Carolina Gives…

13 Jan

While “This Land is Your Land” was screening at the 2006 Whitney Biennial, we met Carolina Caycedo, an artist/activist/all around cool person whose ongoing barter project “DAYTODAY” was exhibited via her website in the lobby of the museum. Visitors could pick up a red telephone and contact Carolina directly to propose an exchange of goods or services. Carolina was born in London, has traveled the world, and is now living in Puerto Rico where she agreed to do this interview that was conducted by email. To propose an exchange or to find out more about Carolina’s upcoming projects, visit her website at http://www.whitney.org/biennial2006/projects/day2day

Q: Could you tell us just what DAYTODAY is?

CC: daytoday is a personalized exchange, or barter, network. i created it out of the necessity of acquiring certain things that i didn’t want to pay for, and after realizing i could exchange services and other stuff i had, then i created the web page which contains the barter lists. anyone can get in touch with me and propose an exchange, then we negotiate and agree on something. so it basically works as an online form that anyone, anywhere can access to get in touch with me. All sort of contacts take place, some very formal and straight to the point, others have developed along the years as relationships. i would also say daytoday is an obvious next-step after working around the subject of barter as an alternative economy, with a collective I co-founded: Cambalache. We started exchanging things in good condition with homeless people in the streets of Bogota. After doing this for 2 years, we then took the project to other cities, constructing a Street Museum were all the collectibles can be exchanged. After handling objects and limiting to short but intense encounters, it was an almost natural artistic, economic, political and poetic step towards longer and more personal encounters, where any sort of exchange could take place, not only objectual, but intellectual also.

Q: Where have you traveled with your van, and could you give a few examples that show the scope of the project?

CC: daytoday as a project started in vienna 2002, as a solo show at the Secession. over there the institution provided me with a van where i lived without money for a month. after that i returned to london, and kept on doing exchanges without any vehicle, well my bike. it kind of faded with time and the original page finally collapsed in 2004. when i got the invitation for the whitney I thought it would be great to give new air to daytoday, so with some help i constructed a new page, the actual one, and started to do exchanges again, almost on a daily basis in jan 2006, all throughout the biennial till may. this was a good experience, i had arrived in brooklyn sep 2005 and it was a great way of recognizing NY as a city of multiple levels. It certainly took me places I would have never dreamt of being. for this I got the actual van, a dodge ram 89. whitney activities gave place to a residence at CAC contemporary artists center, in north adams MA, where i did a trade for my stance over there for month and a half. I had to cook once a week and do the laundry, and in exchange i got a beautiful room for me and my family, facing a river, a deserved change from bushwick, brooklyn.. I also collaborated there with the TRADING POST; Mr. Daniel Pineda was also doing barters all over the place, so we got together and worked jointly for that time, using the van to move around all the bric-a brac we had, very gypsy like.

Q: What first inspired you to create DAYTODAY? What were your expectations then, and how has DAYTODAY evolved over time?

CC: personal need (i didnt want to keep on odd-jobbing), an exhibition coming where they wanted a public project, and a desire of not being a clown for an art institution that used artists to give them presence in the city’s public realm. so i came up with daytoday, a public project that is invisible in the public space, and that enters private circles of negotiation. In this first phase, where i lived without money in vienna, i proved to myself that i could DO IT without money, it was kind of a personal feat where i tested my communication skills. and I passed. since then money hasn’t bothered me, and i am not scared if i dont have a penny. if i could make it then, i could do it again, anywhere. and also, heidemarie swchermer, a german woman who has lived without money for around 10 years, she told me back then in 2002 that she felt free and that she pretty much had everything she needed. somehow she made me realize that there is a big difference in what we need and what we want. capitalism teaches us to want what we don’t need, and to create out if this desire a real need. In the time of global transactions, local life is catalogued as small, uneffective, something of the past, however i believe that local life is going to make a path for a better future.

daytoday has evolved, yes. at the beginning i accepted almost every trade, now i pick what really is convenient for me. also it has become a space for personal growth and recognition, lets say that through daytoday i have slowly found my path in this planet, and as i was saying before, it is a local, very local one, so i am a member of my local food coop, and i exchange baby sitting with my neighbor. i started growing plantains, bananas, herbs and spices. make my own bread, my own humous. you may say it takes a lot of time, but that’s the benefit of staying local, suddenly you have all the time in the world in your hands. imagine no commuting, no traffic jams, no supermarket or IKEA trips, no running errands all over the city- local is punk rock again. do it yourself, make your own music, grow your food, construct your furniture, paint your house, and ride your bike not too far, please. oh, and recycle, recycle, recycle. not only what you dispose, but what you use and can keep on using. a t’shirt with holes becomes a mop, a can of coffee becomes a mailbox, a jar of ragu sauce becomes a storage device. it is a day to day, everyday job, I assure you there is no fastidious routine involved. daytoday has taught me to take control over my daily life, and not let some invasive system do so.

