What We Want Is Free

Generosity and Exchange in Recent Art

Edited by Ted Purves

Subjects: Postmodernism, Art Theory, Art
Series: SUNY series in Postmodern Culture
Paperback : 9780791462904, 196 pages, December 2004
Hardcover : 9780791462898, 196 pages, December 2004

Table of contents


Ted Purves

I. Potlatches and Potlucks: Theories of Art, Gifts, and Communities

1. Reciprocal Generosity
Mary Jane Jacob

2. Sure, everyone might be an artist . . . but only one artist gets to be the guy who says that everyone else is an artist
Bill Arning

3. Lunch Hour: Art, Community, Administrated Space, and Unproductive Activity
Kate Fowle and Lars Bang Larsen

4. Blows Against the Empire
Ted Purves

II: Exchange and Social Aesthetics in Praxis

5. Four Projects
Jörgen Svensson

6. A Given
Ben Kinmont

7. How Do You Pin a Wave Upon the Sand? An Interview with Cesare Pietroiusti
Shane Aslan Selzer

8. A Call for Sociality
Jeanne van Heeswijk

III: The Handbook for Gift and Exchange-Based Art

Introductory Remarks on the Handbook
Ted Purves

Part One: Project Histories
edited by Jessica Ingram, Ted Purves, and Shane Aslan Selzer with written contributions by Stacy Asher, Jessica Ingram, Carolyn Mackin, Francis McIlveen, Jarrett Mitchell, Ted Purves, Shane Aslan Selzer, Susan Sobeloff, and Josho Somine

Part Two: Exchange—The "Other" Social Sculpture
Francis McIlveen


Examines the way recent artists have incorporated concepts of generosity into their work.


Through a variety of lenses, this book examines contemporary artists' use of the "gift"—the distribution of goods and services—as a medium for artistic production. Featuring a detailed survey of over fifty artists' projects from fifteen countries, What We Want Is Free explores how these artists use their projects to connect participants to tangible goods and services that they might need, enjoy, and benefit from. Samples of these various projects include the creation of free commuter bus lines and medicinal plant gardens; the distribution of such services as free housework and computer programming; and the production of community media projects such as free commuter newspapers and democratic low-wattage radio stations.

Ted Purves is Chair of the Graduate Program in Fine Arts at the California College of the Arts.