Kill the Engine

The Trading Tortoise

By Michael Sieben



This past Saturday I visited DOMY Books, my local art/photography/design bookstore in Austin, and participated in an event called The Trading Tortoise. The Trading Tortoise is a traveling participatory art tour created and organized by Souther Salazar and Monica Choy. There's tons of information about the tour available on The Trading Tortoise website, but I'll briefly summarize the project since that's what VICE is paying me to do.



Souther Salazar and Monica Choy have been traveling across the United States since mid-June 2012 and have been setting up their art-centric trading post in accommodating spaces along the way. The Trading Tortoise is an art installation (Tortoise shaped) that houses Souther and Monica as well as their collection of traded goods that they've collected on their trip thus far. A viewer/participant to the event brings along an item of significance to trade and fills out a tag explaining the object's inherent value. I think the idea is that everybody who attends The Trading Tortoise is bringing something with them that actually means something to them Vs. bringing some random crap. You're trading something from your life for something from somebody else's life that (hopefully) carries a similar emotional weight.

Here's some installation photos of how The Trading Tortoise came together in Austin.



For my contribution, I presented a small fox figurine (right) that used to live in my studio. My emotional attachment to the fox was something like this: I used to have tons of old toys in my home studio, but after having a kid I packed away most of my "studio toys" because it was difficult to explain to a child why there were certain toys in the house that were OK to play with, and certain toys that were not OK to play with. Most of the toys in my studio got boxed up and put in the attic, this fox included. If that makes me sound like a bad dad, feel free to do a site visit of my house to see my son's 3,000 other toys. The dude is not deprived. But this fox toy signifies a torch-passing moment in my life where my toys needed to be shelved in order for my son's toys to establish dominance in the house.

Souther and Monica listened to my fox story and then handed me an awesome puppy toy that they had collected along the way.

Three generations deep.

Hopefully our son River can pass this toy along to his kids… if his dad doesn't swipe it and hide it in the attic…

I read that this tour will culminate with a Souther Salazar solo show at the Jonathan Levine Gallery in NYC, which is obviously super awesome. But you know how when you're young and one of your favorite bands gets popular and their songs get played on the radio and you get kinda sad because you feel like the secret is out and now everybody knows how good that band is? But you're also kinda happy for that band because you know they've been working super hard and you ultimately wish them nothing but luck? Yeah, it's kinda like that.

Souther Salazar zines all up in my attic… or some shit like that.

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