Cultural and creative life

The 10 things Sydneysiders crave most in their lives

A new artwork shares our unspoken needs

Intangible Goods

In a new artwork, the humble vending machine gives you a little more food for thought than the average snack

Intangible Goods takes the humble vending machine and fills it with all the unspoken psychological and emotional needs of our consumer-driven lives. Presented by Art & About Sydney, the artwork aims to bridge those tricky conversations around mental health. Visitors can purchase snackable, bite-sized pieces from the vending machine.

Artists Elizabeth Commandeur and Mark Starmach at Martin Place. Image: Katherine Griffiths, City of Sydney
Artists Elizabeth Commandeur and Mark Starmach at Martin Place. Image: Katherine Griffiths, City of Sydney

“Each intangible good is designed to elicit a different emotional response, depending on the good you pick,” said local artists Mark Starmach and Elizabeth Commandeur. “We live in a society where, for most of us, our physical needs are largely met. Yet increasingly our emotional and psychological lives go unfed.”

To create Intangible Goods, they worked with mental health professionals and surveyed over 600 people to unwrap what Sydneysiders felt were missing in their lives. The survey asked: “What do you need most in your life right now?”

In ascending order, the 10 most common responses are:

10. Patience

Over 13% of those surveyed said they needed patience in their lives. With 3-hour shipping times and instant dopamine hits from your social media likes, it’s no question we’ve become used to having everything now. According to Psychology Today, "patience doesn't mean passivity or resignation, but power. It's an emotionally freeing practice of waiting, watching, and knowing when to act."

9. Faith in humanity

With a 24-hour news cycle and the ability to check social media whenever we like, it can feel like bad things seem to happen more frequently than we like. Consumer culture has a tendency to make us bemoan the direction of humanity, but perhaps it’s worth taking back some control and patience for our minds’ sakes.

8. Someone who’ll listen to me

According to beyondblue, “the people close to you can play an important role… by providing support, understanding and help, or just being there to listen.” Conversations are happening everywhere, but we sometimes forget that half the conversation is about listening.

7. Certainty

When things seem to change so quickly in this day and age, it’s no wonder almost 18% of Sydneysiders felt they were missing a sense of certainty in their lives. Constantly turning over the ‘what ifs’ in our minds can make things feel disheartening. The Mental Health Association for NSW (WayAhead) tells us that practicing mindfulness “helps us to lose the ’if only or ‘what if’ and to focus on what we are currently involved in, ‘the present.’

6. Calm

At work, rushing to meet a deadline, date, or dinner, if you’re feeling a little anxious, give yourself permission to take moment or two for yourself. According to SANE Australia, “by focusing on the present moment, usually by turning your attention to your breath, body and senses, you can learn to let those stressful thoughts and feelings come and go without getting caught up in judging or controlling them”.

5. Spontaneity

If you’re the kind of person who sticks to the same thing on the menu every time, perhaps it’s time to try something new. Take a different route into the city or sign up to that class you’ve been thinking about forever. A little change to your life can help bring a new light to the everyday.

4. Bravery

Over 30% of people highlighted bravery as something missing from their lives. And when you think about it, bravery is confidence in disguise. Reach Out Australia recommends honing in on “self-talk and how that might be affecting your self-confidence. Treat yourself like you would your best friend and cheer yourself on”.

3. Structure

Routine isn’t always a sign that you’re in a rut. There’s a comfort in having a little structure to your day and knowing what to expect, especially when life can be chaotic enough as it is. Whether it be going to the same yoga class every Monday at 6pm or writing a to-do list each morning, that structure can help bring a little peace to a busy day or time in your life.

2. Purpose

According to Reach Out Australia, “setting small goals everyday can help strengthen that sense of purpose and motivate you to focus on the bigger picture”. Even something as small as making time for exercise in the morning can really kickstart that sense of purpose.

1. Closer connection with others

Over 41% of survey participants miss that closer connection with others. It’s no surprise that a lack of meaningful connections can increase a sense of loneliness. Lifeline Australia advises to “connect or reconnect with friends and family – staying in contact with loved ones can prevent loneliness and isolation. If your family don’t live nearby, technology can help you stay in touch.”

Intangible Goods at Martin Place, 26 March 2018. Image: Katherine Griffiths, City of Sydney
Intangible Goods at Martin Place, 26 March 2018. Image: Katherine Griffiths, City of Sydney

Feed your needs and start a conversation. The Intangible Goods vending machine will be in 3 city locations from 26 March until 8 April 2018.

All funds collected through Intangible Goods will go to beyondblue, the Mental Health Association NSW, and the Schizophrenia Research Institute.

Published 14 March 2018, updated 22 October 2018