Exchange Values: Eleven Years On – 2007

“Exchange Values first venue was in the UK in 1996, although this social sculpture project started way back: collecting banana skins, in the early seventies in South Africa, and then in a series of pavement actions in Germany in 1974: “Reading the World Economy” through the banana skins, for passersby….”

– Shelley Sacks


Social Sculpture and Connective Aesthetics: Commodities and the DNA of capitalism

“They’re in your face. Banana skins. Dried. Cured. Blackened. Flattened. Sewn together in a panel. Stretched. Taut. On a frame. Right in your face. And it smells. It’s rich. Gorgeous. You can’t move too far away. Get too distanced. If you want to keep the headphones on. The ones that are attached to the little metal box below the panel and the frame. The one with the number on. E49034…”

– Ian Cook


Beyond Sensationalism: Social Sculpture – An Expanded Concept of Art

“Shelley Sacks has added a new dimension to the visual arts in Britain, both through her own social sculpture projects, like Exchange Values, and, as Head of Art at Oxford Brookes University, in establishing the first ever centre for the research and study of ‘social sculpture’ – the Social Sculpture Research Unit. In this she has honoured the life and work of Joseph Beuys, which was focused on his concept of ‘social sculpture’ in its many and varied manifestations, and in which his roles as teacher and artist were also intertwined…”

– Prof. Richard Demarco OBE


Exchange Values, a New Aesthetics and Multi-stakeholder Processes

“The challenge of living, surviving, thriving – indeed of sustaining life – within the world of globalisation is still very new to us. Globalisation can conjure up many different images – of rapid flows of “funny money”; of the unprecedented power of multinational organisations; of the accessibility of so many people to so many others through the internet; of the awesome statistics on the rich-poor divide; of the rapid spread of AIDS; of global warming; of the World Cup; of the planet seen from space; of despair; of hope. How do we make sense of these images, which are on a scale that is quite new to us? How do we make sense of the dislocation brought on by the newness of it all?…”

– John Colvin


Bananas and Citizens

“Bananas are only one example of how, in the contemporary world, we are all unavoidably interconnected with the lives and landscapes of people and places around the globe. Globalisation means that wherever we are, our lives impact on far distant others. How do people get to have a say in what the shape of these global connections should be: in the sorts of connections that are established, and in their form and nature? How do we, as banana growers and as banana eaters, as producers and consumers, and as people, get to have a say in what these connections look like?…”

– Luke Deforges


Beyond Banana Wars

“In the 1970s and 1980s, the banana trade came to symbolise the injustices facing both plantation workers and small producers in developing countries. The ‘banana republics’ (Guatemala, Honduras, Panama etc.) were still controlled by big companies who maintained absolute control over the trade and the lives of the weakest participants in it. This ‘green gold’ of the Caribbean that small producers were legally obliged to sell to one British company, at a price imposed by the company, resulted in ‘a licence to print money’ as a Del Monte executive declared in 1990. The new five big banana traders that together account for over 80% of the world banana trade are Chiquita (US based), Dole (US based), Fyffes (Ireland), Del Monte (US based) and Noboa (Ecuador)…”

– Banana Link 


Fruitful Links

“Growing bananas and tourism provide St. Lucia’s wealth. But to look for any mutually enriching link between these two pivotal activities is to search in vain. Perhaps the only time the tourist will see bananas (except possibly on the way to and from the airport) is in a hotel fruit bowl. I was once told by a tour operator who specialises in the Caribbean that he could not recommend his clients go walking in the St. Lucian countryside in case they came across “farmers with machetes”. So the ghettoised tourist has to be “protected” from the banana farmers, from members of the host community going about their daily tasks. And when I learned that cruise ships calling at St. Lucia are sometimes supplied with bananas out of containers from Venezuela, the gap between producers and consumers seemed even more offensive and absurd…”

– Polly Pattullo


Beyond Unfair Trade

“Small banana producers in the Caribbean are facing a very uncertain future as threats to their livelihood mount up in the form of international trade disputes and difficulties in the market place. Much of this is related to the nature of banana production in the Caribbean, the structure of international trading arrangements and to the marketing strategies of the giants who control the banana trade at the wholesale and retail level..”

– Renwick Rose


Banana Lives, Windward Isles

“Our lives are planted On the hilltops,
On the hillsides, And in the valleys
We draw sustenance from the Earth
Like you
In Sun,
In Rain, we sweat
The air you feel, we breathe;
‘Neath the Great Sky the island lie,
Banana Isles; the Windward Isles…”

– Fremont Lawrence


Exchange Values Six Years On, August 2002

“When I began working on this project in 1992 I had no idea that it would inspire and engage so many people from so many different constituencies and disciplines. The Earth Summit presentation in Johannesburg is the project’s ninth venue. After this it will go to Wales, then Birmingham, and hopefully too, back to St. Lucia, in the Windward Islands…”

– Shelley Sacks


Preface to 1996 catalogue for Exchange Values

“Shelley Sacks’ EXCHANGE VALUES: Images of Invisible Lives is one of the more remarkable projects with which The Bonington Gallery has involved itself. The result of deeply held political commitments are fired by a passionate desire to overcome social inequalities, EXHANGE VALUES manages, nevertheless, to avoid the merely didactic and, more impressive still, to transcend the simply polemic…”

– Robert Ayers


Exchange Values: Images of Invisible Lives Opening talk

“We are standing in an art gallery, participating in a process whose contours are familiar to many of us, almost ritualised, in fact: “the opening of an exhibition”. The invitation to the opening of Exchange Values. Images of invisible lives is careful not to use this terminology – it refers rather to the opening of a “ ‘social sculpture’ project” – but to us as we stand here, the way Shelley Sacks characterises her work seems less determining of what is happening than the fact that we’re in this gallery environment, waiting for the speeches to be over so that we can look at works displayed on the walls, exhibited for us…”

– Karen Press