“Debt Positive” at Flux Factory, here we come!!

Thrilled to be a part of the Debt Positive show for the month of June at Flux Factory in NYC*! [*Long Island City in Queens, to be exact, but – same dif.]

Debt Positive brings together artists making work in response to our shared, irrational, financialized realities. From the curators’ statement: “Through an evolving exhibition, performances, and workshops, Debt Positive beckons people to re-envision debt, sublimate it, and consider possibilities for eliminating its wasteful implementations.”

I have, almost gleefully, gone into more credit card debt, myself, in order to get more “Debtor” pins made [by a business in Florida, manufactured by factory workers in China, shipped to NYC]. These pins will, in the instance of this show, be given away for free. But you have to show up to experience the rest of the show in order to get one.

I’m really looking forward to meeting the other artists working through this quagmire.

In the last year, I’ve been most compelled by Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s chapter on “Debt & Study” in their book The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study. They have, awesomely and almost unbelievably, made their whole book available for free, online, as a pdf. That’s what I’ve linked to, above. The whole thing is complex and amazing, requiring many moments of re-reading just to comprehend it, or comprehend it differently, the interview at the back is transcendant, and the chapter I’m speaking of is pg 61-68. Throughout the book, the way they frame social debt as positive debt, the kind that is unrepayable and borne by us all, the kind that keeps each of us afloat – debt as the social fabric of kindness and favors done with the expectation only of its acknowledgment, never as a thing to be paid back – and especially this kind of living as a way (and sometimes the only way) of surviving in a world where you and your people might have very little or very inconsistent access to capital in all its forms – has profoundly affected me. There’s so much else to recommend this book – please do yourself a favor and read it. And let me know what you think!

If you’re in NYC, stop by the gallery at Flux Factory between June 3-24 (open Weds-Sat, 12-6) – schedule of events for the duration is here.

My sincere thanks to Caitlin Foley and Misha Rabinowitz for inviting me to be a part of their show. Honored and gladdened, and can’t wait to be there!

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Selects from LAABF

Thanks again to the Women’s Center for Creative Work for inviting me to their pop-up residency at the LA Art Book Fair in February!

This was the first time I’d gotten to play “nurse” with this project. Actually applying the (underinsured) and (uninsured) tattoos to people’s bodies – people who very much wanted to name their precarity publically, at a time when “everyone” is supposed to be insured – felt like a symbolic manifestation of nursing inside a broken system. My actions were obviously merely palliative, applying band-aids to breaks, but the moments of connection and discussion with strangers were funny, poignant, and sometimes, strangely, mutually triumphant. People talked to me and to each other, to whoever was around, to whoever would listen, about not having health insurance, about going broke or staying hurt because of high deductibles.

Hoping these tattoos spurred further conversations. “Universal Coverage” still means safety for so very few of us. We keep naming our conditions ’til they change…

2016-02-13 13.30.36 2016-02-13 13.32.04 2016-02-13 13.34.17 2016-02-13 13.54.54 2016-02-13 13.57.13

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SWAG goes LIVE at the LA Art Book Fair, February 11-14!

It’s clearly been awhile since I’ve updated this site – who goes to individual project websites anymore? – but for the sake of historical thoroughness/site specificity, I will say here and now that I’m pleased to be activating SWAG sales this coming Saturday, February 13, 2016, from 1-4pm, at Printed Matter’s Los Angeles Art Book Fair at the Geffen Contemporary!

The Women’s Center for Creative Work – fast becoming an essential community institution for experimental, open arts programming in Los Angeles – is hosting 10 artist mini-residencies over the course of the fair at their table. Called Together In Real Life, their pop-up community marketplace will “investigate the nature of person to person attraction and persuasion in the marketplace. We are there to sell and buy; how do we complete these exchanges in meaningful, intimate and non-coercive ways?”

Find me at the WCCW table, and come out of the fugitive woodwork to declare your body and its properties (uninsur)able!! No bodily site will be off-limits for tattoo application and display…

Several items in the SWAG for Hard Times collection will be sold at the WCCW table for the duration of the LAABF (or until they sell out), so if you’re running low on Debtor pins and Debtor charm necklaces, you know where to get ’em.

Can’t wait for the crush of human art book nerdery and the discussions we’ll start/continue!

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Socialized Medicine Working Out Well in a Red State

This article (found on The Daily Kos, but originally posted at James 321) leads one to wonder what, precisely, remains to recommend a fee-for-service model for the provision of health care.

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How Poverty Affects the Brain

Fascinating article on recent research regarding the neurobiological effects of financial stress – long-term implications included.

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SWAG at University of Wisconsin – Madison “Unstable Systems” show, April 14 – 19

If you’re in or near Madison, WI, in the next week, please feel free to stop by the “Unstable Systems” show on campus at the Arts Lofts Gallery, 111 North Frances Street, 53703.  Gallery hours are 9-5 with an opening reception April 14, 5-7PM.  I wish I could be there – the thematic focus sounds like precisely the kind of show I want to see – but, in lieu of my actual presence, there will be a FREE SWAG temporary-tattoo application station.  Stop by and emblazon yourself if the insurance industry is still failing to do right by you!

