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Video of the Wall Street Crab Feast on the Lower Manhattan rooftop of the 16 Beaver Group artists' collective, just two blocks from the New York Stock Exchange.

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Wall Street Crab Feast:
A Participatory Performance Trafficking in Vernacular Culture

Peter Walsh (USA)

Part of Exchange: An Evening of Performance
organized by curator Carrie Lambert at
the 16 Beaver Group, 16 Beaver Street, Manhattan

Saturday, June 17, 2000

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*     In the years since the Wall Street Crab Feast was held on a rooftop at the 16 Beaver Group in Manhattan, global economic forces have transformed the Maryland crab industry. *

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     On Saturday afternoon, June 17, 2000, at the height of the world stock market boom, artist Peter Walsh held a crab feast at the rooftop space of the artists’ collective 16 Beaver Group, located just two blocks from the New York Stock Exchange in the heart of Manhattan’s Financial District. (photo gallery)

     Called Wall Street Crab Feast: A Participatory Performance Trafficking in Vernacular Culture, the event brought the marginalized culture of his hometown Baltimore into the midst of the global economy’s command center. A traditional backyard crab feast is as much a social space for community and family discussion as it is a meal. Artists from around the world - including Finland, Japan, Italy, Germany and Ireland - were invited to take part in the free event.

     The crabs themselves were harvested off Gibson Island in the Chesapeake Bay and purchased at a roadside stand in front of Mercy High School on Northern Parkway in Baltimore City. They were then transported 200 miles by car to the 16 Beaver rooftop.

The third seating of the Wall Street Crab Feast.

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The steamed Chesapeake Blue Crabs (Callinectes sapidus) are ready to be served.

Dumping the pot onto the waiting pages of the Wall Street Journal.

The original "Clip Art" map of Lower Manhattan with the Crab Feast location, subway stops and other landmarks.

Some Background Information About the Creation of Wall Street Crab Feast

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From the invitation:

In a world dominated by triumphant Global Capitalism, what are the roles and functions, if any, of local, regional, vernacular, and provincial cultures?

In a world where technology bridges all distances at the click of a button, is there a place for artistic and cultural practices that are limited by the physical boundaries of geographic communities?

In attempting to insert community-based culture into the maw of global consumer society, are all differences reduced to a lowest-common denominator pastiche of complex and specific life experiences?

The Formal Invitation and related reading materials for the Wall Street Crab Feast.

     Wall Street Crab Feast was the first of a series of art projects that I have created that make use of social interactions to talk about economics and power. In this case, I was working with the notion of "gift economies," the non-cash social exchange systems used all over the world that were first clearly described by the sociologist Marcel Mauss in his 1950 book The Gift. One aspect of how "gifts" operate is that they bind people together by creating the obligation of "returning the gift." With Wall Street Crab Feast, I fed two bushels of steamed crabs, corn on the cob and potato salad to scores of artists and individuals from all over the world. What is most remarkable is that the gift of food works so well. Many of the people who attended were complete strangers and have since become friends and compatriots. The exchange system, though limited in scope, was clearly quite effective.

     Newly arrived in New York City from Baltimore, I intended the feast to be a negotiation of sorts between my own untranslatable experiences and knowledge from my hometown and that of other participants. As the internet stock boom hit its peak just blocks away, we were looking at and searching for other, non-monetary, non-financial ways of human exchange.

     Those who RSVPed in time were sent a packet of discusion materials and readings. These short selections were chosen with the hope of inspiring a spirited exchange of ideas. I asked that the participants make of them what they could (or ignore them). Although my own beliefs fall in certain directions, I hold no particular allegiance to any of these readings. In fact, I strongly disagree with some of them.

1) A New Yorker ad for plus selections from the website
2) Thomas Friedman’s “The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention,” from Lexus and the Olive Tree, 1999
3) “The False Dawn of the Global Free Market” from John Gray’s False Dawn, 1999
4) Selections from Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s The New World Border, 1985-1996
5) Pages from the NSK electronic embassy, , the “first global state of the universe,” 1998
     [note: defunct site as of 2004]


6) “Crabs crawl from Bay to belly in less than a day” by Rafael Alvarez, 1986, from Hometown Boy, 1999, which does an excellent job of highlighting a series of economic exchanges quite similar to the ones that brought bushels of Atlantic blue crabs from the waters of the Chesapeake Bay to the rooftop table at 16 Beaver Group.

Articles Written About Wall Street Crab Feast

1) “Crabs turn Manhattan into an isle of joy,” The Baltimore Sun, 6/19/00, Rafael Alvarez. Reprinted in Alvarez's book Storyteller (Baltimore: The Baltimore Sun) 2001, ISBN 1-893116-22-0.

2) “Wall Street Crab Feast,” Peek Review, July 2000, Jan Werner.

Photo Gallery from Wall Street Crab Feast

  Gallery of Images fromWall Street Crab Feast


     My thanks go out first and foremost to all the feast participants for having fun while in fact being treated like guinea pigs in an experiment. Deidre Hoguet, who worked by my side in making the nuts and bolts of the project fit together, was indispensible as always and I am forever indebted to her. Rafael Alvarez and his father Manuel Alverez brought remarkable energy and knowledge to the project . Manuel, a former union tug-boat man in Baltimore, even lent me his crab steaming recipe. Ralph travelled with me on the memorable overnight excursion setting our local crab commodity into global motion and of course wrote the lovely article in The Sun. I owe them both. Roberto Guerra shot beautiful professional video of the event which I hope to post on this website soon. Megan Sapnar and Ingrid Ankerson, Josh Levine, Eric Nehus, and Abel Yee all chipped in at various points, too. Jack Livingston of Peek Magazine was kind enough to take my project seriously and publish Jan Werner's smart commentary. Also many thanks to curator Carrie Lambert and 16 Beaver  members Colin Beatty and Rene Gabri. And finally, thanks to the hosts and participants of the two post-feast discussions for their superb feedback and discussions. The first was graciously hosted salon-style by artist Carol Wood; the second by Paige Sarlin as part of 16 Beaver Group’s Monday Night Series.

All Content Peter Walsh 2004-2010
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