Containers Used to Protest Federal Debt


Photo: grandarts

New Yorkers are not alone in their protest against harsh economic inequities. In Kansas City containers are being used as a political statement.

An artist, John Salvest, has stacked up 105 of them in mainly red, white and blue, with the words USA on one side and IOU on the other. He has piled the seven storey high sculpture across the street from the Federal Reserve Building.


Photo: markschinablog

It's a piece of public art that is trying to engage people in a conversation about what the Federal Reserve does with money. The "IOU" side faces the Federal Reserve's new building and can be seen by its employees from their windows.

The sculpture is 65 feet high. It took two weeks to install. The container colours were manipulated so that IOU is spelled out with white ones on one side and USA in white ones on the other.

People see it as a rallying point: the piece has become a meeting place for protests and picnics. Off-duty policemen have been guarding it and explaining its meaning to visitors.

As the artist, John Salvest has noted, "Obviously the inspiration was the national debt problem. But that trickles down into a lot of peoples' lives, and I think a lot of people are frustrated or angry or worried about their economic well-being."

The empty and beat-up containers are symbolic of the decline of the manufacturing economy. Containers were once the model for efficient, speedy transport and now they too are battered and abandoned.

Erected by the arts group Grand Arts, there is an associated exhibition at the gallery called "New Cornucopia." There the artist has installed one green China Shipping container which he has filled with consumer goods made in China. There are toys, clothes, t.v., dinner plates and a snow blower, all overflowing onto the floor. It too is a statement on the so-called necessity of the things that we buy.


Photo: salvest consumo ergo sum
John Salvest has been working with recycled materials to make his protest statements for a long time. Many of his pieces are based on the map of the USA. This piece, Consumo Ergo Sum, from 2004 was made out of plastic container lids. Another consisted of a map made out of cigarette butts, matches, bullets and pills.


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