Salt-winning: Equal To or Greater Than
December 2010 to January 2011
Glass, road salt, trash
Salt-winning: Equal To or Greater Than is a trash-based social economy. Over one hundred miniature globes were created from discarded glass, trash, and winter road salt. Each globe could be taken away by gallery visitors at any time as long as they left something behind of equal or greater value. Visitors were asked to fill out a survey after their exchanges that detailed what they took, what they left behind, and how they determined the equivalent value of the two objects.
There were several trends within the trades: people adjudicated value based on the mode and time of production and left their own handmade objects. Frequently people used found objects, trash, and even salt to create objects for exchange. Another trend was to leave things that had sentimental value rather than monetary or material value. Because this type of value is technically non-transferable, it addressed the idea of value in the abstract and exchange became a sort of sacrifice. A small number of people were “bargained hunters” and explained equivalence in very descriptive or shallow terms rather than in terms of value (“an object for an object” or “because I said so”). Some people grappled with value in terms of money, gift cards, lottery tickets, or other monetary equivalents. Finally, some people extended the idea of exchange and value to include personal interaction with the artist (to see what the artist might like), or would trade for an item, research their new art piece, and then trade out the object they left behind for an object with “more appropriate” equivalency.
Max Liboiron creates miniature dioramas out of trash and invites viewers to interact with the installation according to one or two simple rules. Sometimes visitors can take anything away at any time, causing a slow erosion of the installation. Othertimes people are asked to leave something behind if they take something, mimicking a barter economy or a steady-state economy. When taken together, these interactions create social economies that exhibit different characteristics than those of our everyday market-driven capitalist economies. They show that people are not inherently greedy, self-maximizing, or selfish, but generous, creative, and even daring in their relationship to each other and to trash. For this reason, Max Liboiron’s installations are performative experiments that investigate how different types of actions and values can potentially contribute to a sustainable economic and material future.