The Larks & Ravens (of which I am one) are currently “artists in residence” for one day a week in the old Victorian Market in Newport. The stunning market building was once a thriving attraction with an abundance of stalls, a diversity of merchandise and crowds of daily customers. These days it looks a bit neglected, down at heel and struggling. Many stalls are empty (holders unable to afford the rent) and there is only a small, mainly elderly, footfall. It is located uncomfortably close to a shiny, newly built shopping mall (a flagship “regeneration project”) with its contrasting world of global brands, consumer fashion and free market capitalism.
But the long serving, Newport Market stall holders are wonderfully welcoming and friendly – deservedly proud of their stalls and wares and always ready to spend time chatting to their customers, many of whom they know by name and have cared for over many years. So are the values they represent no longer relevant in today’s Newport?
The Larks and Ravens are using their sojourn in Newport Market to take further our own exploration of ‘values’ – what are they? how are they exchanged and how does money either enable, reflect or distort those values? And, most challenging, can 3 artists give value in exchange for being in the Market for the next 6 weeks?
This week, we offered people in the market a £2 coin and invited them to go and find something they liked in the market and bring it back to our stall. We then invited them to stand on one of our round podiums, place their chosen object on a 2nd podium and tell us why they chose that object. Sometimes a small audience even gathered to hear what the latest individual on the podium had to say and see what object they had chosen.
We then mounted each object on our stall wall along with the words people used to describe their choice – a “Gallery of Exchange”, if you will. Some objects were charming, some emotionally resonant and some just making us laugh out loud. Each carried personal meaning.
Reflecting on the day’s experience, I was struck by how people responded to their ‘podium moment’ (including ourselves!). The podium we used is only 12″ high but stepping onto it affects how you feel and what you do next – you are noticed, significant and immediately want to perform. Similarly, placing a £2 object on another (higher) podium has the effect of making it significant as well for that moment in time. Is this simply a case of ‘embodied cognition‘ where how we think and feel is determined by the physical position, action or sensation of our bodies? I don’t know but stepping up on the podium certainly had an effect on perceived value – however momentary – of the individual and of the object selected.
So, what was the true value of the day? – the £2 objects? the podium moment? the laughter and chance to play together? a hug exchanged? the conversations? or a blank wall transformed for a few hours into an attractive and eye catching gallery?
You can follow our Larks and Ravens’ adventures here.