A Stock Exchange

March 9th 2011

A square deal, a fair go, fair and square. Our daily swaps rest on an expectation of fairness and equality – from swapping Pokemon cards at lunchtime (one Psyduck is not equal to a Mew) to making sure you’re not ripped off when buying peaches at the grocery shop ($9.99 a kilo? You’ve got to be kidding me). People are even gaoled because they don’t play fair. But at Imperial Panda’s Stock Exchange, fairness and equality come second behind a sense of humour – which is kind of the idea.

Swap an oil painting for a bus fare, a short lesson in Serbian for a cake themed ‘cold hard cash’, home-grown tomatoes for a knife-sharpening service, an act of revenge for a Martha Stewart-inflected feng shui bedroom overhaul. Presented by the 2011 Imperial Panda Festival, A Stock Exchange brings together “kith, kin and strangers to swap their art, ideas, time, labour, knowledge, bodies and skills.”

“Value isn’t an inherent property of a thing, it comes about through processes of judgment- and consensus-making,” explains Amelia Groom, co-curator of A Stock Exchange. “It changes according to spatial/temporal contexts. Hopefully this project might get people to think not just about the idea of exchange but about the unpredictable and subjective nature of valorisation.”

Asked by the Imperial Pandas to create a project for the festival, coordinators Amelia Groom, Robert Milne and Jack Jeweller come from diverse backgrounds but share an interest in curating. “We decided for this project to make ourselves into background facilitators rather than ‘curators’ – we wanted to do something that would take on a life of its own and be more about other people’s ideas than ours.”

The trio asked their friends, family and the public at large to make an offer via the project’s website. After examining all the offers made, the curators allocated pairs and the great switcheroo began. “We allocate all the exchanges so nobody knows what they are going to get,” Groom continues. “We might try to pair up people who don’t not already know each other, we might assign randomly. It’s a fun process. Our criteria for allocating the swaps shifts according to the moods we are in, really.” The project is in part inspired by conceptual artist Sol LeWitt’s non-monetary exchanges. He consistently traded works not only with high-profile artists like Eva Hesse and Robert Mangold, but with strangers – amateurs and admirers whom he did not know, but whom had sent their work to him.

Like LeWitt’s work and like all gift giving, A Stock Exchange is inflected with both risk and generosity. And like the very best gifts, it has a wonky sense of humour. “Tully Arnot has offered to look after someone’s identity for them for the duration of the 4-day exhibition (he will take their ID, use their name as his, change his Facebook profile to theirs, etc.),” says Groom. And the swaps aren’t limited to participants either. “For our opening we are setting up a soup kitchen, asking people to swap some words of their choosing for alphabet pasta minestrone. The words can be given to us in printed form, verbally, or otherwise. Then you get a bowl of soup.”

A Stock Exchange opens this Thursday evening, 6-8PM at Freda's, 109 Regent St Chippendale. Documentation of the 70-odd swaps will be shown over four days (10-13 March at Freda’s).


Imperial Panda Festival
A Stock Exchange
Opens March 10, 6-8pm
Runs March 10-13, 12- 6pm


Read more from Nick La Rosa