July 11, 2017
Stamps Associate Professor Rebekah Modrak’s #exstrange project - a curated series of eBay auctions as exhibition - is featured in a new Hyperallergic essay by Rob Walker.
The fifth episode of Robert Hughes’s famous 1980 documentary series The Shock of the New memorably sees the critic striding through one in Paris, bellowing about the Surrealists, who had found inspiration in such settings and their “endless profusion of battling objects” in the early 20th century. “The flea market was like the unconscious mind of capitalism,” Hughes booms; artists prowled the sales stalls to mine connections from the seemingly impersonal goods on offer, revealing “secret affinities” within a world that their work “declassified.” And then the curators of #exstrange, Marialaura Ghidini and Rebekah Modrak, showed up in eBay’s infinite flea market with a different, but not unrelated, intent: to set up shop.
The selling of goods and services, in this context, would serve as a “pretense,” as Modrak put it, for facilitating exchanges among strangers — borrowing sociologist Georg Simmel’s take on the “stranger” as a “mobile figure who circulates goods.” And thus, through more than 100 auctions, involving dozens of artists (and non-artists), #exstrange joined and added to the commodity conversation, simultaneously cacophonous and silent, happening on one of our most familiar online agoras.
JODI, image from “EBAY shopping bag (#exstrange edition),” #exstrange auction