Though I have been steadily making art for a decade, I have rarely shown my work, mainly due to my disinterest in the standard practices of art exhibition. Hopefully, I have stumbled upon a method for sharing my art publicly that is true to my ethic (and a lot more fun, which is pretty much my ethic.) Instead of trying to fit my work into the institutionalized gallery system, I want to advertise my online "art product" store by purchasing "billboard" space on the signs of panhandlers.
While the internet has been revolutionary in allowing individuals to connect with a global audience, it has failed to include the vast populations that are still not wired. In West Oakland where I live, people still search newspaper classified ads for jobs and housing. My project utilizes the democratizing networking ability of the internet without leaving behind the people who still think of a mouse as a rodent. In fact, some of those left-out people are an integral part of my project.
THE PROJECT I will pay panhandlers whatever they demand (and I can afford) to stick my website URL bumper sticker on their signs alongside their requests for spare change, a smile, or whatever. The panhandlers/homeless people get money in their pockets and I get traffic to my online store where people can order original art pieces from me. In this way, my art can go direcly to the people without having to pass through the middlemen who decide what art gets made (the grantmaking institutions) and what art gets seen (the gallery/museum system). Homeless people get paid for something they alone have to offer--their constant visibility. And I'm creating human and business partnerships that bridge the virtual digital world and the real world of the streets.
The website will consist of:
1. An online store with a large inventory of original works on paper offered at affordable prices (nothing over $500, many pieces for under $50.) I will mail the work directly to the buyer and gain additional income for more art supplies, more time to work and more "advertising." In this way, I will create a economic loop that feeds back into the pockets of the classic outsiders--the artist and the homeless person.
2. A blog in which I will discuss and document the project as it evolves. I plan to post videos of the negotiations with my panhandler partners and any statements/messages they would like included on the website, giving voice to people who are usually either ignored or guiltily handed spare change. Viewers will also be able to post responses/comments on the blog.
Yes, this project is somewhat provocative, and therein lies is power. It could serve to start some interesting conversations regarding: the nature of exploitation and advertising; the role of the artist in society (outsider with the freedom to critique late capitalism or insider creator of art product?); the role of the homeless person in society (valuable person or mooch?); the possibility for individual connection through handmade works of art in the midst of the alienating, consumption-driven urban landscape; and probably many more topics that will reveal themselves as the project unfolds.
THE BUDGET $750: Website designer's fees. $300: Bumper sticker printing costs. For this amount, I will be able to get 150 bumperstickers (like the mock-up in my video). $750: "Advertising" budget. I am figuring that I will be able to place each bumpersticker on a sign for $5. (150 times $5 is $750.) $200: Payments for video interviews with panhandlers, cigarettes, hamburgers, etc. I like to be able to give people $5 to $10 and/or some food/cigarettes for their time.
If you want to take a look at some of the product we're trying to move, check out my current website www.catewhite.com. NOTE: This is NOT the online store website that I will advertise if this project happens. That one is not yet built. This is my current website that just shows some of my art.
- (49 days)