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Saturday, January 05, 2008


This word featured in a piece by Ian Urbina in the New York Times
on Christmas Eve. It's a curious process that the writer succinctly
described as reverse shoplifting.

Its beginnings lie in a US west-coast guerrilla-art movement that
wants to take over part of the public spaces of stores for artistic
and political purposes. One aim is to subvert commercialism as a
form of culture jamming (see As one
example, an artist might replace a product label with another that
features a political or consumerist message.

To judge by the New York Times article, the term has since spread
beyond its artistic origins to refer to any unauthorised placing of
materials in stores. Some is still political or consumer activism,
but the technique is now used for religious proselytising and for
straightforward advertising and promotion. Independent bands, for
instance, put copies of their albums in stores to promote them.

Early appearances of the term were linked to the California artist
Packard Jennings. The first example I've so far found was as the
title of an exhibition in San Francisco in March 2005 that included
some of Jennings' work.

Another term, which specifically refers to putting copies of CDs in
record shops, is "droplifting", which was coined by Richard Holland
of Turntable Trainwreck and The Institute for Sonic Ponderance in

* Ryan Watkins-Hughes, on, 26 Dec. 2007: Similar
to the way street art stakes a claim to public space for self
expression, my shopdropping project subverts commercial space for
artistic use in an attempt to disrupt the mundane commercial
process with a purely artistic moment.

* New York Times, 24 Dec. 2007: At Mac's Backs Paperbacks, a used
bookstore in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, employees are dealing with
the influx of shopdropped works by local poets and playwrights by
putting a price tag on them and leaving them on the shelves.



Anonymous said...

I read a really interesting short book in which the heroine resolves the conflict (as much as possible) by shopdropping.