One of the most interesting facets of Assets & Values, an exhibition of new Canadian design that took place during Toronto Design Week, was Trade, an installation by Kathryn Walter comprised of a pile of felt disks to which passersby could help themselves, in return for a token of exchange. The disks were remnants of an unrelated production, but their size and shape lent appeal. Coasters? Playthings? Insulators? And to add to perceived value, each disk bore the label of Walter’s studio, FELT.
Artist: Kathryn Walter
The value of the installation came not in the form of the giveaway, but how people related to it. It was clear that the people who realized the pile of disks was an interactive installation were compelled to interact. Some just didn’t know how. Others wanted more specific “rules.”
One woman laughed and said, “They want my garbage?” Another told a friend, “Put down five bucks and take six for coasters. It’s cheaper than the store.”
One young woman could not decide between a pen she still liked and a granola bar. That decision made, she then had to decide upon the correct flavour. Her friend simply deposited a packaged feminine hygiene product.
What gives an object value? What are you willing to trade? And what if someone were watching?
What did I leave behind? A tiny square picture I picked up at a vernissage of artwork done for heirloom seed packets in the Hudson Valley, a souvenir of a special weekend with people I like a lot. Was it an equal trade? Maybe only if my felt disk ends up in Woodstock.