Walmartathon

Credit:
Doug Easterly, Matt Kenyon

Exhibited:
Intangipahoa, Hammond La.
SWAMP'ed, London Ontario, Ca.

After extinguishing most of the mom-and-pop shops in Hammond Louisiana, the local Super-Walmart became the one-stop ‘everything’ store for the town of 20,000. People are attracted to conveniences like one-stop shopping, low prices, and 24-hour accessibility – especially when there are no voices spelling out the ramifications of these amenities . Walmart-athon is a photographic documentation from a performance designed to illustrate the concepts of control inherently connected to the processes of consumerism.

A system of rules were established to parody the encompassing tentacles of retail offered by Wal-Mart: first, we were to stay inside the building for 24 hours; second, everything worn, ate, consumed and used to produce artwork had to be derived through purchases made in the store – this required buying and changing into new clothes, marking the start of the performance.

Instantly, we became aware of the architecture as a commercial space, with no other concern, military-like in its lean facility. All of the inhabitants were purposefully following rules of commerce: shoppers purchasing, clerks answering questions, cashiers checking people out, stockers putting out new product, managers making decisions, security watching for shoplifters. For every non-employee, a Wal-Mart associate filled the reciprocal dialectic, from which any communication was only made meaningful through a funneling process, focusing all shoppers, products, design, displays, and architecture towards the point-of-sale being the cash registers. We were the only people not accounted for in what was revealed to be a complex system of consumption. Much like the exchange of food, waste and cell replacement in an organic body, Wal-Mart maintains a pattern of continuity through time, with variations in material and changes of human resources.