#exstrange was a live exhibition project that used the online marketplace eBay as a site of curatorial operation, artistic production and cultural exchange; a project that operated within the geographical boundaries enabled by the commercial platform the curators, Marialaura Ghidini and Rebekah Modrak, appropriated—the various ‘national’ eBay sites.
The exhibition presented a series of artworks-as-auctions that artists and designers created for eBay by using the entire listing as material constituting the artwork—descriptive text, images, pricing, and categories. The categories (such as Business & Industry, Collectibles, Consumer Electronics, Health & Beauty, Real Estate, and Warranty Services) also became a tool to reach particular and diverse communities of interest beyond physical and socio-cultural barriers. Live for 7 days only, each auction was launched and maintained by its creator so that the interactions with the bidders (viewers) and their comments were incorporated in real time into the work on eBay. In this sense, an #exstrange artwork would not exist before being an auction and would only be complete within the context of eBay.
The curators created #exstrange to explore collective strategies of production and communication online; strategies that they thought would enable more personal and meaningful encounters between auctions and the passers-by of the e-marketplace, and between artists and audiences. At its core, #exstrange sought responses to the driving question: “What forms of encounters and types of relationships can take place in the realm of e-commerce beyond the seller-to- buyer transaction, the fundraiser-to-backer association, or the peer-to-peer swap?”
#exstrange began with the curators’ invitation to 21 artists to launch a 7-day artwork-as-auction on eBay. This was followed by a series of interventions by 11 guest curators based across the world who, in turn, invited three artists each according to their own interpretation of the project. Connected by the tag #exstrange in the listing title, the works could be found in that vast archive of commodities online that is eBay, while this website aggregated them in real time on the home page and now functions as an archive. #exstrange launched on the 15 January 2017, and ended on the 13 April 2017, with the last auction posted on the 8 April.
This is your single opportunity to purchase A Silver Nutmeg And A Golden Pear (2017) by artist Isabella Streffen, made specifically for the eBay exhibition #wishingyouwell as part of #exstrange. The work is an edition of 3 and comprises: two gilded objects, an ebay listing, a record of the conversation relating to the purchase of the edition; and a certificate of authenticity. The work is completed by your care towards it. Each of the editions is slightly different, in keeping with the organic nature of the artwork. The artwork and the accompanying paperwork will be dispatched in protective cardboard casing by Registered Post. Offering this work for public sale is a departure for Streffen, whose artwork can usually only be acquired by a non-monetary exchange.
According to the rhyme first recorded by Halliwell-Phillipps in London in 1797 (and said to commemorate the coming of Catherine of Aragon to the English Court in 1506), the possession of a magical silver nutmeg and a golden pear promises to enable you to dance over waters and seas and ensure that all the birds in the air cannot catch you. It alludes to an important moment in European history, as also suggests a metaphor for royal succession. Streffen has gilded a quince – the ‘Golden Pear’ of the title – and a nutmeg both of which change over time to become precious casts of their own life-cycles, and whose changing nature will provide you with hours and years of various imaginative pleasures. By caring for the objects, they will become more precious to you, and this is an intrinsic part of your purchase.
What to expect of your artwork: Both pieces are gilded in gold (the ‘silver’ of the nutmeg is white gold), and have had applications of specialist gilding varnish. You can rub them very gently with a soft, dry cloth. They should not tarnish. What they will do is rot, although it is impossible to tell how long this will take as it depends on the conditions in which they are kept. The estimated period for the pear to rot is one to three years: it may ooze and drip during periods of change, but eventually, you will have a perfect cast of its lifecycle, which will last indefinitely provided you handle it carefully. The artist suggests keeping it protected by a bell-jar as it is very tactile, and curious fingers could cause irretrievable damage. The surface of the pear in particular will change, wrinkle and abrade.