From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you Live Radio Auction, a project by Wonderment Consortium—the artist team of Packard Jennings, Steuart Pittman, and Scott Vermeire. This essay was commissioned by guest editor Jonn Herschend as part of Issue 5.5, Slapstick and the Sublime, and originally published on July 10, 2014.
Live Radio Auction appropriates a format from rural American radio stations in which the DJ auctions items over the airwaves and the public calls in to bid on the objects as a way of raising funds for the radio station. In rural America, the items auctioned are usually intended to be desirable and are donated by local businesses. Live Radio Auction bends that idea by harvesting the auction items from a local thrift store, the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, with a keen eye set to the ordinary, the obsolete, and the nearly valueless objects one might find, like used shoes, damaged cookware, or a fire extinguisher in need of a refill—the detritus of our long-forgotten yesterday. All proceeds from the auction go to the thrift store.
The auction is a slow burn. Sitting in a booth, the DJs look at a pile of objects and slowly, endlessly describe them over the airwaves to their audience. Sometimes people call and bid; sometimes they don’t. Either way, the DJs are left to describe a rug as best as they can: its feel, its color, its shape, its size, its application. They might discuss suitable placements or purposes for the object, or times and experiences in their lives in which a similar object might have been an accessory to a memory, just filling time with words, seemingly endless words, describing something the audience can see only in their mind’s eye, much like a very boring baseball game heard over the air. Except that instead of a game, it’s a desk lamp, lightly used, with a starting bid of two dollars.