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Deveron Projects

The Town Is The Venue
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Eva Merz - Merchandise
Eva Merz - Empty Shop Landscape
Eva Merz - Eva on the Roof

Eva Merz

Empty Shop / Modern Monument

2003

Looking at the problem of declining retail in rural communities

Eva was invited for a four month residency with Deveron Projects in 2003.

Huntly was once a prominent market town, though in the advent of urban development and its reach into the rural areas, our town is now filled with a growing number of empty shops. The inclusion of two large supermarkets in Huntly has severely affected local business, and consequently the number of boarded-up windows sadly grows, signalling the demise of rural commerce in favour of global trends. This change in tide for commerce affects not only the way Huntly looks (and rural locales the world over), but how it operates socially, politically, and economically. What use do we have for these empty shops?

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Eva comes from a similarly sized town in Denmark called Hjerting. Although both have seen significant changes to their commercial identities, Hjerting has doubled its population, and become more 'urban'. Eva also has a direct relationship with the effect global commerce has on family businesses - as her great-grandfather's grocery developed and grew into a successful fish smokery until 1999 when the town's new supermarket forced closure. Upon her arrival in Huntly, Eva surveyed the existing empty shops, and quickly rented one for herself, using it as a studio and a kind of 'ideas shop' where people could come for a cup of tea and a discussion. Her final project focused on the empty shop in Huntly, R Gauld & Sons, which was an active grocers from the 1920s until the mid-1980s. Eva preserved this premises, and declared it as a Modern Monument. She expressed this through a highly visible performance on 29th April 2003, climbing on to the roof of the shop, swinging a flag with the words EMPTY SHOP. This declaration of the first empty shop monument in Britain was featured both by BBC Scotland and Grampian TV. The artist then produced a series of limited edition souvenirs of the empty shop, like mugs, lighters, mouse-mats and t-shirts. These were exhibited and for sale at the Brander Museum in Huntly and at Peacock Visual Arts in Aberdeen. The publication is the final outcome of the project. It contains images by the artist, an essay by Claudia Zeiske and is complemented by five interviews with local business people focusing on the changing local economics.

Following Empty Shop, Eva has also undertaken two other projects investigating rural economies:

Country Living is a book with interviews by Eva with Paul Anderson, David Blyth and Maggie Craig investigating how artists make a living in the countryside.

Space / Retail / Magic was a photographic project that scrutinised the development of supermarkets and their impact on the retail sector.

Eva's 'monument' was untill very recently still in use by Deveron Projects. For each residency, the incoming artist, as well as locals, used it as a studio, discussion forum and base for various events. Throughout the year, the shop front constantly changed, the interior rarely the same across two visits!

     

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