Kain Picken and Pat Foster

'As is' Clubs Project Inc
211 Gertrude Street Fitzroy Melbourne, July 2005
Kain Picken and Pat Foster made a show out of partially stolen IKEA products. There is an ‘As is’ section at IKEA which has broken, marked, scratched or remaindered goods. In the 'As is' section, prices are written on the item with a black felt tip marker. The artists took their own markers to IKEA, they said, 'We discovered that we could nominate our own prices'. Before the show opened though, they got caught. Kain Picken describes the situation, 'We’d been getting more ambitious about what we were getting, more expensive items, and we’d been going a couple of times a week. This one day we were kinda being blasé about it and getting a lot of stuff, and we aroused suspicion. We came back two days later and this big security guard guy came up to us and said, ‘Are you here to shop?’ and I said ‘Well of course I’m here to shop’. He said, ‘I’m not accusing you of anything, but you have to leave the store’.'

An exercise in how the artist might start to negotiate as the customer. As art and design interact with an expanded form of writing, it reveals a way for the consumer to speak through the object.
Rob McKenzie
see Lowe's comment related to these images
see Morton's comment related to this image


Anonymous Geoff Lowe said...

Stealing Back?

Pressed on whether he stole ideas from others, Cattelan replied: "Was Warhol robbing Marilyn [Monroe's] identity when he painted her? And what was Cézanne doing? Robbing apples? In art, all you can do in the end is appropriate that which surrounds you. So it is never a robbery. At the most it is a loan. Unlike thieves, artists always give back the stolen goods." http:/www.guardian .co.uk/arts /news/story/0,11711,1531420,00.html

These artists are inside the Ikea corporation drawing and writing on objects to steal them
maybe Kain Picken's trying to get something back by stealing it
By writing inscribing their opinions with felt tip pens they are stealing
the stealing happens in the writing yet the security guard found the act unmentionable
he communicated to the artists by not saying what he meant

More Fools in Town http://mfit.blogspot.com/
showed a work by Chinese artist Chu Yun called
"Who has stolen our bodies"
used soaps

This writing or drawing on objects is an act by which they can be stolen or taken for a price that suits the consumer, the writing creates a change that makes it more advantageous to the consumer (as against the producer)

It's hard to know what the ethics here are, it seems like RMcK says it is the consumer negotiating with the provider like Napster or Limewire did with the music industry
Or is it corporate raiding by individuals?

There is an Edward de Bono story where a business wants to expand and relocate its office down the hall but it's too inconvenient and customers will have to refind them, print new cards etc so, they simply change the numbers on the door
this inscribing is a kind of advantageous navigating

"The court must ensure that there is no justification for the view that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor," he said. This year he said that the use of civil provisions to prosecute insider trading cases raised difficulties for courts. "What is a judge to do when he or she is required to impose a fine when on the same facts in a criminal court the very same offender would have been imprisoned?" he said." http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/courtroom-drama-unlikely-with-choice-of-quiet-qc/2005/07/19/1121538973217.html

Many privileged young people work as artists yet the role remains so impoverished in general that few artists ever have to pay back education loans
Michel de Certeau talks about “writing on the TV” this provides another step
From what I can see here this show has become the documentation of the previous interface and what happened
it’s a bit of a drama!

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Gwynneth Porter said...

Hey Geoff, what's "writing on the TV"? I know what writing in front of the TV is, I am doing it at the moment. I recorded Days of our Lives earlier today.

I was just reading Chaosophy again and there is interesting writing in it about capitalism and inadmissability, as in: "The prime minister's tax returns, real estate deals, pressure groups, and more generally the economical and financial mechanisms of capital - in sum, everything is legal, except for little blunders, what is more, everything is public, yet nothing is admissable."

The last time I went shoplifting in was in the late '80s when a friend and I went on a stock-taking project of our own. We took all this expensive stuff we mostly didn't even want, but I made the mistake of doing it in my school uniform one day. I got caught and this had a very strange effect on me. I have never thought shop-lifiting was morally wrong, but I could never do it again. (This probably had everything to do with school discipline, but maybe not. It might be that it was an exclusive fantastic activity that was dragged into another chilling reality) I wonder if getting stopped in their tracks had any mysterious effect on Kain and Pat?

I have a friend who shoplifted a lot in the early 90s said the way it works is that you take a lot of valium and you think you are invisible and then you are.

