In Hostipitality, Misha Ilin investigates our laws of hospitality with the practice of hostility through the situation of an auction. By constructing a metaphor of unlimited hospitality in relation to the last ultimately free resource, air, the artist seeks to problematize its socio-economic reading within our biopolitical context.
In this respect, the air is the main element of the exhibition both formally and conceptually introduced into the exposition through various objects that inform the viewer with the air’s presence or that of absence. Artist seeks to highlight this contrast by creating an environment of the celebration with objects that are transferring or containing air in different forms, be it sparkling wine or balloons gradually deflating over the duration of the show, staged in opposition to the x-ray lightboxes and screens, which illuminate the images of the environment in which the air is absent or in which one’s rights to the use of the air have been deprived.
Per convention, the air is free and defines the limits of our world and as an intangible element, prevents our environment from being absolutely hostile in the literal and metaphoric sense. By considering that the space of the gallery is not only a space of exhibition but also space where the contract is set between the host and the guest concerning all the matters of the gallery including the air which the gallery contains the artist identifies a juncture where space of aesthetics transgresses into that of politics.
From this perspective, auctioning the air is not fraudulent or a
senseless act. Furthermore, through this simple collective procedure of
defining the air’s price, and thus the possibility of its possession, this
unlimited intangible substance reveals the power of the host - be it the power
of an individual, a state, or a planet - to provide, limit or deprive guests of
this last element of hospitality- a priori available for all.
The air contained in the gallery was sold using a market structure of Dutch auction in which the auctioneer begins with a high asking price , and lowers it until some participant accepts the price, or it reaches a predetermined reserve price.
*This type of price auction is most commonly used for goods that are required to be sold quickly such as flowers, fresh produce (read easily spoiled), also used a auction method to sell u.s. bonds at U.S. stock exchange.
Asking price for the air was defined based on price of human life according to the U.S. transportation agency (around USD3m). For instance price of human life accoding to transportation agency of Australia is arond USD9m, in Russia around USD400ths. To estimate a price of an air contained in the gallery space I used the average number of tidal breaths a person makes during the their life (considering the life expectancy for U.S. citizen of 77 years, 20 breaths per minute, each american citizen makes around 600mln tidal breaths during their lifetime). That brings the cost of one breath in U.S. to approx. 1c. Considering the volume of air contained in the gallery space and number of breaths to be made to inhale it completely was defined the price of the air in the gallery space (asking price) of USD2166.
If the sale of air was to happen the rights on the air contained in the gallery space would be transferred to the winner of the auction. And the attendees of the auction to be asked to free the space. Over the following two weeks these rights on air would define a rules for use of the air for the visitors of the gallery. According to these rights the visitor of the gallery has to:
> pay for each breath made in the space of the gallery,
< hold their breath while walking inside the space of the gallery
> look from outside of the space of the gallery.
Eventually the air contained in the gallery was sold for USD30, that retroactively makes the price of human life in Baltimore very close to that of in Russia