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Using scrap materials from the collection, Emilio Maldonado constructed a large mobile shoe-shine stand for Elsewhere’s sidewalk, now used by local shoe shiners for business several times a week. The artist grew up in the Dominican Republic, where he noted different patterns of consumption from those found in the U.S. Countering the pressure to participate in a disposable consumer culture that one finds here, and which the museum’s vast storehouse of mass-produced goods speaks to, Maldonado recalled a culture dedicated to maintaining, repairing, and improvising with what one had. His project began as a way to introduce aspects of his own personal history to the space (his cousins worked as shoe shiners) in support of these cultural values and in keeping with the museum’s mission of creatively extending the lives of things.

Through its form, The Relation Station promotes the idea that art provides a functional social value reaching beyond the symbolic realm, that it can be incorporated into everyday civic life, and that it participates in real market economies. Through its use, it further instigates dialog about the power dynamics of consumer exchange and a dialectic of care inherent to service industries.

The Relation Station is currently open for business on Thursday and Friday from 4 to 8 p.m., weather permitting. A basic shoe shine costs $8 and includes admission to the museum. Profits go directly to the shoe shiner.
 

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