NewShop!: You are what you buy

New!Shop is a clever installation piece that's part of the Next Wave arts festival. Customers are invited to browse the aisles of a hyper-real mini mart, where each product represents some aspect of consumerism, personal aspiration or insecurity (eg: sunglasses represent a bright future). The products have barcodes that, when scanned, display product information and instructions for use.

The shopping experience is regularly disrupted by security searches (in the case of suspected theft) and announcements of promotional specials, while bored staff patrol the aisles just like their customer service droid counterparts in real life. Customers are also offered happy pills (tic tacs, actually) - each dose comes in mini disposable cups like those used in hospitals - as they go shopping.

At the checkout, the products are scanned and customers get a receipt that describes their consumer fortune based on what they've bought, and a badge that labels their fortune category (mine was Damaged Goods).

My shopping list consisted of:

Syringe and diamond ring (representing DIY botox kit)
Sheriff's badge (power & authority)
A plastic bottle in a ziplock bag (a comfortable air)
A trophy (achievement)
A CD of music and random conversations (pleasant conversation)
A jar of styrofoam vomit (condensed excess - "purge to make space for more", the tagline says)
A jar of happy pills (Prozac)
A pair of sunnies (a bright future)
Growth control pills (keep those pets as cute lil puppies or kittens)
A mobile phone with verbatim Cronulla riot SMS message (a cheeky Cronulla souvenir)

Based on what I bought, the New!Shop checkout predicted my consumer fortune as:
DAMAGED GOODS - Your consumer past has mainly been effected by all of those unconscious lasting cuts and grazes. Under this influence, the act of seeking the latest bargains - a consistent activity - has been a way of soothing psychic wounds from childhood, or of potential damage control. A nervous breakdown is definately avoidable if you avoid the clutter of excessive purchases.

A fun installation that I enjoyed interacting with (normally I don't like audience participation), New!Shop is an interesting commentary about consumer wants and needs, greed and how products are marketed to fulfil human vanities.

New!Shop runs from 22 March to 1 April 2006