Trading for art produces some bargains

U-News Staff

Students walking  by the Fine Arts building gallery during the last few weeks may have been interested and confused at the sight of the blankets, pillows, sheets and boxes which littered the space. Some may have thought it a new textile exhibition, but opening twice on September 20th and 27th, the Fine Arts department exhibited the  POP! Tradeshow.

While most see art gallery exhibitions as calm events where audiences examine various pieces  hung on walls, the Tradeshow offered a new twist. It applied the idea of bartered trading. Visitors were encouraged to shop and look around, but there was only one condition: no currency. All transactions were to be made with tradable goods.

I brought along pocketsful of Japanese candy to trade.  Entering the space is daunting to one who has never really traded anything other than school lunch,  but the feeling was quickly forgotten by the complete decorative beauty of the exhibition.

Sheets emblazoned with detailed patterns and vibrant colors were draped from the ceiling and dipped down the walls. Each stand was decorated with tables and boxes covered with small items and drapery, some of which were for sale, and some not.

One vendor, a tea brewer known as “D with the T,” remarked on the décor, “It reminds you of the forts you used to make when you were younger. You feel like a kid again.” Her stand was a 19th century chest with a light brown wooden box on top, covered with long, thin holes. She took the hot water brewing with tea leaves, poured it into the wooden box and then poured the tea into glasses for the awaiting drinkers sitting on pillows nearby.

She asked no price for her tea, and I sat down. I was joined by two others, and we sat and talked as the tradeshow gathered momentum around us. It was a pure form of sociability the tea vendor created around the wooden chest.

Later on, I found my candy was a satisfactory form of exchange for the show. I encountered a woman selling hand-printed postcards and miniature calendars, and  found only five pieces of candy were enough for a whole set of both items.  She explained the postcards were already endowed with stamps and I was instructed to write her back wherever I went as I continued to experience the beauty of the world.

I began to realize why the exhibition was such a success after a tarot reading, sampling raspberry jam biscuits, homemade granola and a brief perusal of an extensive collection of vintage hairdressing books . It was a pure and rewarding vacation away from known economic traditions to a purer, more open exchange.

[email protected]