Artist Project: Live Radio Auction

5.5 / Slapstick and the Sublime

Artist Project: Live Radio Auction

By Wonderment Consortium July 9, 2014
Wonderment Consortium, Episode 1 of Live Radio Auction (edited), May 27, 2014

Live Radio Auction appropriates a format from rural American radio stations in which the DJ auctions items over the airwaves and the public calls in to bid on the objects as a way of raising funds for the radio station. In rural America, the items auctioned are usually intended to be desirable and are donated by local businesses. Live Radio Auction bends that idea by harvesting the auction items from a local thrift store, the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, with a keen eye set to the ordinary, the obsolete, and the nearly valueless objects one might find, like used shoes, damaged cookware, or a fire extinguisher in need of a refill—the detritus of our long-forgotten yesterday. All proceeds from the auction go to the thrift store.  

The auction is a slow burn. Sitting in a booth, the DJs look at a pile of objects and slowly, endlessly describe them over the airwaves to their audience. Sometimes people call and bid; sometimes they don’t. Either way, the DJs are left to describe a rug as best as they can: its feel, its color, its shape, its size, its application. They might discuss suitable placements or purposes for the object, or times and experiences in their lives in which a similar object might have been an accessory to a memory, just filling time with words, seemingly endless words, describing something the audience can see only in their mind’s eye, much like a very boring baseball game heard over the air. Except that instead of a game, it’s a desk lamp, lightly used, with a starting bid of two dollars.

Localized community radio has a unique ability to achieve an intimate connection with a diverse audience. This increasingly rare format exists at a moment in history in which the format’s uncommon scope merits display. Wonderment Consortium aims to draw attention directly to this with Live Radio Auction. Additionally, in the torrent of public relations and branding hype for new, ostensibly green products, the ideas of reducing consumption and recycling have difficulty being heard in the cacophony of well-funded Prius ads. We’d like to give voice to that used bike pump, that box of office supplies, and those dusty silk flowers that so rarely get center stage. Who knows, the next deal could be yours.

The first episode of Live Radio Auction took place on May 27, 2014, on Wonderment Consortium is Packard Jennings, Steuart Pittman, and Scott Vermeire.  

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