This first bag of chaff sits in an art gallery – the wonderful National Gallery of Victoria. It is called “Art Stuffing” (1970) , an installation by conceptual artist, Aleks Danko, born in 1950. It is a hessian bag stuffed with paper and contains enamel paint. According to the description at the gallery, “Art Stuffing” suggests a link to the French Dada artist Marcel Duchamp and his ‘hyper-alertness’ towards issues of artistic style and authorship; the production of art as a commodity and its social use as a form of cultural capital. This work focuses on the economy of the museum, and the establishment, conservation and breakdown of both cultural value and the identity of the individual artist in a deliberately rough-hewn (read “hessian bag”) way. “Art stuffing” expresses Danko’s fascination with the complexity of transactions and the transference of value.
The second bag is a hessian bag, but this one is not full of chaff. It is full of coffee beans – Arabica beans from Papua New Guinea. This proudly sits in the front window of a coffee shop and therefore, would not be considered as an art piece – unless you are an aficionado of Arabica beans. So, in comparison, I asked myself, what do they have in common? ergo I concur:
- Both are on display;
- Both can represent ‘hyper-alertness’ (if you drink enough coffee);
- Both are used as a commodity and their social use is a form of cultural capital;
- Both can have a complexity of transactions and the transference of value (i.e. the price of coffee in some countries can be way more expensive than others); and
- Both bags on display are undeniably stuffed.
I should also mention that, Danko has evolved Duchamp’s strategy of “word, object, play, pun, satire” and here, I have tried to do the same. But, alternatively you might just think that I know ‘stuff all‘ about art.