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Photo: Don Kwan

Rethink your receipts: Announcing the contest results

By Project Project Collective and Apartment613 on August 5, 2021


If you’re a faithful follower of Apt613, you might remember a contest we featured on this site a little while ago, inviting you to “rethink your receipts.”

The contest ended mid-June, and announcing the winners aside, we’re excited to tell you a bit more about our process, our motivations, and what we hope to do next.

The contest was initiated by the Project Project Collective (PPC), a transdisciplinary group in town, and had the theme of reconceptualizing receipts, or any transaction documentation like invoices or bills of sale. Apt613 served as community media partner.

Through the contest, the PPC asked Ottawa’s designers, artists and creatives to rethink these very ordinary pieces of our daily lives using a method called speculative design.

If you’re new to speculative design, it’s a method futurists and foresight practitioners use to create artefacts of the different time, when something is no longer the same, but much of everything else continues to be.

Curious? Would an example help? You can think of Black Mirror episodes as prime examples of speculative design.

If you want to know more, there’s a budding local speculative design group called Speculative Futures Ottawa that you can tap into, and Artengine has also dabbled in the practice over the past decade.

We didn’t know how many of these folks are Ottawa-based and practising, so this was our way to find them out.

We received submissions spanning a variety of mediums from papier maché to mixed media to fully digital. Our jury (names below) chose to award the two runner-up prizes of $250 to conceptually very different projects:

One runner-up award goes to Don Kwan, a third-generation Chinese Canadian artist, for his “Working with Covid 19” (2021) triptych made out of sewn invoices, glue, thread, paper. Kwan is grateful for the support during these difficult times, and notes that his artwork is rooted in the past but speaks to the present, as well as to resilience: “The chef uniform (an apron, a chef hat and pandemic mask) is made up of the last few days worth of take out and delivery receipts from Shanghai before the first pandemic lockdown in March.”

Noting the excellent artistic quality of Kwan’s submission, the jury was moved by the emotional resonance of the artefacts created by the artist.

Photo: Don Kwan

The other runner-up award goes to the Capital Strings and Voices Collective (CSVC), a multi-generational group led by Joan Harrison. The CSVC’s youth group, ages 6-13, took on this project alongside a few mentors.

The CSVC team noted that they wanted to use receipts to make something that could brighten the lives of seniors who have experienced increased isolation this past year. The Receipt Bouquets are the result.

The jury was impressed with the CSVC’s co-creation process, and the excellent way the collective engaged the local community level.

Photo: Joan Harrison

The grand prize of $1,000 went to Andee Pittman for their “T5 statement from the year 2029”. Pittman’s submission design plays with the annual tradition of income taxes paid, and receipt of income. You can take a look at their winning entry here.

Pittman notes: “In this future, there are no other receipts because ALL services and transactions are automated and managed by “the Technology 5”. Your income is distributed across the service categories, and any overages negatively impact your social credit score, which impacts your class, which can demote your career level and reduce the quantity or quality of services you receive.”

Image: Andee Pittman

“In this future, there are no other receipts because ALL services and transactions are automated and managed by the Technology 5.”

In the jury’s view, Pittman’s submission came closest to the organizers’ speculative design vision.

Commenting on their win, Pittman said they saw the contest as a way to have fun and creatively apply their skillset, noting they hadn’t had the space or energy to do that for some time given the pandemic: “Being new to Ottawa, this was a great way to connect with people in Ottawa. I now have an opportunity to engage with the community here and see what impact we can have through playing in alternative realities at the intersection of policy, technology, and democracy.”

“Being new to Ottawa, this was a great way to connect with people in Ottawa.”

The PPC’s next challenge is to bring Andee Pittman’s vision to Ottawa through a community event that engages attendees or participants in dialogue with their chosen themes. Stay tuned for details in the coming months for an announcement on what that might look like.

In the meantime, the PPC and Apt613 hope you’ve enjoyed our exploration into speculative design. As that specific community grows and as individuals in town continue to rethink their post-COVID-19 reality, we hope Ottawa’s artists, designers and creatives interested in pushing the boundaries of what is possible through artefacts will continue to come together through similar projects.

Our jury consisted of:

  • Sarah Gelbard, architecture and urban scholar, critic and designer
  • Dan Monafu, Project Project Collective representative
  • Shirley Yik, Ottawa artist
  • Greggory Clark, Apt613 representative