Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Shopping Cart Tree: Is It Subversive or Super Unsubversive?

At the center of Emeryville's Bay Street shopping center is an unusual Christmas tree. It's made of shopping carts.

If this artwork was in the SFMOMA, it would be lauded as a searing indictment of our consumer culture.

Instead, it's in a shopping mall, so what message are we meant to deduce? Christmas is about buying stuff? Maybe it's refreshingly honest for a retail complex to promote this view.

The artist, Anthony Schmitt, gives a more nuanced explanation on his website:
“The shopping cart tree symbolizes both generosity and abundance, as well as acknowledging those less fortunate where their whole world may be housed in a cart. We see shopping carts everyday and take them for granted. Individually the beauty of an everyday object may become invisible, but in quantity you can’t miss it.”

I should note that the piece is not called a "Christmas" tree — it's just a generic holiday tree. So even though it seems to promote capitalism, it may still run afoul of Fox News' "War on Christmas" coverage.