An “Emotional Value Auction” is a participatory witnessed exchange grounded in reciprocity. These unconventional “auctions” allow people to release things and/or bring new things into their lives based on emotional value or potential utility over economic value. No money changes hands; authentic written expression and shared vulnerability are rewarded and are rewards in themselves.
Simple in concept, these events have generated meaningful exchanges between strangers, capitalizing on the power of witnessing to facilitate the process of letting go. Lacking--or even with--familial structures through which to “hand things down,” it is often hard to let go of things. Knowing someone will appreciate something and carry forward some aspect of its story or past can catalyze release.
I orchestrated two of these events in Maine in 2017, the first at the Yarmouth History Center, and the second at SPEEDWELL Projects in Portland. In each case, a public call was issued, inviting people by email and social media to submit an item they wished to release. Items were put on display next to written statements about their provenance and significance; why it seemed time to let go; and -- as appropriate – any reason it was challenging to do so. Audience members become participants if they are moved to bid on any of the items. All bids take the form of written expressions of interest or desire rather than money.
At the end of the event, owners decide if they want to bestow the object on one or more people based on their written bids. (Certain items have been divided or split.) Participants have the option of remaining anonymous or having their identities shared with one another.
For information on the upcoming August 2019 auction at the Topsham Fair August 6-11 (noon-nine), and/or to offer an item, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org