Noah Travis Phillips - Student Debt
The text of Student Debt
“Looking for a collector to purchase my student debt as an artwork. You must be willing to do this by taking out a bank loan, so that you are put in debt. The work is you going into debt, and me out. Contact me for current price. Noah Travis Phillips email@example.com”
I first developed this piece as received my undergraduate degree. I was starting to think about my student debt in a more serious way, as I would have to begin making monthly payments on it. I had never been in debt before, or had a loan, or even a credit card (I still don't have a credit card or any other loans/debt(s).) so this was a lot to confront and somewhat daunting.
I couldn't comprehend my student debt after the first semester of school. It was an amount of money I had never had before, and which I had difficulty imagining I would have any time in the future... particularly in the form of some kind of excess money that I would be able to pay this loan/debt off with in addition to paying the rent and feeding myself and family. I had never had 'extra' money.
The debt kept (keeps) increasing, exponentially it seemed. Larger and larger with each semester, with each year, and with interest.
I kept working my way through school. I got grants, and even a few scholarships (for being a first-generation student with a high-GPA, proven work ethic, and younger siblings to inspire). And it just kept (keeps) growing, seeming to grow larger in tandem with the rigorous efforts I was putting into school and being an artist.
At that time I made small letter-size prints of the text, and kept them around the studio – continuing to think about this piece and its implications.
Needless to say, I went to graduate school (to get an MFA, to teach), and my debt, and the interest, doubled or more. Even with monthly payments it continues to grow... who knows where the money goes.
The piece is inspired and informed by Conceptual Art and the art of the 60s/70s. It is important for me that there is some idea that the collector/purchaser/other person goes into debt, or at least has a debt/loan, even if only for a moment... I imagine that whoever could purchase this work could also pay off the debt directly, but maybe they also get the smallest taste of what it's like to be a working-class kid with fantasies of being an artist who believed the American Dream when it said that college is the way to make it in the world, to get out of poverty, to be able to contribute to the good of the society, ...
I continue to relate to my life and the challenges of existence through my art, and this remains a vital artwork that continues to grow (and increase in value).
Exhibited at Vicki Myhren Gallery
, Juried Alumni Exhibition 2019