Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Shopper’s Sanctuary: “Free Stuff”

I recently sojourned with my friend, the Viscountess of Corinth, at her abode in Corinth, VT. Caveat emptor: do not let Corinth, with its pastoral and provincial façade, fool you– it is a mecca for sophisticated shoppers. The Viscountess (who stalwartly defended her estate from plundering by Roger of Sicily [moustachioed] in the twelfth century) took me to her favorite art supply store, “Free Stuff,” located in the driveway of an abandoned barn. This boutique beckons passersby with a splintered wooden sign spray-painted with its name, "Free Stuff"—also the sole indicator of its existence. Behind the sign rises a mammoth mound of treasure: discarded cinderblocks, wood chunks, shattered glass, Styrofoam bits, trash bags, pellet sacks, and a collection of irregular papers and plastics are all sure to provide rich fodder for artistic masterworks. "Free Stuff" breaks with shopping convention by forcing the shopper to rifle through its pile of detritus, for which there are no directories or discernible aisles. With no staff or identifiable owner, the guerilla store operates much like the reclusive Belgian designer Martin Margiela-- under a cloak of mystery. It has no set hours or physical boundaries, and the perimeter of the mart fluctuates with the girth of its contents. While hidebound naysayers decry the landfill-like presentation of the emporium as beyond the pale of acceptable shopping, "Free Stuff" is adored by members of the Hegelian, anarchic, and abject schools of shopping.

Below: The visually arresting dump aesthetic of “Free Stuff” (click on picture for larger image)

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