Transactionland with Rachael Clerke
09 – 13 March, 16 – 20 March 2022
Transactionland, an exploration of unconventional economic exchanges, think time-banking, volunteering, or paying-it-forward.
Bristol-based artist Rachael Clerke arrived at St Anne’s with the new art project Transactionland. Working across many mediums she creates art that demonstrates what life might look like if we worried less about what it ‘should’ look like.
Transactionland examines how we might work towards a future where these unconventional, yet valuable exchanges become increasingly conventional, in a playful and collaborative way.
Transactionland is all about finding ways into subjects that often feel inaccessible for people. There are lots of reasons things might be inaccessible – it can be because they are complicated, because they use opaque language, or sometimes it’s just because it’s boring.– Rachael Clerke, 2022
The 10-day programme worked closely with the community around St Anne’s, as well as other artists from the UK, including workshops, screenings, performance, and even a debt gala.
You can book Transactionland
The artist is looking to tour the shop in Summer 2024.
Events and activities that happened
Bank Job film screening
With artists and filmmakers Hilary Powell and Daniel Edelstyn permission, Rachael held a DIY screening of the feature length documentary they made about their project Bank Job, where they printed their own money, sold it for the equivalent amount in GBP, and split the profits – 50% to writing off pay day debts in their area, and 50% to local community projects.
Gross – Conway & Young
Transactionland’s resident designers Conway and Young set up in the shop on a busy Friday afternoon with their portable DIY screen printing studio (delivered on a bike trailer) for a drop in carrier bag screen printing workshop.
Recycled bags were printed with the word GROSS, reflecting our gross relation to the big [gross] oil that makes them, and the [gross] consumerism they are designed to hold. Bags were sold at an enormous [gross] profit for £10, reflecting something closer to the true cost of the oil we extract from the ground. They were also now ‘art’. Gross!
Vijay Patel – Pull the Trigger After Hours
Artist, former Shopkeeper and neurodivergent access consultant Vijay Patel joined us for Transactionland’s opening party, leading an evening exploring Indian corner shops, the histories of migrant-run retail and tips on the values of hard work and saving money. This was an interactive version of their 2016-20 solo touring show Pull the Trigger.
Transactionland customers/visitors/audience/shoppers were quizzed on their shopping habits, placing their answers inside cardboard crisp boxes. The Christmas cards always needed reorganising. The night was interspersed with audio recordings from Vijay’s dad, talking about the Ugandan Asian Expulsion, and his shop in London (where Vijay worked whilst making and touring the show).
The night ended with a dance in a custom crisp-packet dress.
Shared Ownership Business
Since late 2019 Rachael has been selling £5 shares in a custom built touring bicycle – the Shared Ownership Business Bicycle. The bike was finally commissioned to be built by Ben’s Cycles in central Bristol in time for the opening of Transactionland. You can find out more about this project and become a shareholder here.
To celebrate the realisation of the bicycle, a special corporate event (including a powerpoint presentation, a ritual chanting of the word “business” and a series of test rides in the dark carpark) was held for a group of existing shareholders.
Shares in the bicycle were sold and traded throughout Transactionland Bristol.
Paula Varjack Concept Store
The Paula Varjack concept store popped up in Transactionland all day on Wednesday 16th March, appearing as a number of small concessions. Paula sold clothes (for money) which came with a free story about their past life whilst in her ownership. She also sold digital art in exchange for personal data. Her time brokering service was a massive hit, offering people a voucher for their own time, following a short consultation. Everyone came away knowing they were being conned but also knowing it is real and helpful!
Some customers booked for VIP shopping hour, where prosecco was served and shop attendants were more attentive than usual.
Gillie set up in Transactionland on Friday 18th March, selling dances over the special dance-selling counter, for a negotiated fee.
“How long do you want the dance to be?”
“What do you think that’s worth? I’m very experienced. I’ve got a PhD in dance.”
Customers wrestled with questions of value, expertise and ownership. Dances could be bought for the whole shop, or as a one-on-one experience, where they took place under a piece of silver stretch lamé fabric.
