Current artists: Amon Azizov, Wei Chen, Qiao Fu, Gao Min, Guo Kun Sheug, Artashes Karslian, Ji Yin Jin, Li Qun, Lin Ruo, Dean Lu, Ren Jien-Guo, Jorge Rivera, Sharif Sadiq, Peter Walsh, Xiang Yue Chuan, Dario Zapata, Zhuang Xuemin

Organized by Peter Walsh, Ongoing.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Non-Monetary Exchange, Part Two

What about behind the scenes?

How do the documentary photos that you see on this blog get taken? What about the video or the brochure that was created?

Again, barter is the modus operandi when intangibles like art are being created in social spaces that are invisible to cash economies. A good example is the hours of superb digital video that Emmy-award winning filmmakers Kathy Brew and Roberto Guerra shot on the first day of the Portrait Exchange. Although they were incredibly busy, Kathy and Roberto agreed to shoot for a variety of reasons including their own interest in the project and its focus on art-making in an unexpected place, and also, friendship – I’ve known them for years. Still, we also made a deal for a pair of portraits drawn by me, a deal which is as yet unredeemed (One of the intriguing aspects of barter economies is that the barter tends to slow down the pace of economic interactions between individuals, which is generally considered a negative. Yet my debt to Kathy and Roberto has drawn out our exchange to many months, in some ways magnifying our connections by ensuring that I contact them again down the road. This burden to reconnect hangs in the air like a thread between us until the barter is completed. I’m bound to their generosity. Economic exchange of this kind is not like anonymously buying a cup of coffee, or even, quite frankly, like hiring someone to do a one day video shoot.).

In the case of the Central Park Portrait Exchange, another issue of importance is the development of new internet driven barter tools. I’ve relied heavily on an artist/barter website called OurGoods, founded by a group of artists and designers including Jen Abrams, Louise Ma, Carl Tashian, Rich Watts, and Caroline Woolard, describes itself as “a community of cultural producers matching "needs" to offered "haves".” I would describe it as being like a barter Ebay for artists, except that barter economies are fundamentally more complex than cash-driven economies in terms of person-to-person interactions and are more capable of bringing people together in relationships that may play out over years.

By using the OurGoods site I’ve received the photographic skills of four different artists, help on the ground during the portrait exchanges, Mandarin translation services and the design of a brochure to hand out onsite in Central Park! In exchange I’ve provided many bags of organic fruits and vegetables and a variety of as yet unfulfilled promises such as studio visits and grant-writing advice. I find it gratifying that the barter system that OurGoods uses rhymes so well with the goals of the Portrait Exchange.

Still, in the end, my own donated labor is the prime animating force of the project.


  1. Hi there, awesome site. I thought the topics you posted on were very interesting. I tried to add your RSS to my feed reader and it a few. take a look at it, hopefully I can add you and follow.

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  2. I like the idea of barter extending (perhaps indefinitely) the economic exchange, which is usually a quick event.