We’ve got a thing for markets. They’re one of the first places we go in a new city or country, you quickly find out what’s important to people through the stuff on sale, and you get an introduction to how they interact. We mean proper, working-class markets, flea markets, not craft or farmer’s markets or any of the other gentrified versions you get, particularly in Western cities. Markets are the beating heart of any place.
We’ve been making projects in markets since 2001, when we took six artists for a residency at Birmingham Wholesale Market’s Sunday bootsale. From selling dirt from the bottom of the hole, now filled in by the Bullring Centre, to re-purposing bootsale finds into enduring artworks the project was a great insight to how people interact in these great spaces – and how easy it is to engage them in some, quite conceptual art interventions. We never looked back and are continuing to inhabit, investigate and interrupt markets today.
You can find beautiful things like this at bootsales – this is a copy of cover of the Manzoni-era masterplan we dug out of a box, the whole thing makes for fascinating reading, get in touch if you’d like to see more.We continued to visit the bootsale, both for fun and to source materials for our artworks and exhibitions for the next 12 years or so, before re-visiting our previous project with 2016’s ‘Market-ing Time intervention where we again took half a dozen artists to make interventions in the market. We always had our rules – we had to ‘sell’ something or there had to be an exchange, we might be making art, but we wouldn’t be a sideshow.
Artworks ranged from transparent carrier bags which would both serve to ‘brand’ the market and share ‘booters finds with the curious, to a ‘virtual tour’ of the market, filmed and recorded by stealth and sold on usb memory stick.
It was during this residency that we learned of the ‘imminent’ closure of the Wholesale Market, and consequently the Sunday carboot. People we knew started to tell us we should ”do something’ and, whilst we knew that there would be no stopping the eventual march of the bulldozers – after all this was prime real estate in a rapidly-gentrifying area – we could at least document and find some way to celebrate this important place, before it was too late.
And so, Wholesale Memory and Everything Must Go were born…