Spurious! / Dibs

Spurious!
with Shara Rosko
Edmonton, Alberta
March 1999 – 2000

Dibs
with Shara Rosko
published in aceart’s annual PaperWait
Winnipeg, Manitoba
August 2001 (ongoing)

In the spirit of products that rely on the ignorance of the very people they are being marketed to, Shara Rosko and I produced an intervention piece wherein we placed gold seals marked ‘Spurious!’ on various products for sale in stores, artworks in galleries, and privately-owned objects. Inspired by vials of “Knock-out Pills” marked “Placebo Effect! Spurious Product!” this project highlighted the Western habit of designating attributes to products in order to make them more desirable, though that attribute may not be present at all, while questioning the effectiveness and validity of products, artwork, and ownership. It symbolizes the epitome of patronizing attitudes in niche marketing. The original product’s producers had obviously been forced to place labels on their product warning consumers that their product was ineffective, but they chose to do so as obscurely as they could, ostensibly in the hopes that those they were marketing to would not understand that they didn’t work. The fact that they were charging $25 per bottle for sugar pills seems to support the idea that they were not simply selling these pills as a novelty, and the high price also implied their effectiveness to the buyers. These ideas translated well to the worlds of art and mass consumerism, and this simple project was strikingly effective.

In a similar vein, Rosko and I produced a work for AceArt’s 2001 Paperwait entitled Dibs, which consisted of a sheet of labels inserted into their publication along with a set of instructions. Each label was hand stamped with the word Dibs and people were invited to put their dibs on anything they wanted, with one catch – the artists retain the right of first dibs. The piece addressed ideas of ownership and authorship, especially of ideas and other ephemeral objects. In both of these projects, Rosko and I take the idea of “labelling” way too seriously.