By Karen Herland

Gisele Amantea’s poodle stand-off is just one of the images in <em>USED/Goods</em>, launched in early Sept. Magnifying glass

Gisele Amantea’s poodle stand-off is just one of the images in USED/Goods, launched in early Sept.

Ever since some eccentric Victorian fitted a glass bell over an intriguing fossil, there has been an uneasy relationship between found objects and art.

On Sept. 3, articule, an artist-run gallery, hosted the launch of USED/Goods, a book commemorating a three-week exhibition and series of events held in the Notre Dame St. Salvation Army thrift store in Nov. 2004.

The activities, events and performances organized by Cut Rate Collective — a trio of Concordia professors — ad-dressed and involved the staff and shoppers at the store. By placing art in a functional space and offering opportunities for everyone passing through the space to participate, the project raised questions related to consumption, value, art, exhibition and audience.

The Salvation Army, with a long history of social aid across North America, is a source of goods “for the working poor and supplies for artists,” according to Intermedia and Cyberarts professor Lorraine Oades, who first thought about curating a show in the space after taking a class there. Initially she approached articule who helped sponsor the project through their special projects program. The project grew to include numerous artists and a publication with support from the Canada Council for the Art and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.

The activities, events and performances held in Nov. 2004 Determining that a found object is art, and treating it as such is only the start of the equation. The book asks the question implicit in the project “what happens… when these objects are taken out of neutral gallery space and put back into a sensorially packed, living environment, like the Salvation Army?”

The sheer size of the 24 000 sq ft Little Burgundy location, with a department store range of goods, underscored the aim of the project. “They have clothes, furniture, books, sporting equipment – all aspects of a living environment,” said Oades.

When Cut Rate first approached the management of the Salvation Army, they were really positive. “They had just three rules, no nudity, no swearing and no alcohol”, said Oades. “Actually, at times there was swearing, but that was the only rule we broke.”

The exhibition itself featured repurposed material taken from the store, or others like it, displayed in corners or on shelves amongst the wares. The art was distinguished from goods with maps, signs, schedules and other tools. In some cases, performances were held amongst the rows of clothing, and Kelly Lynne Wood hosted Talk Show - a series of workshops with different artists over the length of the exhibition.

Some of the staff and shoppers had difficulty with the changing purpose of the space, “they felt we were invading their environment, which was part of the dynamic,” said Oades.

Communications professor Kim Sawchuk, who became a member of Cut Rate Collective for the publication, established the Happenstance Institute within the store to research and understand the massive recycling process the store uses to deal with the flow of tons of material in and out of the space. Her project became the source of one of the chapters in the USED/Goods publication.

Gisele Amantea, of Studio Arts and the third member of the Cut Rate Collective, conceived of a performance based on meticulous records of household expenses maintained by Emma Luciantonio. She worked with Kathy Kennedy and Choeur Maha to realize the project.

The book documents the artworks and events that were a part of USED/Goods and Talk Show, and includes several other pieces including interviews with all of the artists involved and commissioned essays for the publication. An essay by Sherry Simon, of Études françaises, literally situates the Salvation Army within Montreal’s neighbourhoods ‘below the hill’ exploring their role in sustaining Canada’s industrial economy before globalization. Her chapter is just one of the texts that provides a larger context for the work of dozens of artists and organizers that went into the development of the project.


Concordia University