Artist Assessment of Conzept Kiosk Brooklyn

The daily posts to this site have been intentionally made in a "journalistic" style, for the most part keeping personal feelings and analysis to a minimum. As the artist who has been wholly involved in every facet of preparation and execution, I wished to save creative assessment for the end of the project, after I have had the chance to distance myself from the process and results.

I have been repeatedly asked if I feel the project was a success. Given the results, I cannot hope to answer this with a yes or no without feeling overly simplistic. However, since I did posit the project as somewhat of an experiment or a "social test," I feel that I owe an answer to this question to myself and to my audience.

What I did not anticipate is how much the project would affect me emotionally. Aside from the physical effort, which was at times very exhausting, I experienced distinct highs and lows during the course of the two weeks. The opening performance began the project with a hopeful note. The turnout was good and passerbys were excited and curious about what I was doing. Some were enthused by the concept of trust and neighborliness, some were inspired by the fact that art was on display in a neighborhood more known for demolition and development, and others just liked the cheap treats for sale on the street ("25 cents... that's ALL!?" or "VEGAN!? Ohmygod!"). 

For the two or so days after the performance, the weather was testy and I sensed a vague hesitation to participation. Passerbys and neighbors perhaps were still figuring out what the kiosk was and how to respond to it. No one had yet commented on the website. I still would say it was successful during these days, though. The theft that I had expected was not apparent. Would the project pass through all two weeks without any petty theft or vandalism?! After the third day, when the $ container was stolen, I was not surprised, but felt a little sad at the thought of someone taking the few dollars. My mind first went to a kid who didn't know any better, a homeless person, or perhaps an alcoholic who wanted the money for booze. But I simply did not know, which in itself was part of the concept of the project.

After a couple more minor incidences of theft, I deliberated with my initial resole to not secure or safeguard the $ container in any way. I finally decided to screw a plastic container with a narrow neck down to the tabletop of the structure. One would need to either have a screwdriver on hand, or create quite a scene of flipping the whole kiosk upside down in order to steal the money. One would have to be desperate, really, to even bother. The first day of this new effort proved to be very successful, and the container was more full of money than it had been since the opening. At the end of the second day of this, though, I returned to the kiosk to find that someone had either burned or cut the plastic in a rather violent fashion in order to steal the few dollars that must have been within. I was honestly sad for humanity upon seeing this. The level of desperation that one must have to do such a thing signals serious social problems for our city, or maybe a discrete problem on the part of one individual. If not due to these types of problems, perhaps the person responsible was just stealing and vandalizing to spite my effort, in which case the project was suffering and even rendered futile. That was exactly the kind of petty retaliation that I hoped to avoid at all costs. 
Either way, the incident affected me much more seriously than I expected. So much so that I had neither the emotional nor physical willingness to continue with the project the following day. I felt beat up.

After the day of recovery, I bounced back and was inspired to begin anew. The security guard for the site across the street, Peter, had come to expect and (I think) enjoy the treats. He would cross the street to buy quite a few the first thing every morning. I could sense his disappointment that Tuesday when I walked by the gallery empty handed. Also on that day, I began to notice more postings on the webiste, commenting on the beauty of the effort and urging me to keep going. So I decided to forge onward with the process. 

Further attempts to secure the money container (bolting, hot glue) also ended in theft, though by mid-week, the guard, Peter, had begun to take it upon himself to watch over the  kiosk. One day, he three times thwarted the effort of someone from the shelter who was attempting to steal the money. His gaze followed groups of kids passing by on their way home from school. And so began what I like to call "neighborhood watch" for the well-being of the project. The metal shop next door very kindly kept the money container and tray for me overnight. Upon retrieving it in the morning, they advised me to stop putting out the kiosk altogether. The thought of leaving money and goods unattended seemed incomprehensible to them. Another artist neighbor aided in getting some local publicity for the project. It seemed that everyone on the block bonded together over keeping the project healthy. It was this result that I consider to be successful.

One interesting feature to the project is that it called to everyone to respond in some way. Work that I have done in the past is far more subjective. Some find a painting beautiful, others do not. Some have an affinity for a particular conceptual work, others see it as boring or uninspiring. Art also has the ability to ignore entire populations of people simply by existing. When money is somehow involved, however, all have an opinion. Even those who are not aware of the project's existence as a "work of art" could express strong feelings about the idea of leaving money out unmonitored. I was urged on many occasions to stop the project, so as not to encourage thievery, or simply because I would be stupid to want to loose money.