When I think about this show of Kain and Pat's, the Pavement song "date with IKEA" drifts in, sounding very Australian all of a sudden: "if you've got no use for time the fitness coast is growing near the shores they don't stay blond all year the contrinet moves with growng fear all for expensive lawn I know I need to stay and fight the day".

10:10 AM  
Blogger Rob McKenzie said...

Hey Gwyn,

I love what your friend says about valium, shoplifting and invisibility and that if you think you're invisible you really are. I don't know whether it's because of superstion or Deleuze or something but I really believe what your friend said is true. Like it is a reality that if you really think you are something, if every thing in you is part of a certain thought structure, then you are that thought.

4:51 AM  
Anonymous Gwynneth Porter said...

Hi Rob,

She was this amazing tiny woman who is the only person I ever met who actually stabbed someone – in the ladies loo of this Dunedin public bar at lunchtime in the mid-80s. People were wary of her as she had been involved with this heavy Crowley-ish magic amped up by the aura-piercing combo of homebake, downers and amphetamines. She really got me thinking about how a lot of dark and light things can be invoked by sheer force of will.

A skinhead I met a few years later was likewise convinced that “out thoughts are our prayers”.

Oftentimes art looks like invocations to me. Sculpture mainly.

I just went to this Herzog film, White Diamonds, about this man who built this small airship to float above the canopy of the Amazon. An earlier experiment in Sumatra had resulted in the death of this famous wild animal documentary maker. They showed some old footage of him filming these gorillas. A man in his team had an orphaned baby gorilla and they wanted to see what happened if they showed it to the gorillas. Two gorillas came out of the foliage and the instant they saw the baby, they want nato and charged the man who had no option but to toss the baby towards them and run. They scooped it up and cradled it away with them into the jungle.

What I am drawn to in the gorilla’s action, the IKEA re-pricing, and the stabbing, was the way in which they all were swift corrective measures.

6:32 AM  
Blogger Callum Morton said...


I knew someone whose shoplifting method was not to steal the smallest objects in a store but the biggest. In the 80’s, she strolled out of a large Australian hardware store with a lawnmower and on another occasion a large BBQ on wheels. Funny thing was she didn’t have a garden, she lived in a small flat. She was either a show off, a klepto or a career criminal (if they are mutually exclusive) but the point was really that she felt that the riskier or bolder the move the less likely she was to get caught.

I stole a green and purple broche for my mum from Sportsgirl when I was young (how quaint!) and she made me take it back. She realized that I couldn’t afford it so I must have stolen it. But she wasn’t angry with me because I had stolen it for her. It was the gift that counted. Like your pet cat bringing a dead rat into your bed, it’s a love token and should be handled with care.

Ikea is the site of middle class consumptive fantasy, evoking a pastoral idyll of Swedish simplicity and craft. Once you are through the doors you are in a giddy slipstream of cheap convenience, surrounded by things you never knew you needed. Without going backwards or upstream you can’t get out of the inexorable flow until you reach the checkout. It is old school fluid modernity (I stole that phrase), a totality, an illusion of completeness.

Which is why the small things that counter this illusion seem to have such resonance.
The exhaustion on the faces of the childcare staff (what will they do to my daughter?), a broken chair, a grumpy storeman. The inordinate time it takes to assemble the furniture (even if it’s as close as you will ever come to working with your hands- in the UK there are companies now that you can hire to come and do this for you.) And this leads to darker truths, like the obvious one regarding its founder Ingvar Kamprad’s Nazi entanglements. He admitted it and begged for forgiveness but he is still THE WORLD’S RICHEST MAN anyway so….what’s new.

My local Ikea is closing soon and moving into a shopping mall. It is not that it was failing, quite the contrary, but a large mall must still enhance this idea of a super convenience if the store is surrounded by everything else. It’s super security.

A friend of mine in Istanbul calls modernism Murderism.
She stole the phrase from someone else.

Perhaps George Romero’s next film should be about Zombies who rediscover their identities, become good citizens (albeit a little on the nose) and shop exclusively at Ikea.

Large corporations always factor in a certain percentage of stealing into the annual budget. Computer companies do it because it is the perfect promotional tour. Allow the software to circulate and be exchanged in crack form in the community as a type of geek junk and after a while it becomes indispensable. Soon institutions or other large corporations swill buy it.

In a funny way I think Kain and Pat are working for Ikea.

6:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just saw a film called The Edukators. It was great, these young guys were breaking into rich people's homes and, instead of stealing, they were rearranging the contents into rambling installations, highlighing the chaos and absurdity of their consumerism. They'd leave notes that said "you have too much money, your time is up", or something like that. i thought it was cool that they were disrupting the system, attempting to reverse the power structures. They wanted their victims to feell what it was like to be watched. It was like conspicious tagging. They were occupying these exclusive sites through their interventions. Their resistence was being spoken through the objects in a similar way to Kain and Pat.

11:47 AM  
Blogger Helen said...

Some thought on Ikea which arose shortly after the riots at the midnight opening of a new Ikea in London...
'You have to admire these guys. I'm certainly suspicious of some of the more snobbish criticism that they attract. They are selling us what we want. A lifestyle, a life - something you could previously only just about stretch to at Habitat in that golden period between grown up dinner party number one and baby offspring number one. For Ikea life is cheap, functional, clean, disposable, tongue in cheek, desirable - with a veneer of swedish sauna'd sexiness thrown in - and a whole lot of cheek from a company that advertises the fact that you have to find it, carry it and make it all by yourself as a virtue.

I think it's a refreshing view of furniture - Owning things, especially 'good' family furniture is a vaguely oppressive business. Chuck it out! - Get one in clear plastic.....You need more - you need to consume.....it is that by which you are defined. We've got the planet munching appetite of Galactus, The Devourer of Worlds..

Freud though, would tell us our appetites need to be controlled, focussed, disciplined.......Who is better at this than IKEA? You'll start at this end and you will see everything before you leave....

Resistance is futile.......

If you cannot find what you want, you will spend at least £60 on things that you don't want in the kitchenware section

Resistance is futile......

If, by some superhuman effort of will, you manage to resist putting anything in the oversized shapeless blue and yellow bag, we will, at the checkout, persuade you to purchase the bag itself.......

Resistance is futile

Everyone in the land will soon have a set of 'Billy' shelves in their spare room

You will be assimilated........

In the end, you will fight to be admitted.....'

'Look at Ikea as a system, rather than a brand. Products are sourced from all over the world; shipped from all over the world; vast resources are consumed (wood, plastic, metal, and especially, oil and energy). The stores are large-surface big-box outlets, which require large energy inputs for heating and cooling (I didn't see any green roofs, geothermal pumps or solar panels last time I visited). They are located out in the burbs and exurbs, you need a car to get to them: they contribute to sprawl.
In that sense, Ikea is very, very bad design.'
(The X)

1:05 AM  
Blogger Helen said...

This exhibition did not strike me as a subversion of the Ikea life. Although Kain and Pat were nicking things from Ikea, the prevailing impression was that they were among the shoplifters who had been factored into the budget; that their theft was still based in desire for the Ikea aesthetic, and was therefore still contributing to the strength of that system despite their subtle reconfiguration of function.

1:42 AM  
Anonymous Scott said...

"This stuff was nicked from IKEA", and it doesn't really matter if it was or not (I'm sure Ingvar Kamprad wont feel the pinch) as long as the story's convincing. It's a fight the power thing, the possibility of cracks in the consumer edifice and the excitement of finding those cracks and edging yourself into one (or excitement by association - "I know someone that...").

Some things are designed to crack; expansion joints take the pressure of other areas. Shoplifters are one of societies expansion joints, they're less disruptive than riots (although IKEA seems to be having some success in this area) and they can always be controlled by counter stories if things get out of hand; "Australian businesses loose $(insert some outrages figure here) a year from shoplifters - the hidden cost to Australian shoppers".

If this work is a reconfiguration of relations then the reconfiguration did not take place in the confrontation at IKEA. This relationship had been established long in advance, patiently awaiting the actors; an inevitable presence. It is instead the concept of IKEA as furniture provider (and of furnishings in general) that is being reconfigured. Kain and Pat visited IKEA looking for material, not furniture. IKEA's particular attitude to furniture facilitated this shift in relations. What the exhibition presents is furniture and furnishings as insubstantial events, threatening collapse or reconfiguration, things barely worthy of being called objects incase at some point they stop being such.

IKEA's products border this realm, furniture as crap, with only a catalogue image and assembly instructions to hold them back from the abyss. It's a temporary hold, a few months at most until the next catalogue is released. It needs to be this way; Ingvar didn't get rich by making furniture you love he did it by making things you want to throw in the skip.

Walking through Kain and Pat's work as if it's an IKEA display I have the thought "this crap really isn't that bad", compared to IKEA's stuff it's kind of inspiring. Are we this close to escaping the tyranny of object desire? As Psychbloke points out, we're collectively stuck in IKEA's intestinal flow, things around us become more like crap (an intestinal inevitability). Perhaps there's liberation in this letting go of objects, in this becoming crap.

