Lisa Bulawsky
Associate Professor, Printmaking and Drawing
College of Art and Graduate School of Art
Washington University in St. Louis


  "It is the assumption...that a work of art is a gift, not a commodity. Or, to state the modern case with more precision, that works of art exist simultaneously in two “economies,” a market economy and a gift economy. Only one of these is essential, however: a work of art can survive without the market, but where there is no gift there is no art."  
  Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property


Regifting: Print, Distribution, and Gift Exchange
A 4-week intensive project exploring the idea of art as gift

With this project we will explore printmaking and the multiple as instruments of economic politics, social connection, and cultural change. Through readings and discussions, we will consider the multiple as a means of bypassing the market economy, of creating our own gift economy. Our methods and works will be determined democratically by the group, and will take the following into consideration:

The market economy is deliberately impersonal, but the whole purpose of the gift economy is to establish and strengthen the relationships between us, to connect us one to the other.

Gifts are defined as both material objects and immaterial talents and inspirations. Talent in art is often referred to as a gift. The art object can therefore be seen as a natural extension of this gift, a gift in and of itself.

Can an object retain or gain value when it is given away for free?

The domain of distribution is one of print’s many championships; the multiple gives print access to the world and the world access to prints.

Prints play a significant role in the commodification of art and the economic system of the art world.

'''What if the art world were based on a socialist system instead of a capitalist one?' the artist Harrell Fletcher muses..."

from The Biennial That's Not at the Biennial, NY Times, Mia Fineman, May 2, 2004

Harrell Fletcher
This Container Isn't Big Enough, 2004
The 2004 Whitney Biennial
New York, New York

 

 

Suggested readings:

Hyde, Lewis; The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property

Mauss, Marcel; The Gift

Purves, Ted (editor), What We Want is Free: Generosity and Exchange in Recent Art

 

 

Felix Gonzales Torres Rikrit Tiravanija Ray Johnson
Felix Gonzalez Torres
Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991
Rirkrit Tiranajiva
Untitled 1992 (Free)

Ray Johnson
Bunny

 

Links

Articles on gifting

"All For Free"
Bloom, Brett (Temporary Services)

"An Economic Theory of Avant-Garde and Popular Art, or High and Low Culture"
Cowen, Tyler and Tabarrok, Alexander

“Give it Away”
Graeber, David

"Georges Bataille and the Notion of Gift"
Kosalka, David L. R.

"Derrida on Gift"
Leithart, Peter J.

Giving it Away (for Fun and Profit)
Raskin, Andy



Web Links to artists and ideas related to gifting and exchange

Adam Neate

Artists' Trading Cards

Bread and Puppet Theater
   in the blog New England Journal of Aesthetic Research

Christine Hill
  Volksboutique
  The Interstitial Library

The Electronic Museum of Mail Art

Felix Gonzalez-Torres
  at MOMA, Death by Gun

Free Art License

Free Hugs Campaign

Free Words Project

Harrell Fletcher
   ART/ARCHITECTURE; The Biennial That's Not at the Biennial

Joseph Beuys
  Political Activism and Economics

La Revue du M.A.U.S.S.

LINKS TO FREE CULTURE

Ray Johnson
The father of mail art

Relational Aesthetics: Why It Makes So Much Sense
Cobb, Chris reviews Touch: Relational Art from the 1990's til Now

Rirkrit Tiravanija
   at the Walker Art Center

Trebor Schulz
Co-Editor The Art of Free Cooperation. Trebor Scholz is an artist, media theorist, and activist. He is the founder of the Institute for Distributed Creativity (iDC). In 2005 he organized Share, Share Widely and in 2006 Architecture and Situated Technologies (with Omar Khan, Mark Shepard). He is the founder and facilitator of the iDC mailing list.