“We Serve Selected Texts” was a temporary public installation by Alexis Dahan that appeared in Chelsea’s gallery district November 1–23, 2013 on 22nd Street. Appropriating the iconography and rituals of the American hot dog cart, the installation invites the audience to participate in the exchange of commerce and ideas by purchasing a curated selection of philosophical and theoretical texts from a customized menu of offerings.
After two days of operation the DIA Art Foundation invited the installation to be moved in front of 345 west 22nd Street.
Unbeknownst to casual onlookers, the stand appears as an authentic hot dog cart, complete with two canvas umbrellas, vendor permit, full menu, vendor and ashy advertising posters. In a variation of the Situationist tradition of détournement, Dahan has substituted the food on the menu with a wide range of philosophical and art historical text excerpts. The cart’s branding and visuals now promotes “Art Theory & Philosophy”, listing the authors’ names and simple slogans.
The selected philosophers were chosen for their devotion to the understanding of Art and the artists were selected for their longstanding relationship to philosophy. The viewer is then invited to select a writer or text from the menu; and for $1, he or she will receive a uniquely stamped scroll of hand-made Japanese paper with the selected text. By paying for the printed text, the viewer has the choice to either discard it (as one would a hot dog wrapping) or to savor and collect it, giving the piece as intrinsic value as a precious object.
Offering both “heavy” and “light” menu options, Dahan allows the audience to create a well-balanced diet of ingredients. Much in the same way that fast food does not offer a complete diet, this updated “menu” is by no means intended as a complete canon of philosophical thought nor a representation of each writer’s complete body of work. Rather, each text offers a dialogue about a certain element of the whole installation, from the way it appears to its specific location.
These bridged texts are given an imaginary title – each now standing on its own, re-contextualized for public consumption. The texts are in dialogue, referencing the nature of art production and art reception, as well as the viability of the installation itself.
“We Serve Selected Texts” is organized as a self-sustaining, non-profit operation, engaging with the system of capital in the most transparent way. Every dollar raised covers the price of the japanese hand-made paper and general upkeep of the stand: a playful gesture, a provocation, and hopefully, a forum for discussion. Results from this exercise will be compiled in a publication to be released in 2014.