Exchange Economy

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A new community interactive project in collaboration with The Boston Center for the Arts was launched on Monday March 4th, 2013.

Over the next 15-weeks, as artist-in-residence I will be photographing on the streets of the surrounding BCA neighborhood, sometimes setting up informal studios in various locations and inviting passers-by to collaborate on crafting their photographic portrait. In exchange for their cooperation and time, participants receive a voucher as “currency” that can be used to purchase any one photograph exhibited at a BCA Community Day. I am also photographing the people who work in the many small shops dotting the neighborhood.

voucher

During the first week I’ve been orientating myself and defining the boundaries. Located at 539 Tremont Street in the south end, the BCA community is composed of many diverse groups: hispanic, chinese, russian, korean, and white. Shops range from convenience stores and dry cleaners to hair salons and intimate restaurants. There is also an animal rescue league, many theaters and schools, an active post office, a library, fire house, and churches. In other words, it is a microcosm for many small communities in the greater Boston Area.

Exchange MAP boundary

I like that the shape of the map resembles a pentagon drawing of a house.

To convey the nostalgic character of the architecture and small streets I decided to use a holga with B+W film to create silver prints. To photograph the men and women who work throughout the neighborhood, either at the counters or in back rooms, I am using my 4×5 camera with color film. And my DSLR is essential when time and/or low-lighting becomes a hurdle, especially out on the street. At the end of 15 weeks I seek to compile and ultimately preserve the unique character and spirit of this BCA community at this moment in time. I like these kinds of relational projects because they offer me a way to engage with strangers, exchange gifts, and ultimately come away with a different perspective of the world.

Here’s how the gifting process will work. The BCA and I will be hosting three Community Days: Saturday April 6 from 2-5pm, Wednesday evening May 15 from 6:30-9:30pm and Saturday June 15 from 2-5pm. During the first two hours, anyone with a voucher can “purchase” one of the photographs on view; they may opt to go home with their portrait or choose a completely different subject. During the last hour, remaining photographs are available to anyone who offers me something of value in exchange. This idea of “value” is open to interpretation and I will be documenting the array of objects and notions of value I receive. Only 4 prints will be made for each image that becomes part of the project. One will be exchanged or gifted, and one will be kept as an artist’s proof. The other two will become part of complete clam-shell portfolios that will be  offered for sale in the traditional market, to an institution and/or collector.

Why am I doing this? As a long time artist I am concerned with the way “value” in our culture is increasingly solely defined by a marketplace built on economic inequity. I hope this project will open up alternative possibilities and viewpoints. This project would be impossible without the incredible support from the BCA, especially the invaluable help of Cynthia Woo (Associate Director of Education and Public Programs), Eugene Finney (Visual Arts Manager), Christine Licata (Associate Director of Visual Arts) and interns Michelle McGinn, Bridget Lindstrom and Hannah Adams.

I will be posting periodic photographs and updates in addition to having guest bloggers post their own thoughts on what they value, how it is created and how it is sustained. If you are interested in becoming part of the conversation, please let me know.

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