the passers-by of the e-marketplace, and between artists and audiences. At its core, #exstrange sought responses to the driving question: “What forms of encounters and types of relationships can take place in the realm of e-commerce beyond the seller-to- buyer transaction, the fundraiser-to-backer association, or the peer-to-peer swap?”
#exstrange began with the curators’ invitation to 21 artists to launch a 7-day artwork-as-auction on eBay. This was followed by a series of interventions by 11 guest curators based across the world who, in turn, invited three artists each according to their own interpretation of the project. Other participants joined along the way through the open call or by coming across the project. Connected by the tag #exstrange in the listing title, the works could be found in that vast archive of commodities online that is eBay, while this website aggregated them in real time on the home page and now functions as an archive. 102 artworks-as-auctions were created during #exstrange, and 91 artists, designers, collectives, researchers, and also students participated in the project.
#exstrange launched on the 15 January 2017, and ended on the 13 April 2017, with the last auction posted on the 8 April.
Marialaura Ghidini is a contemporary art curator and researcher. She was founder director of the web-based curatorial platform or-bits.com (2009-2015), and organised projects ranging from online and gallery exhibitions to site-specific interventions in public spaces, radio broadcasts and AiR programmes. With a background in the humanities and a practice-based Ph.D in Curating After New Media (CRUMB at the University of Sunderland, UK), her expertise lies in curatorial studies and contemporary art reflecting on the role of the technological. She is interested in exploring different forms of artistic and curatorial production and formats of display by working with contexts of engagement beyond the gallery and the museum.
Marialaura is faculty and course leader for the Bachelor in Creative Arts in Experimental Media Arts at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore, India. You find more abour her work on her website.
Rebekah Modrak is an artist and writer known for her contributions to art and critical design that interrogate the relationships between art, design, consumer culture, labor and identity. Her artwork Re Made Co. uses recreation to parody the rhetoric around designer tools, the appropriation of working class identities, and the revitalization of traditional male roles. The work has been noted in The New York Times, and reviewed by Core77, Design Observer, Consumption Markets & Culture and other publications. At the heart of Rebekah’s work is a concern with representation and visual culture. She’s explored these questions in written works, such as “Bougie Crap” (infinite mile, 2015), which analyzes the links between design, education, corporate culture and the appropriation of symbols of Detroit by luxury producers. Her book, Reframing Photography (Routledge, 2010), situates photographic practice within the broad context of contemporary art and art theory. She’s currently writing a chapter for The Routledge Companion to Criticality in Art, Architecture, and Design critiquing brand appropriation of images of “labor,” and describing creative actions that undermine this hollow rhetoric. Rebekah is Associate Professor in the inter-disciplinary Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan.
web and book design, #exstrange
Geoff is a marketing, communications, and design professional, who in 2012 cofounded the brand and interactive design studio, Friendly Design Co. Friendly operates with the understanding that design can do more than look good—it can do good too. Proper design should accomplish objectives, meet long-term organizational goals, and foster change. Geoff and his team achieve this by working side by side with passionate individuals, great organizations, and the communities they serve.
Geoff previously worked as the Assistant Dean of Marketing and Strategy for the American University Washington Semester Program. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan, and a Master of Business Administration from American University in Washington, DC. Geoff currently lives in Omaha, Nebraska with his wife and daughter, where he leads Friendly’s Midwest Office.
web and book design, #exstrange
Kelsi Franzino is a graphic designer and illustrator from the greater New York area. Educated at the University of Michigan’s Stamps School of Art and Design, she has worked in both freelance and full time positions developing brands, websites, and print media. As a designer, her work is at once thought provoking and functional. Kelsi is currently working on a graphic novel titled Space Girls about the dynamics of girl culture.
Location: Kingdom of Bahrain
Bio: Latifa Al Khalifa found her passion for Arab contemporary art as she was studying for her MA in Cultural and Creative Industries at King’s College, London. In 2013, in partnership with the renowned Edge of Arabia and the Ministry of Culture in Bahrain, she curated “In the Open”, the first Bahraini group exhibition to the Mayor of London Shubbak Festival. In 2016, she launched her company “Too Far Co.”, an art platform that focuses on promoting artists from the MENA region to the global art market, as well as offer a skill-based art education programmes based in Bahrain.
