Care Package Project
Target Tiffin, Mixed-media interactive installation, 2012
The Sweetest Gift, Mixed-media interactive installation, 2013
Target Tiffin utilizes a mass-produced product sold by the Target Corporation, the second largest department store chain in the USA (after Wal-Mart and with similar multi- national aspirations). Target has appropriated this iconic Asian lunch box design, and is now marketing it to American consumers and perhaps offering it to Asian consumers in the near future. It is an odd, intriguing and culturally hybrid artifact, as it merges design elements from the Indian and Chinese tiffin, Japanese bento box and American picnic basket.
In my interactive installation, Target Tiffin, a group of 8 tiffin lunch boxes are filled with lollypops displayed on a picnic table. The candies are individually packaged in custom-designed wrappers imprinted with a pair of outstretched hands and the words, “Never bite the hand that feeds you.” The wrapped lollypops are gifts for the gallery visitors to take away with them. But these gifts are conditional, and only handed over after a detailed set of commands are followed (the instructions are on a signboard next to the table).
This project is an ironic play on the nature of gift-giving in a globalized economy. I am interested in the power relationship between the gift giver and the recipient, and this dynamic is reflected in the highly controlled enactment of the gift exchange during the gallery presentation. The project also addresses the universal message of “don’t take candy from strangers.” The gift recipients have to explore their own fears of the unknown and trust issues in their choice to consume the candy.
The Sweetest Gift continues to explore gift giving, via an abandoned suitcase filled with candy. A suitcase is a great signifier of all our greatest fears in the public realm, and this interactive installation also plays with the inherent power dynamics of surveillance and control. I am also interested in the power relationship between the gift giver and the recipient –between the benevolent “First World” and the deprived, and yet grateful, “Third World(s)”. Detailed instructions for the gift exchange are printed on signage next to the suitcase.