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After Holly Newman’s daughter was born, she found it necessary to reinvent her artistic practice. The issues which became central to her work were: labour (hers in particular), the role of beauty (the necessity of appeal), and a desire for social contact (the importance of simple encounters). These concerns have become central to her work and are clearly evident in The Gift Exchange.
The Gift Exchange consists of 1000 crochet butterflies which will be given away at the end of the exhibition in exchange for the promise of a story. The project will ultimately document a moment in time; the moment when visitors to the RAG were asked to reflect on the idea of beauty and the meaning found in a gift of knotted thread representing a fanciful insect.
The expectation of return is often unstated or socially understood as a component of gift giving. The Gift Exchange establishes a contract much like a gift registry. The fulfillment of the exchange will depend upon the participants’ sense of obligation and willingness to commit to the completion of the project. Desire is a difficult emotion to tap into, yet we are bombarded with images designed to do just that, enticing us to buy the latest fashion, coffee, or car. In this case we are asked to respond not with our pocket book but with a story.