JarSquad is a project exploring circular economy/barter around food preservation, by bringing people together to preserve food, and address food surplus/glut, waste, hoarding, recycling, and to re-discover communal abundance, collective action, and conviviality.
Rachel, Carmen and Tess set up Bristol’s first ever Jarsquad assembly where we processed waste food into various preserves including chow chow, kimchi & beetroot marmalade (amongst much more!).
I love this project for the way it gently convenes a conversation about time, energy, waste and value within a practical workshop. Everyone is chopping, grating and stirring, their time itself a unit of jarsquad currency that allows them to take home a jar from a previous assembly when they leave.
An ASDA trolley fortuitously found in the park two days before the official opening of Transactionland. Used as a display case for Rachael’s publications of business & exchange related projects.
Subscription Business annual report (DIY business)
Routes Out: A Catalogue of Resistance (postcard exchange)
Letters to Teresa zine (email correspondence)
A small selection of books about economics.
Comfy green chairs.
A decision never to make anyone feel like they had to leave/buy anything after browsing the space.
Fashion for Shoplifting
Fashion for Shoplifting is a two-hour making workshop where participants adapt and create clothing with special adaptations for shoplifting. In Bristol, participants created a tote bag with a secret pocket, a security guard uniform (with extra pockets) for slipping by unnoticed, a fake belly to wear under your clothes and over your stolen goods, and a high fashion balloon-shaped sleeve to dazzle security and stuff your ‘lifted items down.
The workshop is a space for in-depth discussion on shoplifting techniques and ethics, whilst playing with fabric, learning to use a sewing machine and making friends.
In future Rachael is interested in developing a line of wearable ‘fashion for shoplifting’ to be fabricated in workshops like this, and sold (stolen?) at Transactionland
The shop and its associated publicity was designed by Conway and Young. The typeface for the shop’s logo was created by dipping a credit card in paint and drawing with its edge. Posters and flyers were made to the dimensions of bank notes, with price tags stuck on.
‘TRANSACTIONLAND’ was stencilled across the shop windows with white paint typically used on the windows of closing-down shopfronts. In the spirit of a temporary pop-up, furniture was made entirely from scrap materials, returned to scrap after the shop closed. The furniture was also all on wheels. Curved mirrors were installed to guard against shoplifters, and shopkeepers wore red tabards while on shift.
Closing Down Sale
Transactionland Bristol closed – as all shops should – with a big closing down sale, hosted by shop-space art professionals Hunt & Darton (Hunt & Darton Cafe). Donning matching suits we flogged as much as we could, for whatever we could get. We actually made quite a bit of money on inflatables and shop furniture. Everything must go! It didn’t all go but a lot of it did.
Customers had to exit the shop with inflatables fully inflated (they’re inflatables, not deflatables) and signage encouraged people to leave. We ended the day with a lunging competition, in which the Jen Conway micro-lunge was invented.
Two customers came for doughnut hour and stayed all day, working out what they’d do together with any scratch winnings, and eventually donning tabards and becoming unpaid interns in the shop. They didn’t know each other before coming, but last time I checked they were still meeting up regularly.
The Debt Gala
Hosted by writer and comedian Amy Mason, the Debt Gala closed Transactionland Bristol on 19th March 2022. A scrappy, taped-down red carpet was the scene for arrival interviews and papparazi shots, accompanied by amateur ‘string quartet’ Hannah Sullivan.
The night featured debt themed cocktails (The Debtropolitain, The Debtor’s Revenge & The Credit Rate-ini), Performances, Competitions and ‘Rachael Clerke’s debt facts’). The theme was ‘borrowing’. We closed the night with karaoke.
All profits from the event (£200) were diverted to Debt Justice (formerly the Jubilee Debt Campaign)
Scratch Card Game
The Scratch Card Game was created by Rosana Cade & Siân Baxter, and was introduced to me in 2015 or 16 by Rosana. The version I play has changed a little since then, but the gist is the same.
Players of the scratch card game decide what each amount of possible winnings will be spent on, before scratching the card. The list must include one thing, that the player explicitly does not want (this gives the game added ‘edge’). Players must commit to spending any winnings on the designated item.