Most who participated in the project commented heavily on the idea of trust. While this was part of the concept, it was by no means the central one. My interest was more to elicit a reaction of the passerby to generosity and to the unexpected. No one walking down Dean Street would expect there to be obscenely cheap (sometimes vegan) baked goods for sale on a wooden structure on the sidewalk, with the money left unattended. The whole idea is actually quite absurd. 
The reactions to this unsuspecting phenomenon is what I was curious about. 
To see if people would overcome suspicions and respond with equivalent generosity. 
To step outside the normalcy of the urban pedestrian experience and try something new. 
To participate in a communal activity. 
To discover something.

Day 16: Sunday, 1 June 2008

Late start to the morning. Classic chocolate chip cookies made, an old faithful to end the kiosk's run. Result excellent. Sign repainted. Cookies bagged in website-labeled bags. 16 put out at 1pm.
At 3pm, $3.85 collected and four more treats put out. Phone call from boyfriend revealed that all remaining cookies were taken soon afterwards. Final collection of kiosk at 4pm. 20 total sold, $5.40 total earned. Kiosk with sign, tray, and $ container brought inside gallery and left for display for final evening. 

On Monday, underneath tray was a darling anonymous letter proclaiming "I love you cookie lady." Deinstalled show from gallery. Plans to recycle structural materials for new use.

On Tuesday, discussion with security guard revealed that the metal shop had indeed taken the tray and $ container from Friday into their building for safekeeping. Both retrieved. $7.50 total earned.

Day 15: Saturday, 31 May 2008

Cornbread cut and bagged in website-labeled plastic bags in morning. Sign repainted to read "blueberry cornbread." Simple, tall glass jar chosen as $ container, to replace missing carafe from previous day.
21 treats put out around noon. Neighbors from above gallery complimented baking.
Heavy rains followed, but kiosk was protected by overhanging roof, though foot traffic presumably low.
At 2:15, eight more pieces added to tray. Seven had been taken already, and the corresponding $1.75 in the $ container collected. At 4pm, additional $1.55 collected. At 7:30pm, kiosk taken in for the night. $3.25 remained. 26 total sold. $6.55 earned.

Day 14: Friday, 30 May 2008

29 bagged treats put out promptly at 9am, as reporter was scheduled to be at kiosk then. Interview followed.
Guard from across the street again bought four straight away.
Returned at approximately 6:30pm to no tray and no $ container. Presumed that the metal shop took them in for safekeeping, but not certain. Later heard that everything was gone at 4pm, as well.
New recipe attempted for tomorrow's special: blueberry cornbread. Results quite good, though the coarse hippie cornmeal that was used proved to be somewhat grainy when baked.

Day 13: Thursday, 29 May 2008

16 treats, sign, and new $ container put out on kiosk at 9am. Site guard from across the street purchased four right away. Learned of a correction from yesterday: it was a person from the shelter, not a street dweller, who repeatedly attempted to steal the money. Security guard kindly and valiantly thwarted his attempts. He offered to collect the money today upon leaving his post at 4pm.
Tray and $ container from yesterday collected from woman at metal shop next door. $4.65 remained. Workers inside warned not to put out kiosk again, due to threat of theft.
Friend nicely offered to replenish stock of cookies at 1pm and put out 13 more (already bagged).
Kiosk brought inside gallery at 6:30pm. All cookies gone. $ container remained, but with nothing inside and a slit cut through the middle. Remains unknown whether it was stolen or whether the guard took it for safekeeping until tomorrow. A letter from a neighborhood business was left under tray, in thanks for the continued kiosk effort.
Preparations for tomorrow's treat, chocolate banana muffin/cake with dates and walnuts. Vegan. Baked items cut into small pieces, bagged, website written on bags. Sign repainted to read "choco banana date nut (vegan)."

Day 12: Wednesday, 28 May 2008

All preparations were made last night for spicy ginger cookies, using a previously tested recipe that yields crispy, albeit buttery cookies. Sign repainted and new glass container with narrow neck found to replace burnt/cut plastic one.
19 cookies put out around 9am. Glass $ container set down on table top with hot glue so that one would need quite a bit of time and a high heat device or possibly very sharp object to remove it.
Call from gallery owner around 4pm informed that the guard across the street had witnessed a street addict trying to steal the $ container three times throughout the day. A kind neighbor took the tray and $ container into her house to protect them, since all treats by that time had been taken.
Sign collected and kiosk brought into gallery around 7pm. $ container and tray remain with the neighbor for the time being.
Preparations for tomorrow's special, "everything but the kitchen sink" cookies. An invented recipe using a variety of dried fruits, nuts, chocolate, etc. First batch yielded excellent results, but for second batch ran low on coconut oil and results were a bit more crunchy.
Sign sanded and repainted. Cookies bagged and website written on the outside. Heavy duty plastic jar will be used for $ container. The lid is very tight with a slit cut for the $.