Artists: Aysha Al Moayyed (aka Asia Fuse) (London, UK); Nasser Alzayani (Abu Dhabi, UAE); Jenine Sharabi (Manama, Bahrain)
Behind the facade of skyscrapers and fast cars, the Arabian Gulf is home to a polycentric and complex group of societies. The inhabitants of the gulf covet their cultural identity so much, that they tend to stifle the publicizing of any imperfection. The gaze is stubbornly directed towards wealth, tradition and conservatism; principles that Gulf Arabs adorn as figurative badges of honour.
For this eBay intervention, three artists have been chosen to challenge this farcical and often myopic view of the Gulf States, by encapsulating moments that aren’t often shared. Nasser Alzayani contributes, a collection of found objects that recite the story of the Jais mountain in the United Arab Emirates, Jenine Sherabi satires Bahrain’s idle beaches in the form of illustrative postcards, whilst Aysha Al Moayyed critiques the credibility of journalism in Bahrain by deconstructing the coverage of a controversial news story that shook the Kingdom last year. Altogether, this collection of Other Things brings forth an alternative view of life in the Arab world.
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Bio: Bani Brusadin is a Barcelona-based researcher & free-lance curator interested in the intersections between contemporary art, networks, digital media, popular cultures, and politics. Together with Eva & Franco Mattes, he founded and curates The Influencers, a festival about unconventional art, guerrilla communication and radical entertainment, held since 2004 at the Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona. The 13th edition of The Influencers will take place in October 2017. In the past he has been involved in cultural production, curating and art and activist projects. Among the latter the Las Agencias and Yomango collectives (Barcelona, 2002-2007). Since 2008 he teaches about art, digital media cultures and social change. He is currently lecturer on network cultures, art and communication at the University of Barcelona, BAU School of Design, Elisava Design School and at Esdi’s Master in Digital Arts (Barcelona). He holds a PhD in Advanced Studies in Art Production from the University of Barcelona.
Artists: JODI (The Netherlands); Joana Moll (Spain); Huaquian Zhang (Spain/China)
Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Bio: Peter Dykhuis was born in London, Ontario, attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and worked in Toronto until 1991 before relocating to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he continues to live and practice. Dykhuis has exhibited in numerous artist-run centres and public galleries throughout Canada. Internationally, he has participated in group shows across the United States as well as in London and Vienna and has mounted solo exhibitions in Tokyo, Sydney and New York City. Parallel to this, Dykhuis developed a career as a gallery administrator, curator and critical writer. After moving to Halifax, Dykhuis worked at the Anna Leonowens Gallery at NSCAD University, becoming its Director in 1996. In August 2007, Dykhuis was appointed the Director/Curator of Dalhousie Art Gallery at Dalhousie University in Halifax where he is responsible for its operations and programming.
Artists: Natalie Boterman (Calgary, Alberta, Canada); Eryn Foster (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada); Angela Glanzmann (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)
Religious: In many Christian belief systems, transubstantiation represents the miraculous change by which, according to doctrine, the eucharistic elements at their consecration are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus, although their appearances remain the same as bread and wine.
Cultural: Transubstantiation is the metaphoric conversion of one substance into another. In the curatorial context of this exhibition, it explores how artists can work with various media to create structures that symbolically represent new ‘things’ — but from a material point-of-view, are constructed out of ephemeral and/or humble substances.
Natalie Boterman transforms relationships into funded projects. Eryn Foster gathers and grows captured local yeast cultures to transform them into small sculptural objects that can, alternatively, also be used in the making of bread. Angela Glanzmann brushes fingerprinting dust onto selected objects that, when exposed to black light, glowingly transforms them into new narrative ‘things’. As part of #exstrange, these three artists will consider how their engagements and enterprises are transubstantiated into potential cultural wealth when posted on eBay – and into economic capital at the magic moment when the deal is completed.
Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Bios: Fred Feinberg is Handleman Professor of Management and Professor of Statistics at the University of Michigan. His research deploys statistical models on large databases to help figure out what makes people tick. He did his undergraduate (math, philosophy) and graduate (Sloan School) education at MIT, and has been at UMich for the last 18 years. Outside his academic work, his interests include piano music (mainly Bach and Chopin), the writing of Emily Dickinson, and the art of his uncle-by-marriage, Youn Myeong-Ro.
