Obsessive Consumption

Anyone who ever buys stuff will like Kate Bingaman-Burt’s book Obsessive Consumption. And by stuff, I mean all things, which I believe means everyone.

Several years ago, Kate began the daily ritual that is the basis for her book. Every single day she transforms one item that she bought that day into a simple line drawing. The items vary greatly from the most mundane (a Diet Coke) to the most significant (wedding bands). Obsessive Consumption is a compilation of years worth of daily drawings.

Kate has had a long term obsession with consumption. In an earlier project, she took a photo of every single thing she bought. Several years ago, she started drawing each of her credit card statements line by line, number by number. It’s penance and she says she’ll continue this monthly ritual until all of her debt is paid off. Lucky for us, the book contains several examples of this punishment.

For long-time friends, fans and followers of Obsessive Consumption, the website and monthly zine, the book will be a delight because not only is it a ton of drawings all in one place but they are in color. The images on the pages really pop. The book is subdivided by color and each chapter has an amusing title – “From A Tank of Gas To New Married Checks” and “From Headache Medicine To Pink Masking Tape.”

The drawings in the book are placed in chronological order, and the book, perhaps unintentionally, is actually autobiographical. You get a little glimpse into Kate’s life. Oh she likes Altoids and she buys Scotch tape, but you really have to stop and wonder how much you know about someone based on their purchases. The items seem revealing on the one hand and inconsequential on the other. I mean really, how much do you learn about someone just from the fact that they buy Energizer batteries, striped tights, Girl Scout cookies, and an iPhone with apps for YouTube, Twitter, Flickr and Typepad?

Some of the drawings include hilarious commentary. The drawing of the Fame Season One DVD says, “I have a weakness for early 80s dramas that contain FAB dance numbers. Holla!” And the box of 6 Clif Bars drawing says, “For my office so I don’t pass out.” The two strands of Christmas lights states, “So hot they singe the branches.”

In the beginning, before she started documenting her purchases, Kate set out to document the buying habits of others. When she found her subjects reluctant rather than forthcoming, she decided her behavior was really all she could accurately record. Interestingly, although Obsessive Consumption is Kate’s candid retail journey, the subtitle is pointed at the reader – “What Did You Buy Today?” Hmmm, what did you buy?