Give-away Project I
Give-away Project stemmed from a desire to move away from object-based work and toward art that did not put more “things” into the world.
In 2002, as I began to sort through large quantities of clothing inherited from my mother and grandmother and purchased from thrift stores, I found myself drawn not only to the items, but to the stories they represented; to the relationships people had to these various items. As an artist responding to the quantity of “things” amassed around me, I began to think about the idea of “stuff.” The piles of clothing in front of me that had been hidden in closets and basements called to mind the volume of art sitting in museum or gallery storage, rather than on display. I thought about my own impact and how my work added to the mass of objects in the world.
Give-away Project stemmed from a desire to move away from object-based work and toward art that did not put more “things” into the world—it is an exploration of how I could make temporary, experiential art that used people and their experiences, rather than physical goods, as primary materials, facilitating connection and community in the process. I asked myself, Why do we like the things we like? What is personal taste? What draws someone to something, particularly an item of clothing? Fusing my desire to move away from object-based work, my interest in building community, and my will to activate these items of clothing, I gave away 95% of my clothes, asking questions of and documenting those to whom I gave each item. Initially intended to be a one-time event, this evolved into a ten-year, four-part social practice project: the Give-away Project.
Give-away Project I began with a public announcement, inviting friends and family to my studio for a one time clothing giveaway. In preparation, hundreds of my garments — a combination of items inherited from my mother and grandmother, and those collected from thrift stores — were suspended at varying heights, creating the illusion of clothing floating freely through the space. Led by curiosity, participants weaved their way through crowds and clothing, choosing pieces that captured their attention. In exchange for the items, recipients were photographed with their selections.
This one-for-one exchange — receive an object and in return, allow oneself to be photographed — provided the opportunity to record people’s aesthetic tastes. The public’s reaction to Give-away Project I was very positive: hundreds of people came, and some waited up to two and a half hours to be documented after choosing their items. The lighthearted atmosphere of the night encouraged visitors to openly express their reactions in the photographs, evidenced by their energetic poses and expressions.