“Ainsi, ume partie de l’humanité, relativement riche, travailleuse, créactrice de surplus important a su et sait échanger des choses considérables, sous d’autres formes et pour d’autres raisons que celles que nous connaissons.”
Marcel Mauss, L’Essai sur le Don
Through these participatory, performed sculptural works we hope to challenge the traditional purpose of object-based art by proposing a consummation of the objects within the work that excludes commodification, employing the sculptural work solely as a vehicle for the collective experience it prescribes. In this sense, as well as in the prompted and coordinated collaboration of strangers performing abstract rituals of de-hierarchization, the works are intended as unspoken manifestations of resistance to neo-liberal values of individualism and gain. The works provide a material framework for improvised social exchange, defending a space for human solidarity and communion.
The arena is a square-shaped, wooden enclosure, with 4 swinging gates, 1 on each length of the square. The interior is divided into a series of individual compartments, with inner gateways that lead to a common, central table.
The work is divided into 3 8‑minute rounds separated by 2‑minute intervals.
The initial position assignment for the confirmed participants is by lottery. Participants select a card that situates them by chance in one of 3 equal groups of 8, called the red group, the black group and the white group. Following the cues of a conductor, the 3 groups rotate positions in the 3 different stations, called the inner ring, the middle ring and the outer ring. The inner ring is the receiving group; it socializes freely as a group while being served and entertained by the other two groups. The middle ring is the giving group; it tends exclusively to the group occupying the inner ring and remains passive when not serving or assisting them. The outer ring is the supporting group; situated on the periphery, it provides music and entertainment, energizing the action taking place within the arena.
To begin the work, the red group is assigned to the inner ring, the black group to the middle ring and the white group to the outer ring. At the outset, those who drew a black card are also handed a ring, not to wear but to bestow. Those holding a white card are handed bells, while those holding a red card are handed nothing. A whistle marks the beginning of round one, and immediately the black group members present the red group members with the rings. Then, for a period of exactly 8 minutes, the red group in the inner circle will fraternize around the central table, enjoying food and drink served to them by the black group. The black group members wait exclusively on their respective-adjacent red group member. The white group makes music in energetic improvisation, moving and dancing along the outer ring, until a whistle marks the end of the round 1. A brief interval allows the participants to transition to their new positions for round 2. The work progresses in an outwardly radiating pattern; at each new round, the inner and middle groups move back a slot while the outer group moves forward to the center, handing off their bells to their replacements. For round 2, the white group comes forward to the inner ring while the red group moves back to the middle ring and the black group to the outer. For round 3, the black group moves forward to the inner ring, while the white group moves back to the middle ring and the red group moves back to the outer ring (see diagram). When the 8 minutes of the third and final session are up, the whistle marks the end of the work. Each group has experienced each station. All groups are released from their positions and are free to leave the arena or to linger unrestrictedly.
When the work ends, the black group is once again in possession of the rings that they were given at the beginning, and it is intended that those participants keep their ring, as a gift.