Lu Zhang, an international student at the University of Michigan in business and statistics. Aside from data analysis, she likes to learn all kinds of new things from machine learning to history. She enjoys art and culture during her free time, especially creating art crafts. She has had an internship in Sotheby’s where she helped present and prepare two gallery exhibitions.
Curatorial Statement: We are hoping to participate in the creation of exhibitions for the project, to examine how people interact with ours and others, and (hopefully) to discuss experiences with both creators and bidders afterwards.
Location: Portland, Oregon, USA
Bio: Harrell Fletcher received his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and his MFA from the California College of the Arts. He studied organic farming at UCSC and went on to work on a variety of small Community Supported Agriculture farms, which impacted his work as an artist. Fletcher has produced a wide variety of socially engaged collaborative and interdisciplinary projects since the early 1990’s. His work has been shown at SF MoMA, the de Young Museum, the Berkeley Art Museum, the Wattis Institute, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in the San Francisco Bay Area; The Drawing Center, Socrates Sculpture Park, The Tate Modern, and the Royal College of Art in London. He was a participant in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, the 2007 Mercosul Biennial, the 2012 Shanghai Biennial, and the 2014 CAFAM Biennial. From 2002 to 2009 Fletcher co-produced Learning To Love You More, a participatory website with Miranda July. Since 2009 he has collaborated with Jens Hoffmann on The People’s Biennial, an ongoing exhibition project devoted to locating and presenting under-acknowledged art and artists from across the US. Fletcher is a Professor at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon, where he is the director of the MFA in Art and Social Practice, a program he founded in 2007.
Artists: Anupam Singh (India); Xi Jie Ng (Singapore); Anke Schuettler (Germany)
Curatorial Statement: I picked artists who I find interesting who are from three different countries that are not the US, Anupam is from India, Xi Jie is from Singapore, and Anke is from Germany. I’m not exactly sure how eBay works in those place, but I assume it is similar everywhere. I’m curious to see how they respond to the project opportunity.
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Bio: Tamara Ibarra is a visual artist who experiments with the management of roles circulating in the field of the arts (curation, research, and management), building platforms that bring visibility to artistic and collaborative strategies as well as those empowering the artists of her generation. She observes the arts community as a mirror that reflects the utopias of her time. From 2009–2011 Ibarra directed the independent space OVO. In 2014 she collaborated with fellow artists to found Boomerang, a forum for spaces and collectives from across the country and created the digital platform YEI, which brings together 521 self-managed artists from independent projects throughout Latin America. Ibarra has exhibited at the Museo de Arte Moderno, the Museo Nacional de la Estampa, in addition to galleries and independent spaces in Mexico, Canada, Germany and the Philippines. She has curated exhibitions at the Mexico’s Centro Nacional de las Artes and at the National Museum of the Philippines.
Artists: 10.000—Armando Rosales with Luis Romero (Mexico City, Mexico); Da Burn Gallery—Rodrigo Quiñones Reyes (Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico); LEXX Exhibitor Space—Fernanda Palomino with Marek Wolfryd (Cholula, Puebla, Mexico)
Location: London, UK
Bio: João Laia’s practice explores the embedded relations between philosophical thinking, social structures, technology and representation. Recent exhibitions include H Y P E R C O N N E C T E D (2016) at MMOMA – Moscow Museum of Modern Art, a strategic project of the V Moscow International Biennial of Young Art and Hybridize or Disappear (2015) at the National Museum of Contemporary Art – MNAC in Lisbon. Other projects were held at Videoex, Zürich, Parque Lage, Rio de Janeiro, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Xcèntric / CCCB, Barcelona, and Cell Project Space, DRAF – David Roberts Art Foundation, Delfina Foundation, South London Gallery and Whitechapel Gallery, all in London. He has published in frieze, Mousse, Spike Art Quarterly, Flash Art, Terremoto and Público.