Day 11: Tuesday, 27 May 2008

No kiosk attempted today.
Exhaustion and low spirits after yesterday's setback.

Day 10: Monday, 26 May 2008

Memorial Day foot traffic expected to be high. Therefore, special of coconut strawberry tart was made. Basically the same recipe as the vegan pear almond tart of the previous week, it was made of dates with walnuts and strawberries instead of the pear and almond. Result was extremely delicious.
Sign sanded and repainted to read "coconut strawberry tart" and tarts cut in squares and bagged with website written on the outside.
16 treats put out on kiosk around 1pm, again screwing plastic $ container to the wooden table top.
Upon walking by a mere 15 minutes later, only six pieces remained.
Kiosk collected at 7pm. All treats eaten, $ container remained, but in a very mangled state, and all money gone. Judging from the detritus of the container, a desperate soul had either cut or burnt open the plastic, stealing all the cash that was within. Surrounding areas extremely dirty. Very discouraging.
Kiosk, including sign, tray, and $ container dragged into gallery and left overnight.

Day 9: Sunday, 25 May 2008

After deep thought and deliberation, it was decided that $ container would be bolted down to the kiosk to prevent further petty theft. Screw punctured through bottom of plastic container and drilled into wooden table top.
Kiosk put out in front of gallery at 11am with 28 brownie pieces and 15 cents bait money. 
Left without checking until 7pm, at which time all treats were eaten and quite a bit of money left in container. $10.16 remained at the end of the day. Bolting attempt very successful.

Day 8: Saturday, 24 May 2008

Test scones were tasted in the morning. Nice, though a bit dry. New ones were made, adding more butter, with a much better result. 26 scones were bagged. Sign sanded and repainted to read "Currant Scones." 16 put out on kiosk at noon with $1.00 bait money and at 12:30, four more added (already at this point 5 were eaten). 
Returned at 3pm. All treats were gone, as was entire $ container. Again! Particularly surprising on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Four more put out at 4pm (two given away to friends) along with new plastic $ container and 25 cents bait money. Collected at 8pm. All scones gone and only 15 cents remained.
Tray and $ container brought indoors.
Sign sanded and repainted to read "double chocolate brownies" in preparation for Sunday's special. Brownies made with a moderately good result. Slightly flat and overcooked, but decent flavor. All bagged and website written on bag.

Day 7: Friday, 23 May 2008

Already made and packaged vegan chocolate chip cookies were put out on kiosk at 9am. Again, demolition worker (or security guard for site) crossed the street right away and bought too. Today he was a bit more chatty and when inquired what time treats are usually all gone, he reported about 12:30pm. Surprisingly early. He also mentioned that he watches out for it around the time when the kids are returning from school. Whether or not this means that it is kids who are responsible for the theft is still unclear.
At 1pm boyfriend passed by and since all cookies were already gone, placed tray and money-filled container underneath, on the ground. At 5:30pm tray and $ container brought indoors. 19 of 19 cookies sold. $4.75 earned.
Tests were made to make currant scones for the next day.

Day 6: Thursday, 22 May 2008

19 Cookies bagged and placed on kiosk at 9am. A quick replacement $ jar was made out of a disposable plastic container, and 75 cents bait money put inside.
A worker from the construction site across the street walked over with change in hand before the sign was even hung. He was in no mood to chat, only, dropped his 50 cents, grabbed two cookies, and walked back to his site.
Upon retrieval of kiosk at approximately 6pm, all cookies gone, and $2.25 remained in the $ container. It was deduced that money is being taken at some point during the day, and then partially filled again. Children passing by while gallery cage was rising were entranced and were allowed briefly to enter inside window, completely delighted.
Preparations for Friday's vegan chocolate chip were made: sign sanded and repainted to read "chocolate chip (vegan)", batter made, chilled,cooked, and cookies were bagged. New, larger, bags were used, and the web address was written on the back for patrons.

