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Travelling Garage Sale, 1977

Martha Rosler made various installations and performances reproducing the classic garage sale, especially popular in southern California. An informal event for selling unwanted consumer items and generating money for acquiring other goods, garage sales are also a way of socialising and a reflection on the American way of life. In her particular garage sale, Rosler placed her objects carefully so that the most desirable (pictures, toys and good-quality clothes) are at the front and well lit, while the more intimate objects (old clothes, personal letters, family photographs and Playboy posters) are at the back. Tucked away in dark corners were empty food containers from social aid programmes, letters from lovers and other intimate objects. The event was advertised in leaflets and in the ad-section of a local magazine as if it were a normal garage sale, while in newspapers it was presented as an artistic event.

Traveling Garage Sale was held in the garage of the La Mamelle Gallery, San Francisco, on 1 and 2 October 1977. Rossler adopted the persona of a southern Californian hippie mum wearing an Indian robe. With the help of Judith Barry, the gallery staff and Diane Germain, she distributed the objects in a long, narrow space, which made circulation difficult and the visitors feel trapped. At the end of the installation, populated with mostly obscene and intimate objects, a slide projection showed some of these objects being used by a typical American family, while an audio-recording echoed the thoughts of prospective buyers, their doubts over which objects to purchase, their contradictions, the material and emotional value of the objects, consumer fetishes and social hang-ups.

Technical details

Original title:
Travelling Garage Sale
Registration number:
Rosler, Martha
Date created:
Date acquired:
MACBA Collection. Barcelona City Council long-term
Object type:
Audiovisual recording
Single-channel video, b/w, sound, 30 min
MACBA Collection. Barcelona City Council long-term loan
© Martha Rosler
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