Art in Vending Machines 2.0
Since my initial post on art in vending machines, I’ve been looking into how the phenomena manifests itself in Canada. While there seems to be no overarching or nationally cohesive counterpart to the Art-O-Mat I encountered in Las Vegas, there are a myriad of interesting projects abound. Today, I’m going to share some of them with you (aren’t you lucky!).
The Teenie Weenie Zine Machine.
The Teenie Weenie Zine Machine!
A friend of mind, the very talented Jamie Q, makes zines. Really great ones. I first met Jamie in 2009 at a time when I was doing a lot of research on artists books. Jamie is “really into small press” and so, in August 2011, she launched the Teenie Weenie Zine Machine - essentially converting a bubble style vending machine into a portable “bookstore” to buy very small artist publications.
In addition to operating the TWZM, Jamie also curates the contents by inviting artists to participate in the project. Some are friends or people that she’s worked with before, some are local artists, and others are artists whose work she enjoys or follows. While many of the artists send in completed books, Jamie often works in collaboration with participants by helping them produce their final products. In exchange for their participation, each artist gets a package that contains works by some of the other participants. As Jamie says this lends the project “a mail-art aspect,” which finds its origins alongside the artists books of the sixties and seventies.
TWZM - works found in the second round of the project
There have been 21 artists who have participated so far. Round one contained the work of: Kiarra Albina, Marc Bell, Emily Gorda (who makes these incredible miniature pop-up books), James Kirkpatrick, Lucky’s Collaborative Drawing Party (sent by Jo Cook), Luke Ramsey, Sarah Scope, Peter Thompson, Billy Bert Young, Jason McLean, and Jamie Q. Round Two featured a completely different lineup and the work of: Amy Lockhart, Jenny Lin & Eloisa Aquino (B&D Press), Momoko Allard, Kim Kielhofner, Sonja Ahlers, Jesse Jacobs, Ryan Dodgson, Chris von Szombathy, and Edie Fake.
The machine is one-of-a-kind and came from a friend of Jamie’s, Jason McLean, who is an artist in his own right (more to come on him and his projects in another post!). Because it’s a bubble style machine, you never know which book you’ll get when you put in your $2 coin. I think the element of chance would mean that I would be feeding A LOT of twonies into the machine just to see what else was inside…
Book lovers abound!
Usually the bubble machine lives at the City Lights bookshop in London, Ontario, thought it has been known to travel around to zine fairs. As with Art-O-Mat, one of the great things about art in vending machines, aside from affordability, is the exposure it brings to the work of the participating artists. The practices of each varies greatly - for some books and zines is the focus, while for others, these miniatures are a fun project that compliments their overall body of work. Jamie has provided links to each artist’s website, and I really encourage you to check them out - the work is diverse and fantastic!
This particular project of Jamie’s is has only been spreading the love of small press for a year and a half. Right now, the plan is to keep on operating the machine as long there are bubbles to fill and artists to participate!
When I started actively looking into art vending machine projects in Canada, Jamie Q suggested I take a look at Montreal’s Distroboto.
One of Distroboto’s 11 vending machines
Distroboto has been around since 2001, and not only offers artworks and books through their refurbished cigarette machines, but music as well. Each work is sold accepted on commission - Distroboto charges a mere $2 for the works they offer and give $1.75 back to the artist for each sale. This makes their project unique from all other vending machine initiatives discussed in this post. It also means that they are a little more rigorous in their submission process, requiring that artists submit a prototype, which is then judged suitable for inclusion or not. The 25 cents from each work they keep contributes to the maintenance of the machines, website and promotion.
Which will you have the pleasure of taking home?
They have 11 operational machines dispersed throughout Montreal, and a solitary one in Poitiers, France. To date, Distroboto has featured the work of over 750 artists and has sold an impressive 50,000+ works of art!! This not for profit group also promotes and sells the work of local and emerging artists at zine fairs and what I glean is a little shop, which doubles as their base of operations. Accessibility is at the core of their endeavour - their aim is to bring the public into contact with these artists and their works and by keeping the cost of the works low and available in multiple locations, their numbers speak to the success of their efforts.
These guys are up to some incredible things. I definitely recommend paying their website a visit where you can click through links and see each vending machine in operation.
Art Hive, by Suzie Smith and Angela Forget
The Art Hive (photo from Suzie Smith’s website)
Inspired and encouraged by Distroboto, Suzie Smith and Angela Forget transformed their own cigarette vending machine into “Art Hive” in 2006 - a gallery as a showcase and sampler for “emerging and established artists working in a variety of media.” Art Hive can be found in the Black Sheep Diner in Winnipeg, and is currently being run by Forget.
Ashland Institute for Button Technology
The Ashland Institute for Button Technology is another bubble style vending machine project established in 200 by Trap/door, an artist run centre in Lethbridge, and sells 1” artist-designed buttons. Twice a year artists are invited to submit button proposals to Trap/door for “exhibition” in this alternative venue. As stated on their website, “each exhibition in the Ashland Institute will run for at least one month, or until the majority of the buttons are sold.” Buttons that don’t sell are retained for the Trap/door archive, or are sold on another occasion.
Frater Tham’s (Darcy Logan) contribution to the Ashland Institute for Button Technology
Solo or group exhibitions are possible in the Ashland Institute, and each exhibition contains 200 buttons (250 are created in total, and the artist recieves 50 in lieu of artist fees). This bubble machine accepts $1 coins and has proved to be a “significant source” of alternative revenue for programming offered by Trap/door.
As with Jamie Q’s bubbles, that play off of mail-art and its circumvention of mainstream galleries, by producing multiples, Trap/door’s initiative participates in a similar history. The Ashland Institute can be found in public places in downtown Lethbridge, including coffee shops and pubs, rather than in galleries or gift shops where one might expect to find these kinds of items.
These different attempts at making art more broadly accessible is not a new phenomena, but what I do think is different is how they are designed to deliberately engage with the average person, rather than engaging or exchanging artist to artist. In addition, there is this wonderful element of play in each of these projects, and a sense of nostalgia. I remember being a kid and putting money into vending machines outside the drugstore, hoping for something really great, but never knowing exactly what would come out. There’s something wonderful about that feeling. I also find that overall, the works submitted for these different vending machine initiatives are themselves quite playful, and I think that’s part of the draw. Besides, when an lilliputian artwork, zine or button costs less that the price of a coffee, soda or candy bar, how can you resist putting in your money and turning the knob just to see what comes out!!
- seethroughleper likes this
- nubesque likes this
- throughvht reblogged this from latitude53
- latitude53 posted this