Michael Gerace spent over a year developing his art show. “FREESTUFF,” currently on display at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art in downtown Anchorage, displays a collection of items Gerace gathered through the ‘free stuff’ section on Craigslist. Intriguing as his pieces were, it was impossible to determine the meaning of the art show without explanation from the artist.

Bewilderment is the best way to describe my thoughts while I was attempting to decipher the gallery’s meaning by my lonesome.  When I first walked into the gallery, I bumped into a plastic bag full of broken VHS tapes hanging from the ceiling by telephone cable. “Is this a mistake?” and “what the hell?” were the first thoughts to cross my mind. As the bag continued to swing freely from my collision, I glanced over the rest of the gallery. A similar theme began to emerge. Old tools, broken-down love seats, spray-painted computer components and window panels filled a drab white and gray room. All of the items looked like they had been used to exhaustion, and I can’t imagine someone wanting these items for their value. The only way they could be used was if a creative mind came along and manipulated them according to his or her aims. This is exactly what Michael has done. It was interesting to see an old keyboard spray painted pink, a grill brush stapled to the wall and the remnants of car seat cushions spread across a section of cement floor, but what deeper meaning was this bizarre spectacle hiding?

I sought out the artist for an answer. My first question for Michael was, “How did this idea originate?” He paused for a moment. “Let me show you,” he said. Guiding me to front of the gallery, Michael showed me his workspace. Notes, pictures and diagrams lined the small, personal corner. ‘Rejected realism calling for a return to myth and magic,’ ‘festival, celebration, and ritual,’ and ‘Election signs undermining’ were among the writings on the wall.

“The idea has had many iterations. This whole area is how I worked out my concept. It’s how I worked through ideas. And really, I was reading a lot about native Alaska cultures–vernacular cultures–basically groups of people outside of the American capitalist system and then explored additional prevalent ideas such as situationism, anarchy… Looking at how we can start a contemporary vernacular,” Michael said. “Like, if I wanted to drop out of this capitalism how would I do it, what would it look like, how would it be and is it even possible. This isn’t the total body of thought, but it consists of the places I’ve been during its conception. I’ve grabbed all these interpretations and wrapped them into a simple cohesive idea.”

Wow. You just blew my mind… Explanations anyone? For starters, situationists were largely concerned with the “suppression of art,” but in reality it’s more like a transformation. They hoped, like Surrealists before them, that art and culture could be regarded as a part of everyday life and not just a category. They were also proponents of the anarchist movement looking to a world-wide proletarian revolution to bring about the maximum pleasure, which is more like anarchy splashed with a bit of Marxism. It goes without saying that Michael does not wish to adhere to ‘more of the same.’ I personally agree with him. There is no culture in consumerism. It may be what the general population wants, but is it right? There is no contemporary vernacular for such thoughts because American politicians consider them extreme. Wanting to change society for the better is not extreme, however.

An involved society is key. Michael continued, ”One thing I wanted to accomplish is I wanted to make an art show–a framework where I could bring people into the gallery that usually wouldn’t come. Ideas can become stagnant when you always have the same people viewing your work. This is not fully in the realm of art, so my hope is to get people from other parts of the city that don’t really come down here. You can have the best art show ever, but only a handful of people will experience it because there are few actually participating.”

Craigslist fits into this scheme nicely. “The idea of using Craigslist comes from the idea that I would be able to address a much larger audience. People who aren’t necessarily looking for art, they’re looking for a couch, and while they’re on (Craigslist) they can find something that is out of the ordinary. This makes them think of ideas they would not usually perceive.”

The show will be changing throughout the month of September, as Gerace gathers more items and alters the gallery. When the art show concludes, he will put everything back on the ‘free stuff’ section of craigslist. People have continually been asking if they can just come get the “stuff” at the end of the month, but Michael has insisted on a first come, first serve Craigslist giveaway.

Does this art show fall under the category of art?

Is someone un-American if they do not agree with capitalism?

Is it OK to be un-American?

What is the market for a busted, spray painted keyboard?

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