6:59 AM  
Anonymous Geoff Lowe said...

well capitalism loves to consume alterity; pornography, greed, rebellion, dissent all feed the machine. I guess thats why the former curator of MOMA New York, Robert Storr, is travelling the world looking for artists to put in a show for the Venice Biennale about Art and Politics. I don't want to consume that 'resistence is futile' I don't want to buy it.
The most interesting thing about Kain and Pat's show for me was executed at Ikea in the store. I've never been ready for this before but I think the stealing was an honest act, factored in or not? The security guard was polite? Maybe what Freud is saying is about resisting your own desire? Have a look at the early work of Maurizio Cattelan, its different to now.
Its almost like the people that succeed in our culture are the ones who facilitate the absorbtion of ideas that used to be dangerous.
Are you guys saying that if Kain and Pat's act can be accounted for by Ikea then it wasn't worth doing or useful? We have a long history here of critiquing poilitics in culture, saying that its "impotent" "wasn't political in the right way" "been done before" "this is just the same as what it challenges" etc. I'm fascinated by what Callum and Helen are saying about incorpration but Kain and Pat's act represents me.

9:56 PM  
Blogger Helen said...

I can admire this theft as a poetic act. Stealing from places like Ikea is a-OK with me.
The power of corporations like Ikea lies in those who passively consume their goods and believe that these goods make their lives better. I wonder, though, how many passive consumers saw or registered what Pat and Kain were doing in the 'as is' department? And henceforth, how many people who are not a part of the art community would have seen this work at clubs and perceived that the materials were acquired in this way; looking at the work in the gallery, the background to the forms wasn't apparent to me until I read the associated text. I suppose what I am asking is whether this is preaching to the converted.

5:56 AM  
Anonymous on the dole said...

I think IKEA represents ice cream. I remember when this friend of mine from school was eating ice cream and it fell apart, she had to reconstruct it on her own, at home, it was a private moment, kinda like what Lacan said about women. I heard this song by the White Stipes and it made me think about Kain and Pat's show I love art and music, it is cool.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Geoff Lowe said...

how many people who are not a part of the art community would have seen this work at clubs and perceived that the materials were acquired in this way

yes theres lots of paths to feeling ineffectual, I regularly take them. Theres plenty of other art in Melbourne I would question about feigning action and engagement before this one. The security guard was a one-on-one audience. For me , I guees that the art community is in many ways one of the most conservative of all, contemporary art in many ways is a machine for repressing expression, so little ends up getting said, and it usually has to be said in a right or particular way. We regulate each other on its behalf. For that I like it that this act can stand even if no one else knows about it , it's currently nourishing us!

3:07 AM  
Blogger Callum Morton said...


I didn’t see the objects in Kain and Pat’s show, but I can see the act. This is what makes the responses so interesting, as if somehow people want to discuss how one must act now, at this time, when generally we are so paralysed..

Some have said to me well the show wasn’t the important thing anyway, simply a collection of blind evidence in a gallery (where you will not get arrested), a slacker brand of conceptual art. But exhibitions can be anything and are always a form of exhibitionism of one sort or another.
Others have said, what they did isn’t really stealing, more a type of illegal discounting. I guess that’s a Crocodile Dundee “That’s not a knife!!” reaction and to be frank I think there is a truth in it. But I don’t think it is very useful. As much as I think it could be interesting I do not want to be the one encouraging them to greater risks, because, well there is always jail at the end of that corridor, and on the inside you don’t get shows, much less reviews.

But what of the security guard? I keep thinking about him and that exchange. How he discovered them, what he saw, what he thought. When I used to work in various bookshops, I knew some people who came in to steal books. Once it was two brothers I had grown up with in my local neighbourhood. They were fucked up on drugs (together) and probably came in to steal the books so they could resell them for money. Another time it was an artist who lived upstairs from me in a studio complex I was living in.

Both occasions they chatted nervously to me at the counter, I guess to try and distract me from their real objective, and then go about their business. It was so obvious I was rendered speechless and a little paranoid. I found it really hard because I wanted to keep my job but I didn't want them to get into trouble, particularly the brothers because I was really very fond of them and because one of them had just done some time in jail.

I dealt with it in different ways. The brothers were in and out for a few hours and while they were out someone from another shop came in looking for them because they were obviously on a bit of a spree. When they came back again I warned them about it and they left. With the artist, well he just gave me the shits anyway so I watched him until he got the message that I didn’t think it was cool. He made me feel like I was the straight guy because I had a job, and I was. He was the faux boho who wanted the books for his collection.