From the press release:

“Unstable Systems is a multimedia exhibit of works that explore the internal inconsistencies of rigid systems, the failure of predictive models, the volatility of biological organisms and ecosystems and other unstable systems. The exhibit features works by artists from across the nation and working in all media: painting, video, sculpture, photography and time-based art.”

And here’s a link to the event on Facebook.

Thanks to the Unstable Systems Team for including me in this show!! It’s an honor.



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SWAG at Wonderloch Kellerland Gallery, LA, Feb 11-26th

Wonderloch Kellerland Gallery (Los Angeles and Berlin) is hosting an “Artists Merchandising Art” show in its galleries this month. SWAG will be available – in its “honor-system store” format – at the Los Angeles location from Feb 11 through the 26th. Stop by the opening! 3149 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 90039.

Los Angeles: Matinee opening Feb 11, 10 am – 2 pm (live skype with Berlin) + Party 7 – 11 pm
Berlin: Feb 11, 6 – 9 pm (live skype)

From the gallery’s press release:

ARTISTS MERCHANDISING ART is the first series of international exhibitions to deal with the issue of merchandising in contemporary art and its relevance for artists, art and the art market. The exhibitions open simultaneously in Berlin and Los Angeles and will later travel to Vienna, Paris and Hamburg.

Primarily used for sales promotion, merchandising has now become an integral part of commercial distribution and the creation of an image. The fundamental difference between a merchandising and an original brand product, is the merchandising products’ absence of actual user value while at the same time a logo or the image is still delivered.

How and where does merchandising take place in contemporary art?

We know Caravaggio-mousepads and Andy Warhol-lighters, but is there merchandising in contemporary art outside of the museum shop? Are the well known artist-editions of art magazines or art institutions merchandising, in the way that they are a comparably cheap way to get your hands on a certain image? Does the “publishing company” shop OTHER CRITERIA, which was founded in 2005, fit the category? Does it make sense to transfer the category into the realm of Fine Arts? Could a transferral enrich the discourse? Or has it been part of the art context for a while and the borders have long been fluid? And if that was the case, would it mean that every piece of art is a merchandise article transporting the image of the brand product artist?

ARTISTS MERCHANDISING ART provides an insight into the wide range of creative approaches to artist merchandising. The participating artists have been asked to hand in one or more products that in their opinion fit the category. The works are meant to have been specifically produced for merchandising purposes or deal with merchandising, use merchandising as a creative genre or be pieces already related to commercial distribution. The palette ranges from typical merchandising accessories (like knick-knacks or T-shirts) up to affordable editions. It could further include signed catalogues, posters or flyers, CDs, DVDs, Vinyls, stickers, small ceramics, printed everyday articles, cheap multiples, etc.

LA Artists include: Evan Aproberts, Emily Bayless, Alex Becerra, Brice Bischoff, Dain Blodorn, Erik Bluhm, Leonardo Bravo, Amanda Browder, Zach Bucek, Scott Marvel Cassidy, Salvador Dali, Nathan Danilowicz, John Frishman, Alicia Gibson, Jon Gratigny, Katy Hamer, Tom Hartman, Bettina Hubby, Melissa Huddleston, Katrin Jurati, Joyce Kim, Paul Klee, Emily Lambert, Karl Larocca, Karen Lee, Julia M Leonard, Miles Lightwood, Seth Lower, Maya Lujan, CK Lyons, Adam Marelli, Mike Meanstreetz, Pat Ngoho, Lisa Ohlweiler, Sarah Petersen, Nicholas Pittman, Christopher Richmond, Ryan Riehle, Mark A. Rodriguez, Adam Saks, Carolyn Salas, Kristen Schiele, Jim Shaw, Sadie Siegel, Matt Siegle, Vivian Sming, Adam Stamp, Hans-Peter Thomas, Henry Vincent, Ryan Wade, Andy Warhol, Mike Watt & the missingmen, Erin Olivia Weber, Seth Weiner, Alexander Wolff, Petting Zoo

Organized by René Luckhardt and Judith Rohrmoser, in collaboration with Stefanie Gattlen, Heike Kelter, Gustav Mechlenburg, Bettina Sellmann, Hans-Peter Thomas, fluid archives, What The Shop, La Guillotine/Atelier Reflexe and 8. Salon.

For more information, see the gallery’s website.


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Experiments in (Anti-)Capitalism, Part I

Almost nothing bores me more than the idea of writing my own blog posts for this site – as is obvious from those that have come before (the writing within them, by and large, not exactly crackling with necessity): I’m more interested in others’ experiences with regard to this project, and the most important “site” for SWAG for Hard Times stuff is out of my hands, away from me, in your hands (and not even here, on the internets).

But sometimes, something happens with this project that seems worth writing about.  De-installation of the UCLA show last week provided just such an experience.  I knew this moment would come: the emptying of the “bank” built into the honor-system pedestal.  How much money would be there?  Would other things have been inserted into the slot as payment?  What would I find?  How would that bank-dump serve as a record of the project’s reception in that show, an indication of people’s reactions to and (future) use of SWAG?

