“Store Buyout,” the collaborative work of five artists (Hal Kirkland, Kyle MacDonald, Gary LaChance, Jody Gnant, and Matt Fiddler) is currently on display in Grinnell College’s Faulconer Gallery. It is a performance piece documented in two parts. First, a television screen plays a repeating, 2 minute and 58 second montage of the artists purchasing every single item from a small, independently owned New York City grocery store, “Hercules Fancy Grocery.” Beside it, the original receipt of purchase, which reaches 57 feet, is displayed on a roll inside a glass case, serving as a physical record of the events represented onscreen. Two pairs of headphones are mounted under the television, through which viewers can listen to an accompanying audio track which layers the sounds of the artists explaining and executing their project with the song “Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Lights Orchestra. The video clip on display splices together shots of the artists expressing their intention to buy out every item from “Hercules Fancy Grocery,” displaying a briefcase full of cash they have gathered for this endeavor, and surprising the store’s owner with their request. It then transitions to a montage of the artists picking up, checking out, and removing every item from the store as the store’s owner, Hercules, hugs his cat and prints their lengthy receipt.
A nearby plaque offers context that further illuminates the work’s significance, explaining that the choice to enact their buyout on “Hercules Fancy Grocery” was spurred by the news that the store’s longtime owner, Hercules Dimitratos, was behind on his lease and was facing eviction. The items purchased from the store were later displayed and sold as art pieces in a gallery, introducing a level of meta-consumerism to the piece. These items are thus ultimately sold twice, albeit in markedly disparate contexts, and garner different prices when sold as “art items” than they had when sold in their original setting, despite remaining essentially unchanged. By highlighting this absurdity, “Store Buyout” interrogates the natures of both art and consumerism and the power they hold to bestow meaning on objects.