The Apple Watch has become the brand’s latest must-have or must-hate item. If $349 sounds reasonable for the basic model, what of Apple’s line of luxe watches—up to $17,000 for models made in 18-karat gold?
And with Apple already anticipating 5 to 6 million initial orders, the item is almost guaranteed to create the same hype as every other product the tech giant releases.
But would you splurge on the most expensive one only to trade it in for a kidney? Because that’s what one San Francisco-based artist is asking you to do.
“If you own or plan to purchase a 18k gold Apple watch, you are rich and evil,” Qinmin Liu, who also owns Apple products, declared in an initial press release. “We are offering you one way out: donate to us,” she demanded, for an art project that speaks to society’s obsession with consumerism and technology.
Now she’s revealing that participants will get a kidney in return. (Well, sort of.)
“I saw the news in 2010 about a Chinese boy who sold his own kidney to purchase Apple products and that intrigued me,” Liu, who moved from China in 2009, told The Daily Beast. “I was curious to his desire to do what he did. Can we match that desire,” she asked, “because I think we are all influenced by the Apple phenomenon?”
She is referring to a 2011 incident in which a 17-year-old boy from China sold his own kidney so he could buy an iPad 2 and an iPhone.
He saw an online advertisement offering to pay big bucks for the organ and secretly headed to the southern province of Guangdong, China, without his parents’ knowledge or permission.
After the procedure, there were complications like renal failure, and his mother immediately noticed her son’s new gadgets and the fresh scar he had acquired.
She filed a police report and the following year seven people involved, including the surgeon, were sentenced to jail.
“I think all of us are victims because we are influenced by the Apple phenomenon,” Liu said. “We just copy and follow all the social behaviors, and somehow we have got to voice our original desires. That’s the motivation that pushes me to do this project and I want to do this experiment with society.”
This stunt isn’t Liu’s first time being provocative while protesting popular culture.
Last year, she strolled the streets of San Francisco covered in nothing but rice to protest society’s obsession with social media and attempt to force people to make real connections with one another through her performance.
“We have trapped ourselves in the iPhone and the computer,” Liu said. “There is no longer any physical connection with people. Yes, these innovations have made our lives more simple and convenient, but on the other side we have lost all connection with one another.”
So for this project, Liu wants to acquire 50 of Apple’s costliest watches for an exhibition that will combine both objects and performance.
And while she’s promising a kidney based on the radical moves one boy made, the prize participants will receive are only sculptures designed to replicate the human organ.
“I will exchange my body, the kidney sculpture, for the Apple Watch. It will combine different materials inside—plastic, rice, paper, electronic device,” Liu said, noting that the rice used will be taken from her previous social performance and dubbing it “the human desires kidney.”
Then, in June, Liu will hold an exhibition and performance in San Francisco where the watch, kidney, and her body will be on display and able to interact with the audience.
“I could care less about the technology and the price,” she said. “I care more about individuals’ behaviors, and I want to explore the relationship between desire and action.”
So far, Liu has collected 31 promises from prospective participants around the world—20 from the United States, eight from China, and three from India and Korea. Others looking to participate have until June 1 to sign up through the online form.
“I hope Bill Gates can donate to us,” she said. “He probably hates the Apple watch more than anyone, since he can’t make one. But he is very supportive to art. He can certainly fulfill all our needs of 50 Apple Watches.”