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The cardboard box is ubiquitous in our consumer culture. It is the most critical material/object to package and deliver consumer goods. Hardly anything that is not moved in cardboard containers, from food and drink to records, computers and fridges. Primarily, they function as temporary enclosures for products, which are the objects of desire and which typically lose their function once the products have been delivered, unpacked and consumed – their aura removed. Their standardized, lightweight, rectangular shapes are ideally suited for efficient storing and stacking. They are cheap, insubstantial, and exceptionally durable. The cardboard box sets a standard that homogenizes everything within its system of production. Once its content is delivered and consumed, the container becomes useless. It may be recycled for another roundtrip.

The modernist idea of originality presents only one possible course of action. However, our everyday world is full of existing forms, information, data and visual signals that can be re-interpreted, re-focused, transformed and re-presented (Bourriaud 2007, 16-17). Bourriaud (2007, 17) asserts that:

The artistic question is no longer: what can we make that is new?” but “how can we make do with what we have?” In other words, how can we produce singularity and meaning from this chaotic mass of objects, names, and references that constitutes our daily life? 

In The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel de Certeau asserts that the consumer is not just a passive receptacle for products. Using an object is, in some ways, a re-interpretation of the object. It is up to the consumer how a product is used, and in that way consumption can become a form of production (Bourriaud 2007, 24). As Bourriaud (2007, 24) describes:

We are tenants of culture: society is a text whose law is production, a law that so- called passive users divert from within through the practices of postproduction. Each artwork, de Certeau suggests, is inhabitable like a rented apartment. By listening to music or reading a book, we produce new material and become producers.

Instead of fabricating an object, de Certeau argues that the issue is to choose and modify one intentionally. As Marcel Broodthaers (quoted in Bourriaud 2007, 25) asserts, “‘since Duchamp, the artist is the author of a definition’ which is substituted for that of the objects he or she has chosen.” Duchamp asserted that the act of choosing is as acceptable as the act of fabricating, sculpting or painting. He redefined the idea of creation by inserting an object into a new context, thereby considering it a character in a scenario (Bourriaud 2007, 25).

In the series CONVERSIONS, cardboard boxes were sliced up diagonally, and parts were turned around and re-attached. That way, new shapes appeared. The traditional orthogonal box was converted into a unique object that defied commercial use. There are limited number of ways this process can yield new forms, and all of these possibilities were explored in this series of works.

A. Spremberg 2023 

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