A few summers ago I read Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. The title completely caught my attention, and I searched out the book – this was before it was a NY Times best seller and could be found just everywhere. I loved the book, and casually began following Ariely’s work. This past winter I checked out his website and read that he puts together art shows at Duke University, which are responses to his work. I submitted a proposal for his current project. My piece is currently on exhibition, along with works by more than 30 other artists.
Here’s part of the press release:
June 1, 2012 – August 31, 2012
Open to the public Monday – Friday 10 AM – 3 PM
Opening reception: June 22, 2012 from 6 – 10 PM
Thirty-four artists were invited to create innovative and engaging artwork after a stimulating discussion on social and economic inequality, wealth distribution, and what is so taxing about taxation.
So, here’s how it went. Ariely gave a talk, which I was able to view on-line. He discussed the research he was doing around exploring economic inequalities and people’s response to inequality. At least that’s what I think he was talking about…there were so many interesting thoughts being put forth at once that I had a hard time isolating the central theme.
I had just a few days to come up with a proposal..maybe it was more than a few days, but I had a bad cold, and the proposal was due on my daughter’s sixteenth birthday, so it felt like I had a scarce amount of time to process. But that was probably just as well.
My thinking about what to submit was guided by the fact that I am one of those people who deeply believes that a strong education profoundly resonates for the good, and has the power to narrow the chasm of inequality that exists between people and societies. Recently, as a gesture to support education, I had gifted blank, handmade books to a young man, James, who is teaching for the Peace Corps in a South African village. I felt good about this gift, and decided that, for Ariely’s show I would make more books to send to more students. My thought was to give them to students locally, not so locally, and to students who are not at all local. My hope was (and still is) to donate the books to at least four sets of students in different parts of the world.
I also made a large accordion which could be set up in many ways, though, ideally, it is meant to create four spaces (symbolizing East , West, North and South) for the books to occupy. The symbolically interesting part of this structure is that if the books are evenly distributed and tucked neatly into the four spaces, the whole structure is strong: each pile of books supports both the accordion, as well as the piles of the other books. If the books are randomly placed, as in the first photo of this post, or even orderly placed but not supporting each other, like the photo below….
…still the structure is not strong.
I had hoped to know who I would be giving the books to before the books went out to be displayed. I still don’t know who all the recipients will be. Of the four people I contacted only two responded positively, the other two did not respond at all. So I am still am looking for two more teachers of young children who will be willing to accept a pile of books for their students to fill.
These books have a combination of graph paper, lined paper, and blank paper. They have pockets on the front and back covers, and measure about 5 1/2″ x 5 1/2″.
I thought that it was interesting that not everyone I offered these books to jumped at the opportunity. It occurred to me, then that it is this is part of the inequality in the world: it’s not so obvious what to give, where to give it, and who will want it.