Day 5: Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Rough day for conzept kiosk. 
Gluten-free, vegan (though very tasty) banana walnut bread was cut and packaged in the morning. 16 pieces set out at 9am. The sun was shining, but the day soon turned rainy.
Passed by kiosk around 11pm to find that sign, tray, and $ container were all gone. Later found that kind roommate brought the sign and the tray in at 10pm. The entire $ container, however, was gone! Given the comparative success of the previous three days, it was decided that this theft was due to materials being left out past nightfall. Will make every effort to bring in kiosk in early evening in the future.
16 of 16 treats taken. $0.00 earned.
Sign sanded and repainted late at night. Coconoat cookies made from an invented recipe, with a good taste and decent texture.

Day 4: Tuesday 20 May 2008

Sign repainted in the morning and 19 chilled marzipan treats were bagged and placed outside on kiosk at around 9am.
The chilling process did not work quite as well as anticipated and marzipan was still a bit gooey.
Shattered jar from the previous evening was replaced with a narrow-necked glass canister. While the money still remains open to the public and able to be removed if desired, it would be more labor intensive to do so with this new container.
The entire day proved to be very rainy.
Enlisted a roommate to to collect $ container and tray of uneaten treats during the early evening. Arrived late to find that 16 of 19 marzipan chocolates were taken. $5.53 was counted from the $ jar. This was the first unmonitored day in which not only change, but also a dollar bill was left.
Late at night gluten free vegan banana walnut bread was made; left to cool and set overnight.

Day 3: Monday, 19 May 2008

Little preparation was made yesterday for today's featured treat: vegan oatmeal raisin. An impromptu batch was made early in the morning, yielding reasonably good cookies– tasty, but a bit too crispy. 18 were put out on kiosk at 9am.
Later learned of two interesting stories from roommates. One passed by in the morning with only 10 cents to buy a piece. A generous soul came up to her and offered the remaining 15 cents to put into the jar. Another passed by at noon, and said there was at least one bill inside the $ jar at that time. However, upon bringing kiosk inside gallery at 6:30 pm, only change was discovered in the jar...
Minor setback occurred upon lifting cage in front of window in the evening. The kiosk was not pulled out far enough from the window and toppled forwards due to the upward motion of the cage. The $ jar shattered on the sidewalk. It was cleaned up and all change was collected. $3.97 total in jar (including initial 75 cents "bait money").
Sign sanded in the evening and chocolate marzipan (invented recipe) was made and refrigerated overnight.

Day 2: Sunday, 18 May 2008

After the sugary chocolate overload of yesterday's opening, a lighter treat was in store for Day 2. Pear almond tart (vegan, soy free), an invented and already tested recipe was made in the morning. No refined sugars were used, only agave, pure maple syrup, and the natural sweetness of dates and figs. Typically, the tart would be made in a classic circular pan and cut into triangles, however, for ease of packaging, a square pan of tart was made and cut into 9 equal pieces.
It was decided that this would not be enough to satisfy the hungry weekend passerbys and another was quickly made in the circular tart pan. Dates had run low, so figs were substituted with a very delicious result. The beauty of the treat was compromised by the small plastic bags that contained them, but it was decided that this was necessary for reasons of sanitation and protection from the elements.
Sign was sanded and repainted to read "Pear Almond tart (vegan)." 
12 pieces were put out at around 1pm. Almost instantly, a female passerby excitedly took two, exclaiming her awe of the fact they were really vegan. Kiosk was placed directly in front of gallery window and underneath a slightly overhanging roof ledge.
Kiosk was left out for the rest of the day, though it began to rain only an hour after being put out.
Upon being collected at 6pm, all treats were taken and $2.55 were in the $ jar. This accounted for the sale of 10.2 of the 12 pieces at 25 cents per piece. Luckily the rain did not damage installation in any way.
Considered a successful day for conzept kiosk.

