Art in Art in Print is an irregular, ongoing series of projects in which artists create art within the journal—not a piece of art that exists somewhere else and is reproduced in the journal, but a project designed specifically for the material, technological and social context of Art in Print.
We are pleased to present Stephanie Syjuco’s Market Forces as the third of these projects.
Stephanie Syjuco describes her work as “large-scale spectacles of collected cultural objects, cumulative archives, and temporary vending installations.” Many of these projects investigate local histories and economies, and the creative rifts that open up between official economic activities and the endlessly innovative—and sometimes desperate—entrepreneur-ship of the streets. In the Philippines she teamed with local artists to consider “quick-and-dirty” design solutions to the challenges of natural disasters.
These processes of production, valuation and exchange inevitably raise questions about utility, symbolism and imitation—what exactly do we think we are getting for our money? Unsurprisingly, Syjuco frequently toys with questions of authenticity and copying. In her Fauxrijuana workshops, participating artists compete to produce visually credible fake marijuana from common household supplies: the recipe of the winning entry is used to fabricate a limited-edition multiple distributed to the participants. In This is Not the Berlin Wall (2014) she gathered bits of rubble from crumbling Soviet-era buildings in Poland and painted them to resemble the colorful concrete chips commonly sold as fragments of the Berlin Wall. (Given that only a few sections on just one side of the Wall were ever graffitied in the first place, most of the real remains look like any other concrete rubble.) Like the real ersatz souvenirs, Syjuco’s were packaged in Ziploc bags with certificates of authenticity.
Her project for Art in Art in Print is a small-scale extension of Market Forces, a 2014 collaboration with MBA students and printmaking students at Temple University that studied and dramatized local underground economies in Philadelphia.1 The business students conducted research, identifying material goods that were bought or traded on black or gray markets: counterfeit DVDs, team jerseys or designer-label handbags; jugs of Tide shoplifted and used as street currency (the peculiar dominance of Tide in drug deals was the subject of a 2013 Business Insider story2 ). The art students then went into production, screenprinting and constructing paper models of these pirated commodities, transforming the school’s exhibition space into a public manufacturing zone. At the same time they designed and printed 1.2 million pseudo dollars, which they scattered around campus for people to collect and trade in for the other paper counterfeit counterfeits in the gallery.
Among the topics researched by the Market Forces team was the secondary market life of mobile phones. The students tracked what happened to Philadelphia-based phones once they were sold or traded in, and charted the global journeys that took the phones through myriad intermediaries and eventually to street vendors on other continents, where once again they represent a tradable commodity, a buck to be made, an object of desire.
The model in the November–December issue is made to be cut out and glued together. It won’t get any reception, but it still has something to say.
Special thanks to Temple Contemporary for their generous support of the Market Forces project and to Haigan Pearson for the iPhone layout design.
- Fox School of Business and Tyler School of Art worked in conjunction with the Center for Design and Innovation.
- Rebecca Baird-Remba, “Why Criminals Can Trade Tide Detergent for Crack Cocaine,” Business Insider, 9 Jan 2013. http://www.businessinsider.com/the-tide-black-market-2013-1?op=1.