Salt-winning: Equal To or Greater Than, 2010-2011
Glass, road salt, trash
Oxygen Art Center, Nelson, BC, Canada
Rule of exchange: You can take anything at any time as long as you exchange it with something of equal or greater value.
Salt-winning: Equal To or Greater Than is a trash-based social economy. Over one hundred miniature globes were created from discarded glass, trash, and winter road salt. Each globe could be taken away by gallery visitors at any time as long as they left something behind of equal or greater value. Visitors were asked to fill out a survey after their exchanges that detailed what they took, what they left behind, and how they determined the equivalent value of the two objects.
There were several trends within the trades: people adjudicated value based on the mode and time of production and left their own handmade objects. Frequently people used found objects, trash, and even salt to create objects for exchange. Another trend was to leave things that had sentimental value rather than monetary or material value. Because this type of value is technically non-transferable, it addressed the idea of value in the abstract and exchange became a sort of sacrifice. A small number of people were “bargained hunters” and explained equivalence in very descriptive or shallow terms rather than in terms of value (“an object for an object” or “because I said so”). Some people grappled with value in terms of money, gift cards, lottery tickets, or other monetary equivalents. Finally, some people extended the idea of exchange and value to include personal interaction with the artist (to see what the artist might like), or would trade for an item, research their new art piece, and then trade out the object they left behind for an object with “more appropriate” equivalency.
More of these trends and exchanges, as well as the creation of the piece, are detailed here.
The original salt-water solution scraped from winter road salt
In progress: a piece wicks salt water, which slowly dries and deposits salt.
Detail of finished piece with visible salt crystals.
Exchanges under way.
Example of an exchange (more below)
Installation view after all exchanges.
Detail of installation view after all exchanges.
Please describe the object you took: a wild stalion [sic]
Please describe the object you left behind: a handmade bracelet
How did you determine equivalency? I made it from a mix of vintage buttons and beads. [handmade object with similar found materials- indocating labor theory of value and shared values for aesthetics and methodology]
What will you do with the object you have taken? give it to my friend who will love it.
Please describe the object you took: little crazy headed leo man red lid [sic]
Please describe the object you left behind: student saver card and $1.01
How did you determine equivalency? the discounts the card holds are good all over BC… And sweet. [unquantified economic equivalence]
What will you do with the object you have taken? Put it on my self of pretty things
Please describe the object you took: 2 deer covered in snow
Please describe the object you left behind: a drawing my Tenzin Mint called ‘Mon Chat’
How did you determine equivalency? Because Tensing put a lot of effort into his drawing [labour theory of value]
What will you do with the object you have taken? It is for his mom for her birthday
Please describe the object you took: melted glass jar w/ small pine cones
Please describe the object you left behind: recent letter from a one-time lover
How did you determine equivalency? because it was difficult for me to leave my object behind [sentimental or personal value, measured by sacrifice]
What will you do with the object you have taken? I might send it to him. I will at least tell him about it.
Please describe the object you took: A salted light bulb on a salt star and small ornament
Please describe the object you left behind: An earring and something to come later [note: This woman took off her jewelry during the opening so she could exchange, then came back later with the skull]
How did you determine equivalency? I determined it wasn’t of = value so will be back with an an addition. UPDATE: A deer skull the next day joined the earring.
What will you do with the object you have taken? Gaze at it lovingly.