In both instances the stealing was really hysterical capitalism, super shopping in the twilight zone where the desire for the thing was so bad. And of course it was going to save them.

A general impression of our cultural development could describe a movement from the wholesale import of cultural forms, to a gentle borrowing and accepted plagiarism (to impress our friends who couldn’t afford to travel). Then there was aggressive appropriating to rupture the original. Under globalism a more polite thing called sampling emerged alongside a return to importation and plagiarism.
Now here we are on the threshold of a new dawn, in the world of institutional copyright laws, reconstituted nationalism and border security, a world paranoid about what others will steal from us. Perhaps this new practice is called Stealism and will actually be effective. Anything’s worth a shot.

3:27 PM  
Blogger Helen said...

Tomorrow is my last day of work for a company which manufactures corporate signage. During my time at this place of employ I have continually wrestled with the ethics of my position, the benefits gained from learning how this industry operates and how to subvert it, versus my pay cheques coming in the form of rebounded cash from corporate nasties.
Knowing the end was in sight because I am going overseas, I made the decision to keep this job until I go, a selfish decision, one dictated by my financial situation. Having made the decision to remain in this situation however, I have spent the past year putting as much of my time at work into doing productive good for situations which concern me as I could. Sitting in front of a fast computer with a cable internet connection and a printer has allowed me to funnel time which I am paid for into writing protest letters to companies like Emirates for allowing tranquillized refugees to be deported on their flights, compiling information about issues of concern on my weblog, hassling stationery suppliers who do not offer recycled products, etc. etc.
Although it is no justification, I feel that for someone such as myself to steal paid time from the corporate signage industry and turn it to productive uses, is better in a way than resigning and allowing the job to be filled by someone who won't do this.
Sometimes stealing helps.
I suppose that the poignancy of the engagement between P&K and the security guard lies in th fact that the interaction cut through corporate policy and allowed personal ethics to become a determinant, and in turn showed that corporate ethics and individual ethics are two very different things.

5:32 AM  
Anonymous RMck's No Good Brother said...

There was a party at my house the other night. It was an ambush party. I live in 'co-operative student housing' run by the USCA (www.usca.org) and the students are very uptight. Diligent. Neurotic. And they consequently don't like to party. Berkeley, California. The best in America. The home of free speech and free attitudes. Except it's not. There are of course notable exceptions. One Thursday evening, a fellow resident installed two kegs, several bottles of vodka, a four piece band and approximately fifty people without notifying anyone else who lives here. Amongst the revellers were many rowdy Irish lads. Berkeley in summer is a paradise for these people. Educated in top private schools back home, they are sent to summer (verb!) in the states by their parents to gain 'life experience'. They experience life by living in share houses filled with their countrymen, drinking, rooting and stealing to get by. They aren't going to work if they can steal. They are like vikings. Or anarchists. And they don't even realise it.

They took:
1 clock
1 clock that runs backwards
10 extra large free range farmhouse eggs
2 large steaks
1 large box of approximately 25 bananas
1 pool ball
1 carton of lemonade
1 bottle of wine
Assorted vegetables
My friend's swedish girlfriend

I saw them at another co-op party on Saturday. A lilting Irish brogue: 'I can't believe they have fucking chandeliers here. We're going to steal the chandelier, like.'

'No you fuck, we'll get noticed, take stuff we need'.

As I was walking out of the party that evening, one of them turns to me, shows me several kitchen appliances wrapped in his jacket, and says, 'we are going to cook your fucking steaks on this fucking george foreman grill'. They had a waffle maker too.

The co-ops are meant to be an embodiment of co-operative living, non-profit, benevolent. Berkeley people want to believe their corporate funded research is benevolent. Their free-spirited, socialist vision will save the world. They are going to fine me for not stopping the Irish from taking their stuff. And my stuff. Poor fucking Irish wouldn't have had anything to eat without it. From each, too each...

5:28 AM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

kitchen knives, steaks, a waffle maker! and a swede!!!!....man those guys are the real artists! thats commitment to your mission.

11:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although the work does nourish this long dialog, which is a good thing, i feel that it in itself, reminds me of all this 'revolution on a t-shirt' and soft 'pop-punk' vice magazine stuff, which is underlined by a strong adherence to capitalism. By marketing the producer/consumer role companies are making millions, do pat and kain do anything more than display this as a given truth of the now???

8:05 AM  

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