chapter  Chapter 12
10 Pages

‘Empire Project’

WithCedar Nordbye

Unlike the sale of a commodity, the giving of a gift tends to establish a relationship between the parties involved. Furthermore, when gifts circulate within a group, their commerce leaves a series of interconnected relationships in its wake, and a kind of decentralized cohesiveness emerges. Today’s threatening public spaces, where pedestrians are bombarded by commercial solicitations, attempted religious conversions and harassment by police, are not easy environments for enacting conversations and interactions with members of the public. The kinds of encounters that Joseph Beuys referred to as ‘social sculpture’ and Nicolas Bourriaud as ‘relational aesthetics’ do not unfold easily on sidewalks, and the gift is a useful tool for bypassing the defenses of the public and opening up doors to a dialogue.