The Free Pile
Cashing Out Exhibition
Kala Art Institute, Berkeley, CA
October 27 - December 3, 2011
2pm Before Opening
5:30 Opening Night
7:30 Opening Night
The morning after
"Kala Gallery is proud to present Cashing Out, the third exhibition in our series about systems. Cashing Outfocuses on artists’ interpretations of alternative financial systems in the context of the current economic climate. 22 artists and art collectives were selected by guest juror, Julio César Morales, Adjunct Curator at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and founder/co-curator of Queens Nails Annex/Projects (an artist-run project space in San Francisco).
Since September 17, 2011 hundreds of activists congregated in Zuccotti Park near Wall Street, and on the weekend of September 24 thousands more joined them. Morales suggests: “…the question now becomes how does one create a sustainable community in the wake of the current recession.” Citing viable alternative and hybrid models in the arts, Morales creates a lineage for the artwork in Cashing Out: Robert Morris’ 1970 Peripatetic Artists Guild advertisement in ArtForum, the Black Panther’s Survival Programs such as Free Breakfast for Children, and San Francisco’s legacy of alternative art spaces such as the revered New Langton Arts. “These programs and the artists in Cashing Out are markedly different from the competitive art market and attempt to provide new models that encourage dialogue, critique, mutual support, experimentation and above all, creativity.” "
Proposal for “Free Pile”
“The Greeks had two meaning for it (Utopia): 'eu-topos', meaning the good place, and 'u-topos' meaning the place that cannot be.” Madmen: Babylon
In one version of a Utopian Economy money is not exchanged, objects and services are not purchased with cash, and value is decided through different avenues than in a monetary system of economy. Today, monetary exchanges have become stressed for the majority; the need for cash in order to obtain the essentials, not to mention the non-essentials, demonstrates the lack of social concern or balance of capitalism, whereas bartering, trading, giving/gifting liberate the exchange from a listed price base to a need and/or desire base. Need is fairly obvious but want/desire is dependent on each individual’s taste and personal aesthetic. The “Free Pile” explores the value of non-essential objects, collected free and given free. If the lord gives you a Mercedes-Benz, what do you give the lord? If the lord gives you a color TV settle the debt by paying it forward.
I have moved frequently over the years and each move begins a cycle of discard then accumulation repeated each time. I discovered Craigslist and along with the addiction to the thrill of the chase and the perfect score has led to the accumulation of a large pile of very cool things = I have become free wealthy. The “Free Pile” is this collection, a large quantity of objects that I have acquired free through Craigslist, friends and off the street. These objects are neither trash, garage sale left-overs or my own discards nor is this a clearing house for debris – the objects all have a medium to high cool quotient and are assumed as valuable for reasons of sentimentality, vintage/antique-ness, history and uniqueness. And, as with most street side free piles, the objects range in age, style, origin and use; from décor, furniture, toys, clothing, magazines, records and music - one object has little to do with the other their only cohesion is they were given away. I am searching for the best the Bay Area has to offer for free.
I arrange the collection in a large pile, similar to but more presentable than, sidewalk free piles with attention to aesthetic display rather than dump, and in homage to the classic street pile a “FREE – please don’t leave a mess” sign is taped to the pile. The displayed pile can vary in size depending on location, and the quantity of stuff will depend on the size of the allotted area. The images provided are an example of what the “Free Pile” may look like except the piano and flat files will make the journey as they are too expensive to move, and ironically as of this moment I have not found someone who will barter for moving expenses. Ideally a space no smaller than 8 feet by 8 feet is necessary for the “Free Pile” although I am very flexible and can work in any space.
The displayed objects are then offered for free to the audience to come and take whatever interests them and an ad is placed on Craigslist Free inviting everyone to come collect what they want. A large photograph of the original pile is nearby so people can compare what was originally in the pile to what remains and at intervals the audience will be asked why they have chosen what they did, or not. Ideally the “Free Pile” is located in the center of the room with space to walk around and poke through the pile adjacent to a wall for the photograph. The “Free Pile” is not built high so a ladder is not necessary for browsing or taking and there is no need for concern about things falling on heads. Over the course of the show the pile will become smaller and eventually the only remaining evidence of the pile will be the photograph.
The Free Pile suits the Kala Institute’s theme for this show “Cashing Out” because it explores alternative methods of commerce, philanthropy, the need in today’s economy for artists to seek alternative means of ‘payment’ and the pay it forward utopian ideal of economics.