/ Derivatives /
We have come full circle. The object has become an image which has become an object. The simulation now predates the original, adding value to but also creating the authentic. Algorithms stretch this logic further by reproducing variations of the object in order to supply its users with seemingly different and yet similar representations. Big data’s opaque predictions magically collapse time creating fluid contexts where the provisional form of the object as vessel comes together. From currency as a means to store value or facilitate exchange, the artwork has become a derivative hoping to handle the instability inherent to its flowing form, matter and content, a financial agent based on the currency of its documentation. The online auction is a privileged environment to track these tensions, a site where the copy immediately becomes real, material a process and value dependent on speculation about the future.
Artists: Joey Holder (Nottingham, UK); Nicolás Lamas (Brussels, Belgium); Sarah Schönfeld (Berlin, Germany)
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Bio: Nora O Murchú is a curator & designer, whose research examines the intersections between the fields of art, design, software studies, and politics. In particular she is concerned with exploring the influence of late capitalism on social, civic, and financial infrastructures. Her multidisciplinary practice embraces narratives, and fictions and results in objects, exhibitions, and interventions. Her research aims to help people understand how complex socio-technical systems are imagined, built & used. She has held positions as research associate for the Interaction Design Centre at the University of Limerick, & the Interaction Research Studio at Goldsmiths, and CRUMB at the University of Sunderland. During this period she has curated Run Computer, Run – a festival of new media art that explored emerging, and established contemporary, cultural, and critical issues that arise from artists intersections, and investigations with digital technology. She has curated exhibitions, & events for institutions including the Science Gallery, Rua Red, Resonate Festival in Belgrade, & White Box Gallery in New York. She is currently a lecturer at the University of Limerick in Ireland.
Artists: Isabella Streffen (London, UK); Maeve O Neill (London, UK); Laura Yuile (London and Glasgow, UK); Breda Lynch (Limerick, Ireland)
Browse. Click. Preview. Bid. Pay. Rate. These are the terms of engagement and interaction for eBay — a platform where capital, desire and identity converge. The technological infrastructure of eBay facilitates an exchange of commodity between buyer and seller whose relations are subject to terms of service and community guidelines. These commercial transactions encourage individual responses and relations, and emerge from a fabric of social interaction and reciprocal obligation. However, eBay abdicates the care and management of these relations to its users, and does not intervene when trust gives way to risk. When fraud and misrepresentation presents itself on the platform, eBay only ensures the commercial transaction, and withdraws from all and any non-monetary set of social relations. It refutes its role in the labour of human contact and interaction, and instead of providing users with tools for action, appeals only to the transgressors morality, affect and emotions.
It is at this juncture that #wishingyouwell intervenes. To be present and available for the creation and maintenance of intricate connections that connect us and the worlds we inhabit. Here we seek to uncover new relationships that go beyond the platform’s capacities of exchange. Instead we play with critical social and ethical concepts and make explicit our intended acts of care. Here we reimagine and reassess this infrastructure to collect new guidelines and terms of service for communities built on care.
Location: Brescia, Italy
Bio: Domenico Quaranta is a contemporary art critic and curator. His work focuses on the impact of current means of production and dissemination on art. He is the author of Beyond New Media Art (2013) and AFK (2016); the curator of Collect the WWWorld (2011 – 2012) and Cyphoria (2016); and the Artistic Director of the Link Art Center. He lives in Italy and works everywhere else. More info: http://domenicoquaranta.com
Artists: Elisa Giardina Papa (Los Angeles, California, US/Milan, Italy); Kamilia Kard (Milan, Italy); Guido Segni (Lucca, Italy); Carlo Zanni (Milan, Italy)
Location: London, UK
Bio: Gaia Tedone is a PhD Candidate at the Centre for the Study of the Networked Image, London South Bank University and an independent curator with an expansive interest in photography and in the technologies and apparatuses of image formation. Amongst her recent projects: Dispositifs d’occasion, Comédie de la Passerelle project, Paris (2016); Twixt Two Worlds, Whitechapel Gallery, London & Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne (2014-15); Shifting Gazes, Guest Projects, London (2013).
