Doug Easterly, Matt Kenyon
Fire Sale, MIC Toi Rerehiko Gallery, Auckland New Zealand
Every year fresh consumer data is collected and traded by a handful of data brokers—large corporations like AC Nielsen and Acxiom that deal in personal information, consumer preferences, and media viewership habits. The objective of these data brokers is to build profiles that are predictive of future consumer behavior. This information allows to these companies to sell consumer profiles to advertisers who in turn are able to target receptive audiences with increasing fidelity. In order to do so, data brokers rely on scores of study participants who are monitored as archetypal consumers.
Consumer Index is a site specific performance in which the artist enlists himself as a “Nielson Family” member. Under this false identity, he becomes a source of data associated with the characteristics by which Nielsen measures humans as consumers: Gender, race, education, and socioeconomic status. Only, instead of becoming a part of the “mini-USA, representing millions of Americans”, the artist becomes a virus within the system and his participation splinters data of this “typical” country. The performance is a hack, and the artist, an aberrant indicator of the archetypal consumer he purports to represent.
Consumer Index is a performance that is both subversive and linguistic in nature. Kenyon reconfigures the Nielsen Homescan bar-code scanner and fuses it with a micro-video camera. Implanting the camera inside of his mouth, he literally comes to embody the consumer profile represented by the data he collects. As he proceeds to scan every item within the local Walmart Superstore, the act of ingestion alters data broker’s conception of his consumer behavior even as his archetypal profile becomes less like his actual self.