The Convenience Store Project
The Convenience Store Project is a documentary project as a set of activities. These activities include a website/blog, an exhibition, and a set of bootleg performances that will occur through the exhibition.
My personal-political impetus for beginning this project was my observation that a beloved and time-honored community institution was swiftly falling away into obscurity. The family-owned convenience store, where I live in Maine, is a mainstay. People hang out, talk politics, share gossip, buy their groceries on credit or simply avoid being lonely. You could say: The family-owned convenience store doesn't have customers cause everyone who shops there are part of its extended family but that paints too precious a picture. The family owned convenience store is still a business. Yet its small scale permits it to participate more intimately into its customer's lives. In the winter, it's the beacon on the corner that shines even in the middle of a snow storm. In the last 20 years or so, the Maine family-owned convenience store has faced difficult challenges. For example, Maine's snack tax which puts a levy on potato chips, pretzels and other similar goods. An equal threat has been and continues to be chains like Seven-Eleven, Rite Aid and CVS. Big box stores are the most recent threat.
Another interest driving this project is more philosophical, perhaps even practical. I want to re-think the documentary as a collection of activities. For me, a box of family snapshots could constitute a documentary if there is a mind to animate its contents. Culture is a form of animism and realism is just a highly developed from of divination.
My real question is: how to render documentary space so that life can enter and give it form; the kind of non-form only life can provide. Ha Ha. I am more sure of my methods. Here are a few:
1. A website containing mini-docs and surveillance footage (from stores' own cameras or simulated or decaffeinated); each store owner receives a fee for cooperation, a copy of their mini-doc and collaborated on the production of their mini doc. I've already paid one store and have yet to pay the other three in Lewiston--its not that I don't have their money, I do--It's just that we have to do the intellectual property rights signing, which adds a whole layer of business, which now that I write this I realize is oddly appropriate- Re: websites: I can't help but think of them as shiny fancy boxes without sides-and no bottom, but boxes nonetheless.
2. An exhibition-really an exhibition in an exhibition. This was a good choice-because by collaborating with Grizdale, Agrifashionista, Royal Academy and A Foundation and the visiting audience, the field of activation is much more diverse.
3. A set of solo performances in which a performer wearing a large overcoat sells parts of the building signed by the artist and bootleg copies of hope to visitors to the exhibition.
The relationship between my methods and my aim is to play out the documentary as an activity that people do. The problem with this documentary is that my aim is to stop time and contain life while saying I want time to remain fluid and free. This is not a stupid thing, it's superbly human. It is this fragility, this lack that I want to give form by creating a monument with lots of holes in it.
William Pope.L: concept/direction
Michael Smythe: producer/u.k videographer
Dorian Moore: online design/programing
Craig Saddlemire: u.s.a videographer/editor
Jo Amado: Turkey/u.k videographer/editor
Michael Reidy: "Control Booth" set construction
Alina Gallo: project liaison
Melanie Fiander: assistant
Lydia Grey: consultant
Quality Market, owner: Ron Dubois
Ser-Pa Ltd., owner: Servet Selahi
Rivington News, owner: Avtar Garcha