We wanted to make art that engaged the local community, that was fun and got people thinking and talking. To take our work outside of The Arts University College at Bournemouth(AUCB) to find a new audience.
Inspired by the growing number art groups up and down the country that are making public exhibitions in ‘Slack Spaces’(empty shops mostly), we begun talking to the council to see if we could do the same. We started developing this project in June 2009 after visiting local shops which were empty, likely due to the recession. We didn’t want to pretend that these spaces weren’t shops, that they were a tradition gallery, and we didn’t want to ignore or patch over the problems that cause these retail units to be vacant. So we began formulating ideas to respond directly to the high-street, to the recession and shopping culture. Its from these early conversations that we had as a group about our experience of buying and being sold to that the idea ‘Shop’ came to be. Then we worked for over a year and made ‘Shop’ a reality for the Bournemouth public to experience. Since those early conversations we have now had hundreds more, talked to students, journalists, radio presenters, local officials and loads of the public all about thoughts sparked from the project. Its been great!
It was a huge commitment for the whole group, financial, physically and emotionally but we are proud to say that with the help and support of many others we’re turn our ideas into a reality. As a collective we created this project for all to be involved and so many have, through workshops, giving essential advice and most importantly talking to others to spread the idea. This project is the result of bringing many of the passionate and creative people of Bournemouth together (particularly at the AUCB) through the sharing of ideas and creation of ‘Shop’.
Most of the work is made out of recycled and easily assessable materials, this includes the cardboard which we source from local retailers and the recycling company Sita. We used this common material because as a group we believe in creativity, in the fun of making and want to advocate art for all, whether using traditional or ‘waste’ materials, we don’t think you need expensive or precious materials to make something of value. Our choice to use recycled cardboard is because its free and equally important to the core idea of ‘Shop’, it comes from the high street, its the packing that contains the products we buy, and ‘Shop’ was all about the packaging of the consumer experience.
We each had many aspirations for the Project and event. here is of them…
As a group we hope that through our considered appropriation and humorous subversion of the language of shopping to have begun to provoke lively public dialogues. Our hope for the over 1500 products we give away is that people are really engaged, that they surprise people, that they make people laugh and then think and talk this surreal shopping experience. The hope of the 4 day live interactive performance is to immerse people within an environment, into the role of consumer in an attempt that this sparks questions about the role we take. We want to question the difference between what you are being sold and what you actually get, our Product are empty, they contain only the ideas, and the messages of there design.
For a more detailed and academic understanding of why, bellow is an essay by Fred Nicholas which explores the ambition of this work in relation to the influential text Relational Aesthetics by French art critic Nicolas Bourriaud and its connection to growing trends in contemporary art.
An analysis of context: Exploring Project ‘Shop’ and social role of the artist in contemporary society.