ARS concepts is a parody on authenticity as commodity, particularly within ‘hipster’ culture, which rejects objects of mass production in favour of a return to the hand made. ARS concepts (a cynical acronym for its three fictional entrepreneurial developers Ashilen, Raquelle, Stephane), turn an emptied café shop window into a specialist repurposed collectables store. In recognition of iconic rue de Flandres in central Brussels, which boasts an array of new or repurposed artisanal-styled products from hand-knitted woollen clothing to rare second-hand vinyl, ARS Concepts takes repurposing to an absurd extreme. All items are literally bought from local residents of the street during a community flea-market (coincidentally a few days before the performance) then repackaged as ARS-Authentic and revalued for sale online and offline.
A low-tech parody of hi-tech marketing uses an automated conveyer belt, similar to a sushi train, with each product simultaneously described for authenticity on a computer screen. The descriptions are exaggerated claims that included local celebrities, heart-wrenching love stories, tragedies, tenuous connections and bizarre claims.
“Picture frame from the bathroom of Fleur-Marie, a talented painter who never realised her dreams. €110”
“Miniature Trees. Gift from a drug dealer to his client for years of loyalty €94”
The objects use white-space aesthetics to fetishize the objects and create value, in an attempt to create an elite experience. The ten minute performance plays several times as a loop, using amiable sound and light to enhance the aesthetic haze. Objects bought for a euro or two were revalued at up to 300 Euros. No sales were made.
ARS concepts acknowledges how current fashion-cultures value authenticity. ‘Hipster’ culture is a recent social phenomena, which sociologist Bjørn Schiermer associates to a ‘redemptive gesture toward the objects of the recent past and its predilection for irony’ (Schiermer 2014, P. 167). The performance also recognises how the arts are frequently instrumental in urban transformation, or gentrification, as identified by urban planners and sociologists such as Ali Cheshmehzangi within the development and (re)organisation of space (Cheshmehzangi 2016). Within a globalized network economy, the ARS Concept (ironically close to ARSE - as in “what a load of arse”) preaches acting locally as a valued commodity, yet actively employs outsourcing and globalized marketing strategies - as exemplified by the online trans-national trading. The aesthetic is also highly reflective of the ‘experience economy’ as originally stated in financial terms by economists Pine & Gilmore (1995), and discussed to some degree within the performing arts sphere by performance theorist Claire Bishop (Bishop 2012) in terms of its exchange to labour value. However, it is the visual arts theorist Dorotea von Hantelmann who begins to articulate this new ‘experiential turn’ as a relationship between a remote access to material production and subjective experience. If ‘Western societies are on their way to a postindustrial social order, this development [the experiential turn] is mirrored in art’s shift from the object towards the dimensions of subjective and intersubjective experience.’(Von Hantelmann 2014)
Schiermer, B. (2014). "Late-modern hipsters: New tendencies in popular culture." Acta Sociologica 57(2): 167-181.
Cheshmehzangi, A. (2016). "Temporary and temporality: Public realm regeneration through temporary events." Journal of Urban Regeneration & Renewal 10(1): 58-72.
Pine, I. I. B. J. and J. H. Gilmore (1998). "WELCOME TO THE EXPERIENCE ECONOMY." Harvard Business Review 76(4): 97-105.
Bishop, C. (2012). Artificial hells: Participatory art and the politics of spectatorship, Verso Books.
Harvie, J. (2013). Fair Play-Art, Performance and Neoliberalism, Springer.
McKenzie, J. (2008). "Global feeling." Performance Design: 113-128.
Von Hantelmann, D 2014, 'The Experiential Turn', Living Collections Catalogue, viewed 10 June 2018, <http://www.walkerart.org/collections/publications/performativity/>.