Q: You mentioned that while recently re-locating with your family to Puerto Rico, you drove “the van” from NY to Florida and spent a month there. Can you give us some examples of some of your exchanges from that trip?

CC: Puerto Rico, la isla del encanto. the backyard of all the pharmaceutical industry of the US. I don’t care, people over here make their own houses, so there are no repeated structures (except for social housing). anyway after years of colony, spanish, english and american, puerto rico is a fertile land for change. Or it gets worse and sinks, or it liberates itself and flies. but some kind of change, something. and i am going to be part of it. The truth is that i did not do any exchange during the trip, for me it was a very personal repatriation process. something that every immigrant wants, to go back. so i guess the exchange was a mentality one, from the big apple hectic everyday, moving south to a slower caribbean pace, where the mind has space to digress and stops being so concrete. once in florida where i stayed for a month squating in relatives houses, i got in contact with the beehive collective, an anti-globalization org, which have a playful and ludic way of protest. they design images that recollect the history of a certain social injustice, all the characters are insects, they create posters to be distributed. i got hold of a few against the plan colombia in exchange for some video game cd made by opensorcery.net, my brother took them back to bogota.

Q: What are some memorable exchanges? And do you “reject” exchanges?

CC: ufff, in NY during the whitney I rejected like 80% of the proposals, many reasons, lack of time (i had a newborn), no gain for me, or it felt proposant had an utilitarian view of the project, which is perfectly normal. that is one of the advantages of daytoday, as it is not a business that leaves me any profit I can discard as many “clients” as I want. The truth is that I do not catalogue the people who contact me as clients, they become potential friends. memorabe exchange 1: tell my secrets for 2 weeks in a house in the italian alps. memorable exchange 2: clean a bachelor’s kitchen for a weekly underground train (or tube) pass in london. this was great because he ended up giving me some precious amber stones, he really didnt know what to do with them

Q: DAYTODAY must have changed your life. How has making this conscious effort to live without money affected you personally, and have people’s responses to the idea of barter vs. using money surprised you? Any particular stories?

CC: I have been bartering for already 9 years, and it has been a soothing experience in this otherways fucked up world. I have bartered with homeless and extra-rich people, its funny how those that have nothing exchange easier, i mean relaxed, they have nothing to lose. it’s always lovely to find people that want to exchange with me, whatever the reason. but most wonderful is when they open their privacy to me, when they invite me to stay a night over at their place, or when they decide to share with me something very dear. it is there that the daytoday axis is understood: that what I possess can be everyone’s, and that if we share what we have, even if it is very little, the world can really be a better site. I remember in Vienna I met Rainer, he was a squatter and all his possessions fit in a box, he mainly had whole grains and good pumpkin seed oil. however he gave me so much! he introduced me to macrobiotic food, we always had excellent nutritious meals, as he picked the leftovers from veggie joints across town. He showed me the only nudist lake in vienna, where you could go for a swim and sleep under the stars without any restriction. He provided me with a bike, took me to the movies, and finally we traveled across europe to the croatian island of cres, where we fed upon fresh fish and robbed the gas at a number of gas stations on our way back. You see, we own so much, but we want to restrict our possessions to those things we buy, or we still owe. and the things we can buy are mainly rubbish, produced in a sweatshop, that cost too much to be sharing around. ironic. the true value of things is not its price, that is an imposed value given to us by the IMF. the value isn’t the effort I had to do, or the hours I had to work to get it. the value is your own personal appreciation of a set of circumstances, call them time, love, memory, nutrition, ideology, preferences, etc..

Q: Now that you are living in Puerto Rico, what are your plans for your future and the future of DAYTODAY?

CC: I am taking part in an exhibition in costa rica in november where I am going to do an intense daytoday barter activity for two weeks. I hope to grasp a bit about the everyday life in the city of san jose, and i hope to encounter exceptional characters. In january i am going to be in berlin doing more exchanges under the daytoday flag. i also want to work slowly in making a self sustainable house farm in puerto rico, in the piece of land i got with my family. at the moment we already are growing the pheasent we are to eat at christmas time.

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