Artist Jess Dobkin takes her clothes, attaches realistic-looking tags that say “free” on them, and puts them back on the shelves at the original stores she bought them from. She calls the project, “Restored,” and made a cheery video about it.
In the 2004 piece, besides the $0.00 price, the tags also come with a bit of copy. One tag explains the project in a friendly way, saying, “Hello! If you like this item, feel free to take it home with you. It is a gift from me to you. Sometimes you can get what you need without having to pay for it. Spring cleaning feels so good, don’t you agree?”
Others tell little stories about the clothes they’re attached to. For instance, one that she put back at the GAP said, “This shirt was a gift from my ex girlfriend. I had to get it out of my closet, but maybe you can enjoy it without being haunted by the memories of our relationship and breakup. Take it. It’s a gift from me to you.”
Since the clothes are free, it’s not shoplifting.
Jess Dobkin says that her goal was to “intervene,” and to “disrupt,” the traditional consumer to store model. Normally, the assumption is that “when someone comes to a shopping mall, it’s assumed that when you come to a store it’s to buy something new, with money, and it’s a private relationship between consumer and corporation.” But in “Restored,” she creates a dynamic where the consumer takes a piece of used clothing, for free, and explores a connection with another human being through a bit of narrative.
Dobkin did the project in Toronto with her own clothing and then did it again in Montreal where, she told me via email, “I did a call out and collected items from others along with their personal stories (little bits of these stories were then included on the “Restored” tags attached to the clothing.)”
Give the video a watch.
She continued the retail intervention idea in a later project called “The Bookworm” where she placed bookmarks inside books at big national bookstores. The bookmarks were decorated with cute pictures of worms and copy that encouraged readers to patronize their local independent bookstore instead.
Restored [Jess Dobkin] (Thanks to c-side!)