EACH OTHER (TWO) (2011)
Created by Eric and Mia, Each Other is a self-contained, collapsible, and mobile storefront that brings together elements of craft, performance, and civic participation to playfully question public space and systems of exchange in local everyday life. By occupying indoor and outdoor sites throughout a city’s urban and suburban districts, Each Other is the distribution centre for free handmade supplies that lead participants towards a critical and creative experience of civic participation. With Each Other we are proposing that space and trade can be shaped, contested, and altered by the people who live and utilize a city’s many different spaces in their everyday lives. Specifically, Each Other asks: How do notions of space and trade relate to civic participation in an inherently privatized and market driven society? How can lending and returning as an artistic practice collaboratively create public space for ‘each other’? Are these public spaces democratic, based on their terms of engagement? How can playful social and spatial transgressions (“trespassing”) provide opportunities for citizens to temporarily stake and win a territorial claim?
By looking to public libraries, we see a model that is ripe with possibility because libraries are two things: lending institutions (systems of exchange) and a truly inclusive and democratic public space. Unlike a shopping mall that portrays itself as public, the library is a space where everybody, including the marginalized—women, immigrants, children, the homeless, the differently-abled, and the under-employed—can freely congregate. As civic institutions, libraries have an indiscriminate lending and return policy—anybody can borrow. And the books that libraries lend behave as a meeting place for citizens (think here of the scribbles that dot the margins of books, earmarked pages, underlined text, and altered images). The library book, therefore, is a site of civic discourse—a-micro-public-space—that is disseminated by the People. As a public space, the library book has the capacity to intervene in private domains (one simply needs to put a book into their bag to smuggle it into a mall). So if the library book is a “public space” and can cross guarded borders, does engaging and performing (i.e. reading) that book in a private environment mean that one is entering into or generating a temporary public space? With Each Other we are stating, unequivocally, “yes”. It is the library and the library book that Each Other seeks to emulate, but with a twist! Unlike the library, whose policy depends upon borrowed items being returned, Each Other’s supplies are not brought back to the mobile storefront; instead participants reciprocate by using the supplies to perform an activity. That is to say, the supplies themselves precipitate an action and that action generates a social and spatial return.