In Transactionland, the scratch card game cost £1 to play. Winnings of up to £150,000 were available. The game was a way of having conversations about value, greed, altruism and wasting money.
The Wall of Inflation
Transactionland took place during a national cost of living and inflation crisis. The wall of inflation – an installation mapping the past year’s UK inflation rate through the display of different sized inflatables – was a way of bringing this conversation into the room playfully, and making the numbers more tangible.
It was also an accidental soft-play.
The Stock Exchange
A long thin table at the entrance to the shop. Visitors are encouraged to exchange something they have on their person (anything) for a stock cube. They are also welcomed to come back another day with a stock cube of their own, to exchange for something else on the table.
Over a fortnight the table has amassed: cigarette filters, shells, a chocolate wrapper, business cards, two records, pens, tampons, chocolates, aftersun, string, toilet paper, drawings, loyalty cards, a screw, a hair grip, chewing gum, foreign currency, an expired gift voucher, a badge and more.
Doughnut Hour took place every day at Transactionland Bristol, from 1.30-2.30pm. We bought our doughnuts from local vegan doughnut makers Future Doughnuts. We put the kettle on and gathered whoever was in the shop to discuss Kate Raworth’s theory of Doughnut Economics.
These conversations didn’t have a strict structure, though usually began with someone introducing the theory in fairly basic terms. From there we followed our noses. We had the book on hand, but didn’t use it much – mainly we drew on the knowledge in the room.
Doughnut Hour involved conversations between 3 people (on Wednesdays) and 25 people (Sundays were a popular doughnut day). I think the conversations were so good partly because we almost always had:
At least one person who knew something about doughnut economics and who had turned up specifically to talk about that/learn about it.
At least one person who had turned up for doughnuts, had never heard of doughnut economics, and did not realise that they were going to end up in this kind of conversation.
At least one person who was just visiting the shop but didn’t know it was doughnut hour.
Shoplift-o-Clock took place every day at Transactionland Bristol, between 5 and 6pm. During this time, visitors were encouraged to shoplift and try not to get caught. Those who were caught were sat down for an interview about their shoplifting techniques (at Transactionland or other shops), the ethics of theft, and to have their portrait drawn to be added to the wall of thieves.
Every day people turned up especially to shoplift. Normally they wanted to be caught, and were relieved when they got to have a chat about it. A lot of stuff did actually get stolen, including an inflatable crocodile and many scratchcards.
Shoplift-o-clock is a space to have conversations about ethics, rules, the commons and the best way to steal from Tesco.
Find out more about the work
Feeling the pinch? Go shoplifting! The Bristol art project tackling the cost of living crisis.
Opening on March 9 at Brislington’s most exciting new creative hub and social enterprise, Bricks Bristol, their latest project Transactionland is a 10-day programme imbued with alternative systems.
Transactionland with Rachael Clerke
Rachael Clerke is a Bristol-based artist working across many mediums. They make artworks that sit somewhere on the edge of live art and community infrastructure; playful experiments about what real life might look like if we were less concerned with what real life ‘should’ look like.
These have included: a performance score for 3 – 5 year olds to take power over institutional art space; a piece of gig theatre about concrete architecture featuring a drag king punk band; a book of 151 ideas for overthrowing the government; a quilt of data from the 2019 general election; a DIY business selling shares in a communal bicycle; a podcast about private renting.
Rachael is part of Interval, a collective of artists sharing a studio above St Nicholas market in Bristol.
Lead artist: Rachael Clerke
Artist Assistants: Linzy Na Nakorn & Scarlett Smyth
Bricks team: Jess Akerman, Georgia Bates, Rosie Bowery, Jack Gibbon, Jo Kimber, Ruby Turner
Design: Conway & Young
Programmed artists: Vijay Patel, Hilary Powell & Dan Edelstyn, Jarsquad (Rachel Dobbs, Tess Wilmot, Carmen Wong), Paula Varjack, Gillie Kleiman, Conway & Young, Amy Mason, Hunt & Darton