MESS project (2014)

The MESS (Mercantile Evaluation Statistical System) was a participatory installation presented at Proteus Gowanus Gallery in Brooklyn in the fall of 2014. Its goal was to explore the psychological and social mechanisms by which individuals and communities create their value systems.

The installation consisted of twelve diverse objects donated by local residents. The visitors were invited to inspect the objects and evaluate them based on their internalized system of values, on the scale of zero to fifty. They were then offered instructions on how to determine the “accurate” value of the objects using the MESS system, which allowed them to systematically evaluate objects based on their physical parameters and symbolic qualities. At the end of the exhibition I performed statistical analysis of the recorded responses to determine the audience’s valuation patterns.

The collected date showed that the viewers tended to ascribe greater value to objects’ symbolic qualities, rather than their appearance, rarity, or potential usefulness. For example, an object that was claimed to be George Washington's tooth was deemed by the majority of viewers to have a higher value than any other object in the show.

The MESS tool and participation instructions.

The MESS installation (courtesy of Proteus Gowanus Gallery, Brooklyn).

Statistical data for one of the objects in the installation.