An artistic research project held between 2016 and 2017 questioned the effects of consumption on buyers. This year, a second edition is delving deeper into the subject and is particularly looking at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our production, shopping and consumption habits.

You Are What You Buy (YAWYB) reacts to current issues on consumption and consumerism, offering an alternative artistic experience. The first edition was a year-long transdisciplinary project that departed from a reflection on our need to affirm ourselves as consumers. The research process and final presentation were set in a supermarket in Malta, offering a different possibility of where and how to experience art − away from the art institution.

Since then, the team continued thinking on how they could develop the project further.

“In the wake of the pandemic, it felt like a natural progression to revisit the project − it almost felt like a responsibility not to ignore all the changes in our production, shopping and consumption habits resulting from the impact of the pandemic. This is how YAWYB ‒ A Remote ReVisit came about,” artist Kristina Borg says.

“Also, YAWYB has always anticipated to catalyse change in our production, shopping and consumption habits, specifically inviting us producers and consumers to engage in more intelligent thinking processes while we produce and shop, with the aim of contributing to a new normal that guarantees responsible production and consumption for sustainable cities and communities. And what better time, when we’re affected by the pandemic, to reflect on this?” she continues.

In answering the research question (see box on right) and more, YAWYB – A Remote ReVisit moves outside and beyond the supermarket space to incorporate other spaces and places of production and consumption in our neighbourhoods. These include, but are not limited to, the local grocery store or the mini-market, the open markets, the supermarket, the household store, the clothes store, the coffee place, the restaurant and online platforms.

This second edition focuses mainly on research; however, the outcomes are presented through artistic and creative means.

Similar to the first edition, this second edition also collaborates with a group of community co-creators as well as with service providers. This was done remotely due to the pandemic, hence the ‘remote’ in the title.

In the wake of the pandemic, it felt like a natural progression to revisit the project

“With this in mind, it is important to mention that such remote means allowed the project to widen its audience to a European-based one, attracting survey respondents and community co-creators based in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK,” Borg enthuses.

“This has also provided a wider spectrum of shared experiences as affected by different degrees and levels of the pandemic in different countries.”

A still from a video clip produced by one of the co-creators, documenting the cleaning of fresh produce.A still from a video clip produced by one of the co-creators, documenting the cleaning of fresh produce.

The preparation of her grocery shopping.The preparation of her grocery shopping.

Besides Borg, who was involved in all stages of the project – from idea to concept development, from research to processing of data and to the creative interpretation − the team also comprises cultural anthropologist Virginia Monteforte and poet/author Miriam Calleja.

Monteforte, who also formed part of the project’s first edition, guided the research stage and collaborated in the processing of the collected data, leading to the writing of the digital publication that presents the findings.

Poet and author Miriam Calleja, also part of the first edition, has shared her creative writing skills through five poems and a short story that interpret significant episodes collected through the research stage.

“These writing pieces dialogue with a set of six painted illustrations that I worked on, and form part of our creative interpretations,” Borg points out.

Furthermore, this second edition has welcomed two new team members, namely Aidan Aquilina, who has helped in the coordination of the project, and process facilitator Greta Muscat Azzopardi who, with an outsider’s perspective, has been acting as “a critical friend” throughout the process and now will guide part of the closure online event.

This closing event consists of three interactive online sessions taking place in the coming days.

“The idea is to move beyond just video conferencing calls, exhaustingly overused during these pandemic months. Our plan is to render the event more fun, engaging and participative,” Borg explains.

Each live event, guided by all the YAWYB team members, will start off on Zoom but these will lead the participants to other virtual rooms and platforms.

The first session, taking place on Sunday, between 10.30am and noon, will look back at the YAWYB journey while also launching the main outcomes of this research project − a digital and interactive publication that will be made available for free download, as well as a series of video works documenting the new shopping and consumption experiences, developed in collaboration with the community co-creators, and a set of illustrations and poems, including a short story.

“Hence, this first event invites you to roam around and mix and mingle as you observe, watch, listen and question, but to also create, discuss and share through a number of given prompts,” Borg notes.

With some game-like vibes, the second session, being held on Sunday from 5 to 6pm, will look at the significant themes that emerged from the research whereby the products become protagonists. The aim here is to give participants time to reflect as they experiment through some creative thinking and doing.

Stills from a video clip produced by one of the co-creators, documenting the use of a shopping list.Stills from a video clip produced by one of the co-creators, documenting the use of a shopping list.

Documenting the cleaning of coffee pods in preparation for compost.Documenting the cleaning of coffee pods in preparation for compost.

The third and final session, on Monday, December 21, between 6 and 7pm, asks questons such as: Where will our experience take us? and What do we want to change, keep or adopt anew?

“These online events are the closure stage of the project, so we are considering this as a moment of sharing and celebration,” Borg says. “Some new ideas might be created during these online events, so, although we are not planning to include the events per se in the findings to date, this could trigger a new phase for the project. I strongly believe that the end of a project is the beginning of another.”

One can choose to attend one, two or all online events. To reserve a place, fill in the short form at: The events are free of charge but as part of YAWYB’s social commitment and the belief in a collective gesture, a Pay As You Feel donation towards the Foodbank Lifeline Foundation will be appreciated. Donations can be made via Revolut to +356 7931 3567 – please indicate your name in the message – and then the team will buy the necessary non-perishable food items. Should one prefer other means to send a donation, e-mail and the team will guide you through it.

This project is supported by Arts Council Malta’s Malta Arts Fund − Research Support Grant.

Co-creators sharing their tagline about the lockdown consumption experience during an online group workshop.Co-creators sharing their tagline about the lockdown consumption experience during an online group workshop.

The research

The research question of YAWYB – A Remote ReVisit was: “Inspired by changes experienced during the COVID-19 crisis, how can interdisciplinary creative practice and alternative artistic experiences act as catalysts for change in one’s shopping and consumption patterns, leading to a new, ethical and sustainable normal?”

The first research stage invited community members to participate in a 10-minute quantitative survey that allowed for an initial understanding and depiction of the situation in general. The process then continued with a series of one-to-one online video call conversations − including hands-on tasks − with 17 survey respondents based in Europe and who had expressed interest through the survey to collaborate with YAWYB as co-creators.

The co-creators’ role also comprised their involvement in some creative tasks, namely the production of short video clips, to document their shopping and consumption experiences. Twelve of these co-creators agreed to advance with the co-creation process and participated in the final research stage, featuring a two-hour online workshop. Parallel to the small group workshops with the co-creators, a number of one-to-one conversations were held with 10 service providers based in Malta.

A common notion that was mentioned by the community co-creators and the service providers alike was the awareness and the importance of local production and consumption. The mixed feelings that the pandemic generated and how this affected one’s buying and/or selling is another common theme.

“Mentioning feelings, we cannot ignore the long conversation we had with the co-creators revolving around the emotions evoked by the ‘Don’t Touch’ sign, which became synonymous with these pandemic months,” artist Kristina Borg remarks.

This opened up a discussion about the multisensory experience of shopping and consuming.

“On a deeper level, we must also point out how our production, shopping and consumption experience can be a reproduction, a reinterpretation or a change in family and past practices − do we inherit our habits? Do we reinterpret them? Do we change them? How does our context affect us? Who makes us decide?”

All the above-mentioned outcomes will be published online and can be accessed on the project’s Facebook page You Are What You Buy. Similarly, these will be published during the two-day event on the Facebook event’s page: You Are What You Buy − A Remote ReVisit ***Closing Event***. In the long term, the findings will remain available on the website

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