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Coveted Interviews

Interview : Obsessive Consumption

In this day and age of consumer spending being a core component of our economy and personal debt being higher than it’s ever been. It’s hard to visualize just how we have incorporated consumerism into everyday reality. Kate Bingaman-Burt has found a way to personalize and communicate her consumption habits through art. Her career begun as a package designer, and now an artist and professor of graphic design here she tells us about her own personal evolution with her project Obsessive Consumption

The Coveted: Where do you live and work?
Kate Bingaman-Burt:I live in Starkville, Mississippi and work at Mississippi State University as an assistant professor of graphic design.

TC:When did you first begin obsessing about consumption?
KBB: Hmmm…ever since I started tagging along with my parents to art shows in the summer and was enlisted as a mini sales person to help sell their weavings. I also started a pin business when I was 11 and sold them to the local florist shops in town to pay for high topped Reebok’s and shirts that had comic book strips printed on them.

But to answer your question with more detail, Obsessive Consumption started in 2002 while I was in graduate school. I was a new graduate student and had just finished working as an art director for a gift company in Omaha, Nebraska. I went to lots of trade shows and really was focused in on trends and why people buy what they buy. I was also interested in the history of objects and thrift stores and found objects. I wanted to know the history of all of the found objects that I would stumble upon or photograph and was becoming frustrated because I couldn’t find these answers. So…
I turned towards myself and started documenting all of my purchases and in turn decided to create a brand called Obsessive Consumption and produce consumable products about my consumption. I was partly taking myself seriously, but mostly trying to have fun with all of the ridiculous stuff that people consume, including me.
TC: I’ve never really thought about how vulnerable you become displaying all your purchases for public view. I tried it once here on The Coveted, but then I became embarrassed on how much I spent. Were there any unexpected emotions that came up in your Daily Purchase Drawings?
KBB:Well, a lot of those emotions were expelled when I started posting pictures of everything I bought at the start of Obsessive Consumption. More emotions were expelled when I started posting drawings of my credit card statements. The daily drawings are pretty fun. I just draw my boring crap. Everyone buys basically the same stuff. It is all boring. ha! I just try to elevate the mundane a bit.

TC: How has all this affected the way you consume?
KBB: It is easy to keep money issues hidden. People are embarrassed to talk about how much they make or how much debt they have. I figured if I am going to pay off my debt I have to make myself accountable for it and not lie to myself that I really don’t have that much or that it isn’t that big of a deal. By sharing debt with other people it gives you more motivation to pay it off. By making it look less scary and maybe even fun it might encourage other people to think about their own debt and what they buy.

I like that my project can resonate with a broad range of people. I am not lecturing people about spending and debt. I am just wanting people to be more aware of what they buy.

Again, I am having fun with it. It is a great outlet for me to experiment with all types of media and to continue to try new things.

TC: Name your poison…
KBB: Hmmm…that is a tough question. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t really enjoy spending money, but with that in mind my favorite stuff to buy would be a good score from a thrift store or maybe a good find for my husband or family or friends that I know that they would love. That sounded totally cheesy, but true.

My weaknesses are books, magazines, music, zines, comic books. Rereading what I just typed makes me think that I have the purchasing habits of a 14 year old boy.

Least favorite? Paying Bills. Buying gas sucks too.
TC: Would you mind sharing a random fact about yourself?
KBB: I love making work about consumption! I can really explore a lot of mediums and ideas under the umbrella of Obsessive Consumption. If I want to draw, I can draw. If I want to take a picture, I can take a picture. If I want to paint an entire wall and fill it with hand drawn typography of my receipts for the month, I can do that too. It has been a good fit for me art-wise. I was always all over the place. The framework that I have set up for myself allows me to be all over the I keep thinking that I will get sick of this, but my list of things that I want to do is so long. I am lucky. Consumerism is what I make work about. Some people make work about nature, relationships, etc. My subject is personal consumerism.
All these images can be found on Kate’s flickr page, and she has an excellent blog called What did you buy today?

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7 comments for “Interview : Obsessive Consumption”

  1. Clever concept.
    The Target receipt drawing made me laugh, what other place can you go in for towels and end up with a cart full of stuff.

    Posted by Candid Cool | October 2, 2007, 9:02 pm
  2. Really interesting interview. Katie’s work is intriguing. Thanks for sharing this.

    Posted by kellyloveswhales | October 3, 2007, 11:15 am
  3. it’s indeed interesting what she does…and we do agree and know what she’s talking about, we are consuming too..right?:)

    Posted by Diana @ So Fash'on | October 3, 2007, 2:02 pm
  4. haha… i know, i can’t go to target unsupervised… you know for the same reason…

    i’ve just been running into trouble lately with my own spending habits, and it really interested me how someone could make theirs into an ongoing art presentation… i’m glad you enjoy it!

    Posted by jennine | October 3, 2007, 2:17 pm
  5. this is really fantastic - you should be a journalist!! oh maybe you are…

    Posted by riz | October 3, 2007, 8:24 pm
  6. very interesting interview (form the bits that I skim read, and some very interesting graphics, indeed.

    S xx

    Posted by discothequechic | October 4, 2007, 7:53 am
  7. @ riz….
    :) maybe… but for now, i blog…
    thank you….

    Posted by jennine | October 4, 2007, 11:42 am

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