Day 1: Saturday 17 May 2008, the Opening

Baking preparations for Conzept Kiosk Brooklyn's opening day were underway Friday, the evening before the kiosk was set to debut. Chocolate chip cookie batter was prepared in two large double batches to be cooked the next morning. All as planned, all appeared to be moving along smoothly. Until. Baking tests were done with the freshly made batter to be sure that it would yield good results. Although it was prepared exactly according to the previously developed recipe, the cookies proved to be flat and rather greasy. Far from the near perfect test cookies pulled from the oven just days before, they were practically inedible and very ugly. Batter was allowed to chill over night with the addition of more flour, in hopes of a morning miracle.
No miracle was in store for conzept kiosk, however. New ingredients had to be purchased and batter was made, this time in smaller batches (and with more desperation). Results were lovely in appearance and taste would later be vouched for by kiosk patrons.
The best cookies were chosen to put out on the kiosk at 1pm, along with a jar with a $ sign to collect the requested price of 25 cents per cookie. Approximately 12 flatter, crisper ones were left behind to be used in case of emergency. The kiosk was placed just outside the door to the gallery on the sidewalk, but it was quickly revealed that droppings from birds perched on the building ledge above could potentially fall on the kiosk in that position. It was moved further outwards on the sidewalk.
Baking onsite in gallery space began promptly at 1pm. Cookies were eagerly taken right away by patrons, who were, for the most part, invited guests, but also various neighbors and passerbys. Milk and soymilk was also served to compliment the chocolate chip cookies. The batter was very carefully and slowly prepared. The small toaster ovens yielded rather nice (though somewhat flat), gooey treats. Each was taken individually by spatula from toaster oven tray to kiosk so that patrons could enjoy them warm if they so chose.
By 2:30 pm, stock was low and was replenished with the flat "rejects" from the apartment, almost all of which were also eaten. By 3pm, baking was complete, birds had started to swoop towards the crumbs, only 2 cookies remained on kiosk, and the $ jar was full. The time had come to pack all away.
All baking supplies and tables were removed from the gallery interior space, so that only the collage, flooring, and kiosk structure remained within and visible from the street.
An estimated 60 cookies were purchased, total earned, $35.68. 

Very successful opening day for conzept kiosk brooklyn. But the true test is yet to come.

Conzept kiosk sincerely thanks all those who helped make the opening performance successful, from spreading the word, to baking and setup assistance, to photography, and of course, eating.
*more photos to come!

Preparations for Conzept Kiosk Brooklyn

Conzept Kiosk Brooklyn opens Saturday May 17th with a delicious performance at Soapbox Gallery, 636 Dean Street, Prospect Heights. The show will continue for the two weeks following the performance, with requested participation from those passing by the exhibition space.

Unless there is torrential downpour, a severe case of graffiti, or theft, the show will go on, with a different public offering each day.

As of now, kiosk has been built from wood scraps, sign is in the midst of being painted, collage is nearly complete, oven and tray for offering has been purchased, and baking tests are in progress. Baking is not a task of stress; some recipes are already tried and true, others can be thrown together at the last minute, with excellent result. However, for the opening performance, the perfect chocolate chip is sought. Crisp, chewy, not too sweet... This proves to be more difficult than any of the vegan, gluten free, exotic specialty confections could ever be. Various recipes, claiming to be "the ultimate chocolate chip recipe" were found and strictly followed. Horrible, cake-like biscuits, nearly hockey pucks, were pulled from the oven each time. Perhaps it was the addition of agave syrup instead of regular sugar, or whole wheat flour, or even an overly methodical sifting of the flour. Upon attempt number four, all recipes were tossed and conzept kiosk relied on intuition and the powers that be. Results: quite good. The portable oven inevitably produces a denser creature, but still very edible.

***Artist will bear no responsibility for any bodily harm caused by ingested goods. While all products put out on kiosk are perfectly safe and healthy, the exhibition remains unmonitored throughout the day and patrons should participate at their own risk.***

Concept Kiosk Kökar: An Introduction

During my recent residency on the island of Kökar, Finland, I built a kiosk. This was a response to a fascination with the local structures of exchange, both the social/cultural and physical structures that I discovered in my new surroundings.

The project that I completed during Autumn 2007 was an installation and engagement with the local community, entitled "Concept Kiosk Kökar." Around the island, simple wooden roadside "kiosk" structures are built by local residents, selling goods such as apples and flowers during the summer. These structures are unattended and the buyer simply leaves the money in exchange for goods taken.

This phenomenon of trust, as well as the physical object of the kiosk, greatly appealed to me. I sought to offer my own cultural and personal history to this unfamiliar community via my version of the kiosk. I cobbled together a spontaneous construction of found materials, and decided to offer a different baked item every day for the remainder of my stay.

My choice of public offerings had a wide range of variation, and was indicative of where I come from. My project was partly a test to see if the traditional islanders would be receptive to the idea, and partly an exercise in surveillance. During the process, the kiosk's daily results were exhaustively documented. The project ended successfully (in my assessment) and reaffirmed my impressions of the honest, curious people that I encountered on the island.