Interventions for Exorcing Exoticism

This is documentation from a performance produced by Gabriel Widing & Leo Nordwall at Exorcising Exoticism, Shin Kong Mitskoshi, Taipei, 2006.

We have considered the theme of the exhibition carefully and found some specific entry points that we’d be interested in working with.

  1. The mall as normality. When entering a mall, certain social contracts are expected to be met. This would be the case in any public space/territory, but the mall is the physical contact point for commodity exchange. And as such, the place has to conform to the social standards defined by the society and the practicalities of exchanging commodities. A mall that would not follow social norms would fail to attract customers. Thus, the mall becomes a place of supernormality where social rules are strictly enforced.
  1. The exotism of commodified transcendence. In opposition to the normality of the mall, it does at the same time offer a possibility to transcend. Every object, every commodity holds the promise of transforming the self into a higher lever. This is the purpose of a perfume bearing the mythical name JLO. This is the promise of the Nike swoosh. You too could reach that realm of exotic transcendence. You are merely normal. They are beyond. What you are able to purchase in the mall are fragments of the good life, the life of your dreams: futile tools of self-transformation.
  1. The Consumer and the Other. The normative identity of the consumer suppresses any Other identity. This can be observed in consumer behaviour. As a consumer, your possibilities of participation and interaction are to be limited to acts of purchasing commodities – which is the normative order of the mall. But what happens if these roles are superimposed or even transgressed? How does consumers relate to the Other?

Manifestations

We would like to work with these issues by manifesting a series of interventions. These range from the subtle to the obvious. Their purpose is to raise these issues in a communicative and participatory manner by involving visitors to the mall in a social situation. We will assume roles in situations that are carefully structured as frameworks of potential interaction.

  1. Spider Market Research. This international bureau has come to the mall for several reasons. Their representatives are hip, young and sharply dressed. Cool-hunting and recruiting will be the major activities. The people from Spider offer passers-by the opportunity to become someone special. Applicants are put through an extensive interview process on-spot. Dream-like exotic possibilities of an unavailable good life are presented, only to be put in question later on. The purpose of the process is to create a situation where applicants get to know and perhaps question their own desires.
  1. The Veiled. We will appear as two traditionally dressed, veiled Muslim women, representing the stereotype exotic Other of the Orient. They will present consumers to unusual situations, prompting them to consider and possibly interact with the on-goings. They are silent, but very present and will interact with gazes, touching and movement.

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