Artists: Niko Princen (Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Berlin, Germany); Eva and Franco Mattes (New York, NY, USA); Garrett Lynch (Plymouth, UK)
eBay is a self-contained universe, with its own distinctive community, soundtrack, operational protocols and even a language. Not surprisingly, its search algorithm is named after a 17th Century Astronomer, Giovanni Domenico Cassini. Countless images make up this universe. Preferably shot against a white background, saved in jpeg format and with a minimum length of 500 pixels, a good image is a key asset in a universe governed by the ratio of visibility. Regardless of the items they depict and the services they promote, images function as the interfaces between the user and the search engine, buyers and sellers, the virtual world and the physical one. Their lifespan is proportionate to the engagement they engender. Within this visually rich universe populated by data and meta-data how planet art and planet curating are orbiting is the conundrum emerging from this #exstrange invitation. Are artistic endeavors to be seen as fraudulent schemes in the galaxy of eBay happy transactions? Can conceptual supremacy win over the power of Cassini’s search algorithm and temporarily suspend the equation between images and commodities? Are users ready to take up the economic risk of a full cycle of artistic production or is art on eBay bound to remain VHTF?
Location: Berlin, Germany and Hong Kong, China
Bio: TSAO Yidi is a Hong Kong-based curator and writer, occasionally a performance artist. She is passionate about the intersection of the arts, technology, society and future. Yidi studied Comparative Literature at Hong Kong Baptist University and received a Master of Arts in Creative Media (Curating Art and Media) from School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong. Her recent projects includes ISEA2016 Artist Residency Programme and its final exhibition Re:FUSE, as well as a 3-day festival Wikitopia2016: SURVEILLANCE AND PRIVACY IN THE POST-SNOWDEN ERA. Her articles on contemporary art can be found on Ran Dian, The Art Newspaper China, Leap, CoboSocial, etc.
Artists: Ailadi Cortelletti (Italy/Hong Kong, China); WANG Yue (London, UK); Jiaru Wu (Hong Kong, China)
Distance = ∞
Displacement = 0
Online shopping is so commonplace nowadays since with the aid of the internet, we seem to be able to leap across country borders fairly easily. The promise that we could order anything from anywhere regardless of the physical distances between the manufactures, the sellers and the buyers is, however, nothing but an illusion, at least up till now, in legal ways. The current configuration of the mainstream online commerce can be very unapologetically upsetting to their customers under certain circumstances. For instance,
“eBay Hong Kong only displays in Chinese, but I don’t speak Chinese! Help!”
“‘The payment card you entered is not valid in the US app store.’ Even though I could pay with this card anywhere in the world that accepts credit card?”
In this curatorial intervention, I invited three female artists who are all currently living in a different city than their origins. They have experienced cultural distances between their present environments and what they were used to. Yet they quickly dived into the new water and here they present works that are inspired by their surroundings. They’ve done a much better integration job than most “global” online commerce operators, if you ask me.
Thank you to all the artists participating in #exstrange. Without your work and ideas, this project would have not be possible.
The #exstrange exhibition is made possible by support from Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, and from the University of Michigan’s Center for South Asian Studies, Stamps School of Art & Design, and Ross School of Business.
#exstrange is hosted by Project Anywhere throughout 2017. Project Anywhere is a global exhibition model in which the role of curator is replaced with the type of peer review process typically endorsed by a refereed journal. Emphasizing artistic projects undertaken outside traditional exhibition circuits, Project Anywhere is dedicated to the evaluation and dissemination of art at the outermost limits of location-specificity. Significantly, Project Anywhere is a vehicle for pointing towards art located elsewhere in space and time. With only a handful of projects hosted each year, selection is extremely competitive.
Elena Giulia Abbiatici, “Interview | Marialaura Ghidini e Rebekah Modrak,” Arshake, 10 May 2017.
Miriam La Rosa, “In conversation with …. #exstrange,” Curating the Contemporary, April 24, 2017.
Cristina Sousa Martínez, “Some thoughts of #posthuman curating,” April 12, 2017.
Bruce and Stephanie Tharp, “Heads Up, eBay!,” Core77, April 2, 2017.
Greg Allen, “#exstrange: Curated eBay-as-Art-Platform,” greg.org: the making of, March 19, 2017.
Catherine Chapman, “Move Over, Ebay, #exstrange is Bringing Online Art Auctions Back to the People,” Creators Project, March 4, 2017.
Valentina Tanni, “L’asta online come opera d’arte. Una mostra che si svolge tutta su eBay,” Artribune, February 5, 2017.