Although reciprocal rituals of gift giving became replaced by the currency of money, various aspects and hybrid forms of exchange still coexist in our modern economies, where commodity relations and gift relations are not always clearly distinguishable
In the video After Marcel Mauss, The Gift - The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies a hand presents b&w photographs of Korean Hwawhan rearrangements and book pages from Mauss’ The Gift (1925) on an overhead projector. The text becomes partly covered by plastic leaves, which appear as deep black on the projection reminiscent of ink paintings.
The photographs in the video show Hwahwans look like left-overs of animistic rituals and whole and broken plastic leaves are presented as if they would be specimens or studies on cultural artifacts. Hwahwans are Korean flower gifts, which can be found often in public in front of new opened shops or for other festive or sad occasions, in the same way as other flower gifts are given all over the world.
After Marcel Mauss, The Gift - The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies
2016, HD video
Hwahwans consist of a three-leg bamboo stand, large plastic palm tree leaves, a mix of real and fake flowers and a ribbon with text giving information about the giver’s name and a message. Hwahwans represent the giver’s spirit who isn’t able to attend. This coincides with the anthropomorphic appearance of Hwahwans, as if they would be ghost-like doubles.
In his famous essay Marcel Mauss focusses on ways of exchange of objects between groups in tribal societies in order to draw conclusions about economies in the industrialized Western world. Instead of regarding a gift as free or altruistic it rather shows, how gift giving shapes and determines moral and social contracts. One of Mauss' essential concerns lies in the question of what kind of force would reside in a certain given thing that obligates the receiver for reciprocation. Mauss describes gifts as a kind of hybrid based on a merging between object and person.