SnackArt machines are the reification of an art concept rather than a novel way to sell artists work, and as such, enter into a knowing and mocking dialogue with the Spectacle and commodified notions of value, price and prestige. The function of the SnackArt machines is to dispense low cost artworks through a process whereby the unique art object or a multiple created by a particular artist, is selected in the same way as consumerables, in this case non essential impulse items. This projects critique of consumerism is undertaken in the understanding that it joins a raft of like minded art projects which may not succeed in changing the multinational economic rationalist fear mongering fascist regime we labor under but that trying to point out its imperfections, weaknesses, hypocrisies and absurdities is an ongoing and necessary activity. This project is part of this continuous process.
The SnackArt machines do engage in commerce, however, I would prefer this aspect of the project to be read as 'pataphysical, Fluxus and Situationalist in conception and projection, a positioning of art into everyday life and a conscious withdrawal from the fetishising elitism of the gallery. A decentering strategy in the footsteps of Fluxus with the knowledge that recuperation is biting at our heels, I disguise the artwork as a commodity therefore, at best, avoiding or, at least, temporarily confounding the recuperation process. As I see it, at present the problem for artists is that they make art, the objects of which are beacons for recuperation. It is this aura which is vampirically sucked dry during the 'retailisation' process and produces the zombie objects of the spectacle ,experiences offered at a price, but lacking value.
The SnackArt machines conflate consumer products and art objects.The machines by their very nature are not elitist, nor are the contents. The machines circumvent the exclusivity and preciousness of art objects. This is not to say that the works should be viewed as less valuable, just in proportion to other real objects. These art objects take a more collective, un self-centred and inclusive way to distinguish themselves and re enter the outside world by remaining outside the gallery, even if in the foyer. These machines help to normalise the position of art in the world, even if this only extends to a small local region. Co habitation raises questions about the realness of the goods on display without didacticism or moralising as “paying attention and thinking are moral acts” [Suzi Gablik, Has Modernism Failed, Thames and Hudson second edition 2004,pg 28]
So the commercial interaction happening between the SnackArt and the consumer bypasses the 'retailization' process, which drains value, and both the artist and the audience are left with something satisfying rather than empty packaging and promises. But the experience is not complete without commercial investment by the consumer and it is this interaction that raises difficult questions about art as a commodity. In this way the contradictory nature of the commodity-form and the paradoxical nature of consumption are foregrounded as some important theoretical concerns of this Project.
The machine will dispense artwork and food snacks like chips and chocolate*. This means having purchased an artwork, physical thirst or hunger may be assuaged and visa versa having purchased chocolate for example a sudden urge for art may also be satisfied. In this way both intellectual and corporeal sustenance is considered.
This is my response to the recuperation and commodification of artistic practice and the often inventive, profane, clever and humorous tactics of art activists against such situations. Artistic attempts at criticism of contemporary culture through detournement seem stamped already with a use by date for recuperation by hungry companies ravenous to feed their demographic with new and novel titillations. Society has even reached the point where the banned masterpiece Salo has been recuperated and is now able to be seen in prime time and adult time under the program name of Big Brother. One strategy is to extend the use by date or to create cleverly within the structures of commodification and so avoid recuperation as the work looks so much like a commodity this ensures some safety, 'Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer'.
I would like to invite other artists who are interested in this project to contact me.
* As of April 2010 and SnackArt's relocation from it's original location at Casula Powerhouse, the machines will now contain only artwork.