THE CONSUMPTION THERAPY™ DEMONSTRATION CHAMBER
ARIANNA RICHARDSON (THE HOBBYIST)
“The Consumption Therapy™ Demonstration Chamber” was a performance that occurred during the Hold Fast Contemporary Arts Festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland. This performance was framed as a live demonstration of a hypothetical and absurdist new immersive therapy that claims to cure an individual of the drive to consume goods at the rate encouraged by our neoliberal, klepto-capitalist society. “The Chamber” itself was a large, adult-sized, inflatable plastic ball, half-filled with plastic recycling that was generated by my own personal consumption habits and collected through donations from the art community in St. John’s. This material was processed in a pseudo-recycling plant fashion: thoroughly cleaned and crushed before being put to use in the performance. Plastic of all varieties was included, creating a visual cacophony of colors, textures, and advertising / branded text. During each of the four, twenty-minute performances, I was in character as “The Hobbyist,” tumbling, rolling, and immersing myself in the plastic detritus inside the ball, forced to confront and exist within a tiny fraction of the immense amount of throwaway plastic waste that is generated every day across the world.
This performance was an absurd spectacle of “The Hobbyist” yielding to the power of plastic waste: an active demonstration of the inability to remove oneself from the society that is engaging in the destruction of the planet with overconsumption and the throwaway plastic packaging waste that results from it. The “Consumption Therapy™ Demonstration Chamber” reverses a person’s typical relationship with waste: instead of taking it away and rendering it invisible with waste management infrastructure, it surrounds and engulfs, swallowing whole the consumer, restricting their ability to move freely, forcing them to surrender to the evidence of their consumption.
The goal of this performance was to provide an alternative viewpoint of how to think about and deal with waste, recycling, and climate-crisis anxiety. Using the humor of this absurd situation, I wanted to invite the audience into a difficult conversation, disarming their typical responses to a subject that makes us feel powerless and frustrated, making space for a consideration of our collective complicity in a system of destruction and oppression and the many ways that we might try to intervene and stimulate change.