Free Not Free
This installation and series of performances was designed to raise questions about the rampant materialism of our society. Shopping bags from high end luxury stores were filled with an assortment of mundane objects. The sealed bags were arranged on the walls of the Center for Digital Arts in Peekskill, creating a colorful and perhaps, puzzling, installation, which remained on view for more than six weeks.
During this time, I presented weekly, one-on-one, face-to-face, interactive performances at the Center. Each time, I invited people to select a bag from the installation. After conversing with me about his or her motivation for choosing a particular bag, the participant was invited to take the bag and its contents — for free!
Ultimately, I was surprised and touched by my encounters and conversations. I had anticipated that most people would select a bag on the basis of the strength of the advertising campaigns of a given company or corporation. While this was true in several cases, the majority of the participants had very personal — often, touching — reasons for their choice of bags.
I did find, however, that many people were motivated to participate by the anticipation of a free gift! As word spread about the nature of my performances, there were more and more people anxious to acquire something — even though they had no way of knowing what they would find in their selected bags. Hence, the acquisitive nature of people in our society was manifest.
This project was also presented as a one-day-only event at the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art. In that venue, the bags were placed on dozens and dozens of chairs, which filled a room in the museum. The interactive procedure was the same, and the results were similar to those obtained at the Center for Digital Arts.