THIS MONTH, A large transparent pig is going to be placed on a Carlow street.
Inside the Pig will be an LED sign, saying:
This is a community fund. You can contribute to it if you like, and when you’ve agreed how to spend it you can open me and spend it. #ThePig
But what is the Pig, and what are people supposed to do with it?
The Pig is the creation of the Essex, UK-based studio Kaleider, which designs and produces what it calls “extraordinary live experiences”.
Its art projects travel around the world visiting public spaces, and force people to ask themselves questions about how they see and interact with the world around them.
Seth Honnor is the artistic director of Kaleider. Speaking to TheJournal.ie, he said that: “Kaleider’s aim is to bring people together to respond creatively to some of the greatest challenges of our time”.
We want to create extraordinary, human centered experiences, products and services that help us all towards a better understanding of ourselves and our world.
Pig was inspired by the Kaleider game Money, where the audience and players have one hour to decide how to spend an amount of money. If they can’t come to a decision, the money rolls over to the next event.
Honnor wanted to take the idea behind Money and bring into the public space to see what people would do.
“It’s about the commons, it’s about when we have 12 billion people on the planet, how can we possibly decide to do with the shared resource which is the planet?” he says.
That is incredibly pertinent right now. It asks questions about our structures. What makes up our community or sense of community. What are the edges of that. It is very much about asking those questions and allowing the participation in the artwork to answer them.
In its own way, then, Pig is a provocation. It says to the public passing by: there will be money in here, and you have the freedom to decide how it should be spent. The money is referred to as a ‘community fund’, indicating that its use should be towards the good of the community. But will everyone passing by agree?
The donated cash can be accessed by removing the top half of the Pig. That’s not difficult – it’s a matter of twisting the 50 wingnuts around the sides. The whole process is meant to be easy: there are no facilitators there, no one from Kaleider looking on to judge what’s happening.
Could people decide to organise a group to decide what to do with the money? “Yes, people could try and organise themselves,” says Honnor. “The reality is that people in other places have taken upon themselves to open it.”
‘I believe people’s capacity to be ingenious’
While they don’t track what happens to the artwork, a group of young reporters are are documenting things on the site Pigzine.com.
“The value in the artwork is putting it out there and people will have conversations when at home doing the washing up about the dilemma at its centre,” explains Honnor. “How will we know what people are talking about it? I don’t know… I trust that they will have really amazing conversations about it – just as you might coming home from an art gallery.”
Being that Pig is a social experiment, Honnor says that it’s not his role to judge the people who take part in it. “I really believe people’s capacity to be ingenious and do interesting things and be playful – and that is generally the way it is taken, it attracts the curious and the rebellious. And people engage with its humour and playfulness.”
There have been some interesting and touching stories about how Pig has been interacted with. When it visited Norwich in 2018, a mother saw Honnor talk about the Pig on the television. Her child’s football team needed a new kit, and they took some money from the fund to buy it. The story got some local coverage, but it wasn’t that story that Honnor says was the most touching from Norwich.
“Then I just got this email from the promoter – it was late Friday evening and I was just getting into my car and checked my emails on my phone. And I got an email which said something along the lines of ‘we had another opening this morning’.”
It transpired that a Big Issue seller in the area hadn’t made enough money that day, and opened the pig in order to take out £2 for a cup of coffee.
“There was something the smallness and the bigness of that,” says Honnor. “The duality of it. It was a relatively small amount of money but it must have been big to the Big Issue seller.”
For Honnor, these examples show how Pig “engages a cross-section of society”. It often attracts people in uniform, he says, describing how police “do get interested in it” because it is money in a public space. Kaleider has a good relationship with the police, informing local officers about the artwork in advance.
“I think the police sometimes come to it and they don’t realise they are also part of the community at that point,” notes Honnor. That’s the thing with Pig, he says – people think they are watching on, but actually they are part of the community too.
People want to be able to grasp it, what it is and what the stories are, and actually it is a very slippery pig, a very slippery project. Those stories are constantly evading your grasp.
The Pig mirrors the layers of judgement and acceptance in a community. On the one hand you can have people celebrating because a football team took some of the money, but then somebody from the street community “comes to take something out of it and someone calls the police”, says Honnor.
“Why should we call the police when someone who appears to be from the street community opens it, but when someone appears to be middle class opening it for a football team, why are they more of value to us than someone who appears to be from the street community? It is a challenging piece of work.”
With such high levels of poverty in the UK, the Pig sparks serious conversations. In Hull, where the Pig was placed at one point, one in three people grows up in poverty. Thousands of pounds were put in and thousands taken out, starting conversations in the area, says Honnor.
The UK is, of course, also dealing with Brexit right now. “For me Pig talks more clearly to things like climate change and how we organise things together, whether what Brexit is doing realistically is saying how can we be more isolationist,” says Honnor.
Ultimately, Pig is there to pose questions, not answer them. “And through the exploration of the question there should be some reveal, they should learn something I suppose in some way about the human condition,” says Honnor.
Pig will appear at Carlow Arts Festival, which runs from 4 June to 9 June 2019. Other events at this festival include Lord of Strug’s Absolute LEgends, The Horsebox Theatre, Max Richter’s Sleep, Irish National Opera, dance, music, visual art and family events.