Shopping Cart Circles

Similar to crop circles, these massively circular arrangements of shopping carts appear overnight in some places.

Consumers, encountering this phenomenon in shopping center parking lots, have sometimes seen it as proof of the paranormal.

But, in some instances, artists have claimed responsibility:

1. Robert Wechsler’s 2004 “Applied Geometry”consists of…

…a giant circle of shopping carts formed in the empty Costco parking lot in Goleta, CA, one morning in May 2004, using close to 250 carts. Wechsler had to contend with supermarket employees who thought he was “mentally unbalanced” and was almost stopped while he was working, despite the fact that he had sought permission. The situation was resolved, however, and he was able to complete the job.

Simone Preuss, Giant Shopping Cart Circles

His circle also exploits a design feature of the carts, themselves…

“All carts/trollies are designed and built so that when nested they have a predetermined amount of slack. This is done so that the carts can be nested pushed and steered around the parking lot in bunches. Without this slight give, the carts would nest into ridged unsteerable columns. My piece was about taking that hidden but built-in angle and exploiting it to the fullest potential. In essence, I was finishing an arc that was begun by the original designers. In the simplest terms, therefore, my cart circle was about completion.”

(Creators of shopping cart circles 2 & 3, after the fold…)

2. The shopping cart circle in Mikko Gaestel’s 2008 “Shopping Carts” (made in collaboration with Heiko Tubbesing) appears to have been created during the night, probably without permission.

3. Eberhard Bosslet’s Akquisition, one of his 2008 “flash sculptures” of shopping carts in various circular arrangements, also relies on the underlying geometric features of the shopping cart’s design. Note how the shopping carts in the circle on the left, in the video above, are not nested, but facing each other—their circle dictated by their trapezoidal shapes. (As with “flash mops,” I’m inferring that these “flash sculptures” were done without parking lot permission.)

More recently Bosslet has made an upside-down shopping cart circle for his 2012 gallery installation, Closed Circuit Commerce. This artwork, however, also involves robots…

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