In Notions of Expenditure, Laurie Palmer explores the links between daily routines and larger social and political events through a website and open call for proposals to redesign exercise equipment that would generate and store energy rather than expend it.
An enormous number of people in industrialized countries with sedentary jobs, health concerns, and/or obsessions about their physique voluntarily expend quantities of energy working out on cardiovascular machines, many of which plug into the wall. This is energy that we do not have to be paid in order to give up; in fact, we happily pay for the privilege of expending it. In addition to the ubiquitous private gyms and YMCA's, with their banks of free laborers visible through plate glass windows overlooking a cafe, most universities, corporations, and hotels have their own hidden workout rooms, which contain fleets of potential power-generators. As an impetus for Notions of Expenditure, Palmer imagined what the possible effects would be if these machines generated (rather than consumed) energy that could be collectively pooled.
For the exhibition, Palmer requested proposals that represented – through diagram, image, conceptual text, story, or working model – the connections between bodily expenditure and energy consumption within the current context of global environmental devastation and the U.S. war in Iraq. She requested pragmatic designs as well as those less specifically pragmatic, including designs that were more speculative, symbolic, or even satirical in concept. In addition to seeking real solutions for supplying energy, the initiative intended to draw attention to everyday energy use, as well as the relationship between daily practices and larger social and political events and policies.
Laurie Palmer, an MFA graduate of School of the Art Institute of Chicago, has exhibited her work widely since 1989. Her interdisciplinary art practice includes sculpture, writing, public art, and collaborative projects, often with the artist collective, Haha. Some of her previous exhibitions include The Interventionists at MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA (2004); Operation Human Intelligence at Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago (2003); Critical Mass at Smart Museum of Art, Chicago (2002); and Three Acres on the Lake: DuSable Park Proposal Project at Gallery 312, Chicago (2001). Palmer is an Associate Professor in sculpture at School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2003–2004, Palmer had a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute in Cambridge, MA.
Notions of Expenditure was commissioned as one of the projects in the 2005 At the Edge: Innovative Art in Chicago series.