TRANSACTIONS: WOULD YOU GIVE YOURSELF FOR A CABBAGE?
Tokens to exchange in a market environment: people were encouraged to exchange these tokens for intangible things like time, well-being, knowledge, creativity. The encounter functioned by balancing experiences among a diverse and randomised crowd through subjective currency: destabilising and ambiguous for Chelsea standards. Unlike a normal transaction, which could be said to be void of meaning or even demeaning, this kind of transaction is loaded with meaning and therefore has an intrinsic value. The encounter prompts different kinds of conversations – like gossip.
WHO WERE THE ACTORS?
Critical Practice research cluster: about ten people. They each found six stallholders, who were value-based practitioners: participants came from the networks of the cluster members, and from arts based networks like ArtRabbit, Arts Council. Each stallholder got an average of £100 to pay for materials etc. On the day there was a milling crowd, made up of people who were brought by participants – a community of communities: about 1200 people, an unusual mix for Chelsea.
Thousands of transactions on the day. But the market itself required a huge effort to organise, and it would take a huge effort to organise another one. Could this be self-organising? An open system, a means of transaction. A pulling apart of the values system, creating a new infrastructure completely different to our notion of currency. Faith aspects of the transaction massively increased. Profoundly humanising in a time of massive abstraction (e.g. buying on line). Possible negotiation about the value of what’s on offer. What if it is a cabbage? Usually low value but in this case maybe grown with love so does it have a different value? People buy the narratives of production. Links: capturing the stories and exchanges that came out through the event. Was there any follow-on?
QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW IT WORKED
Stallholders received instructions and tokens, distributing the tokens to the people visiting the market. Inverse system: like sampling when Starbucks give you a little treat. Some stalls had ‘stuff’ like information. Was a token needed? No, but the tokens add another layer of understanding about value.
Makes participants mindful of the values they have and the things they are lacking. Much more open ended and less prescriptive than a normal design transaction. No implicit value so everything needs to be discussed. Token is ambiguous about the value of the exchange – no specific value attached. A promise – not a material exchange. You can’t sell out of this stuff like you can in a shop. Financial transaction in a normal market is only a tiny part of the market – a lot of other things going on.
SOME OF THE CHALLENGES
- difficulty in recruiting stallholders
- storage of materials
- a lot of free labour involved in making it happen – maybe 4000 hours
- difficulty in ensuring a mixed crowd.
WHAT DOES DESIGN BRING?
- design brings the imagination of a different system of transaction
- design brings the physical means of allowing people to explore new forms of transaction
- design brings the means to capture and share the experiences and the transactions that happened.
WHAT DOES ART BRING?
- art brings the possibility of negotiating ambiguity and producing multidimensional meaning
- art brings the invitation to learn and experience through sensuous experience that is often tacit
- art brings a broader range of values into relation to each other in ways that problematise situations that cannot be anticipated in advance.