The Emptiness Within
May 19, 2016
The supermarket at 1015 Yuyuan Road in Shanghai is said to look like any ordinary Chinese convenience store, its shelves stocked with colorful bottles and boxes of foodstuffs and other items from all over the world.
There's the usual convex mirror in the corner to watch for shoplifters. There's a cash register and a cashier, and lots and lots of customers. The prices they pay are exactly what people in Shanghai would expect to pay.
The only thing at all unusual is that the packages are all empty. Every last one of them. Artist Xu Zhen and his conceptual-art corporation, MadeIn Company, bought all the thousands and thousands of items found in a convenience store, patiently pricked or otherwise opened each one to remove the contents, and then carefully resealed them.
"Store" visitors, perhaps surprised at first by the lightness of a secretly emptied soft drink can or candy bar wrapper, nonetheless walk up and down the aisles, studying and touching the merchandise. They make their selections. As often as not, they decide to buy something, even though it's only a package of nothing.
They pay full price. Maybe they feel that they're actually buying art, and for art, the price looks good.