My good friend Kari tilted the pedestal for me, and as I scooted beneath the box, a zippered black leather pouch in hand to catch (and, thereafter, hide) the takings, I felt as though I was stealing from my own project.  Very strange.  Like what I was doing was not allowed even for me.  Maybe it’s the leather “heist” pouch, or maybe it’s that I never have the opportunity to upend a piggy bank full of my own earnings, anymore (living on federal student loans, receiving that check every 5 months, just isn’t the same as counting money you’ve made from working).  I do keep the prices for this stuff as non-capitalizing as possible, attempting to just cover my costs (which, to date, has never happened).  So why did I feel like I was stealing?

I’ve thought about this, and partly it’s because it’s an honor to have this work, this participatory project, be recognized and used by others.  Yes, I paid to have the SWAG manufactured, and yes, I seem to always go into debt to do so, but to create something that people want to honor by using it, somehow, in their daily lives – or even by just having it around, or passing it on to a friend – still feels like such an honor that being paid feels extraordinary.  It’s humbling.  It’s hard to feel like I’ve earned it.  That’s part of the stealing feeling.  Each carefully-folded dollar bill that I recovered from the bank box felt like an especially sincere exchange, almost a thank-you note, particularly because this was an exchange dictated entirely by the honor system.  Some people said thanks with their money quite literally:

Thank-you Dollar

Sweet dollar-bill thank-you note

Other stand-out exchanges included the following:

Parking refund ticket

A parking ticket refund - unuseable by the time I opened the bank, but I like the effort

Spare change payments

Spare change - no real correlation with the prices of SWAG - and a $2 coin from Hong Kong!


An extremely sincere IOU, complete with phone number and email of SWAG exchanger

This last was somehow especially “honorable,” almost moreso than the actual payments received, if only because she made it so personal, breaking the barrier of anonymity inherent in the installation (though I think I’ll hit up the note’s author not for $3 but for her SWAG-related story, right here on this site….)

I’ve “performed” this project as a salesperson many times, and the risks of doing so are the usual embarrassments of showing up in costume, sometimes uninvited, to sell small things to people who are likely to be disinterested.  But I have not before taken the risk of “selling” based purely on the honor system.  Would I get completely fleeced?  True, part of how we sited the project in the exhibition space revolved around how various sightlines would enable others to see you when you were at the SWAG pedestal: I’m interested in how potential surveillance alters our behavior.  Clearly, that’s part of my interest in creating wearable political statements for “you,” in the first place – how will it be for you once you wear it in public, in view of others and their unpredictable reactions?  But regardless of social mores against stealing, it turns out I did, quite likely, lose some money in this installation of the project  – I may have miscalculated my initial inventory, or I may, indeed, have “earned” double what was left in the bank box, based on how much SWAG seems to have been taken.  But I’ve been thinking about the outcome this way: if some people took SWAG without paying for it, because they valued it, then that, too, is a form of exchange, and it’s a form I can even support, philosophically-speaking.  I guess it means I unwittingly gave those people a gift, and they accepted it.  What goes around comes around….

Operating any monetary exchange based on “honor” probably reads as saccharine idealism to many people; that it worked at all still surprises me.  To each of you who folded a dollar or two to support the project, thank you.  Your honesty redoubles your investment.  As always, report back about how you used your SWAG – and what happened then….

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New SWAG: “Debtor” pins and charms

It seemed only natural …..

SWAG Debtor pin

"Debtor" pin

SWAG Debtor charm

"Debtor" charm

Yes, it was time to address this topic.  Now, you can wear it proud, in either sports-team-inspired cloisonne pin form or as a delicate charm dangling from your wrist, neck, or ears.  Pins are slightly bigger (1.25″ long), epoxied, and cost $4; charms are 1″ long, non-epoxied, and cost $3.  Feel free to order them here.

And, as always, feel free to comment on this product – or on the SWAG for Hard Times project, in general – either in the comments section of this post or by signing up to become a co-author on this site.  This project (and the issues it aims to address) can only be made better by your words and contributions to the dialogue.

Debtors, unite.



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“SWAG for Hard Times” has been included in the show “Circulate, Exchange: Nugget & Gravy” at the New Wight Gallery at UCLA, Sept 22 – Oct 6.

The SWAG installation

The SWAG honor-system "store" in the gallery

Curated by Mathiew Greenfield and Christine Wang, the show features artists currently enrolled in or recently graduated from MFA programs in southern California.  From the catalog’s introductory essay, written by Greenfield and Wang, “The works in this show address themes such as commodity fetish, exchange, currency, labor, relational sociability, and sharing.  In the context of this show, the marketplace is a medium, a moment of reaction, a place of negotiation, and a thing to ignore.”

De-install is actually tomorrow, but I look forward to a group crit with all the artists from the show in the near future. It was a really strong show, from all reports (even unbiased ones), and I look forward to getting to know these other artists better.  Thanks to Mathiew and Christine for including me among them. Getting a chance to install this project as an honor-system store in a public gallery setting was something I’d been hoping to make happen for a long time, and really liking the other work in the show is a huge bonus.

The honor-system "store"

The mechanism for the honor-system "store"

For more on the show, visit the Circulate, Exchange website .


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