“What is there left to give? What do we share now? My gift is the present.” Ansuman Biswas
Gifts can be powerful social binders, but today aid is big business and can be a balm for post-colonial guilt and a lubricant for a post-industrial economy, where poverty and luxury have shifting definitions. Charity can be highly performative; played out in Live Aid, Red Nose Day, Children in Need, and the adoption of third-world babies by Hollywood A-listers.
Dedicated to investigating the shifting social definitions of poverty and luxury in a post-industrial economy, for his residency, Ansuman Biswas entered the gallery with nothing – no food, no water, no clothing. He remained in the space for one week, throughout which audiences were welcome to bring to him whatever they thought he might need or want. A web camera was installed in the gallery, providing a 24-hour live view of Biswas’ activities on his website.
A steady stream of visitors throughout the course of the week gifted the artist with an array of both practical and novelty items, in addition to their time, conversation and company, engaging in lively dialogue with Biswas.
The week culminated with a performance piece in which visitors were given an opportunity to collaborate in the use of everything that had been gifted to the artist, after which he symbolically shed all his possessions and left the gallery, just as he had entered, with nothing.
Sarah Kent: Ansuman Biswas The Kindness of Strangers Phillips, de Pury Magazine (April 2010) pages 102-115