Hierarchy of Needs (Jacket)

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
I'm interested in how people turn to products for comfort, seeking to address their needs. I came across Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, in which he theorizes a breakdown of human needs, in order from primary needs (physiological) to the highest level (self-actualization). According to the theory, humans first feel motivation to satisfy their physiological needs (food, water, basic bodily health). Once this level is satisfied, they feel motivation to satisfy the next level, safety & security, and so on, until they finally reach the top, and most difficult to attain, level.

Deficiency Needs
Maslow classifies the top level of need as a growth need. This need requires nothing but introspective growth. He classifies the bottom four levels of needs as deficiency needs. Unlike the growth need, these needs stem from a lack of something, and may be satisfied by obtaining tangible things, like food, medicine, shelter, etc. I'm interested in the ways that these deficiency needs have been objectified and commodified in the marketplace, and the disparities among these commodities in terms of accessibility, cost, and ability to satisfy needs.

Products as Deficiency Needs
I mapped out every product I could think of that I've seen in the marketplace that exists to address a deficiency need. I positioned each example according not only to its need level, but how accessible, or easy to reach, it is through commerce. Easier-to-reach commodities tend to provide quick, cheap, ephemeral gratification. Harder-to-reach products provide longer-term solutions, more aimed at addressing the root of the need, but are less accessible, perhaps more expensive. Take the example of food: easy-to-reach is junk food, hard-to-reach is organic, fresh produce.

Part One: The Jacket
--> I created a wearable package for the products I mapped out within the objectified hierarchy of needs. Packaging them together as a wearable brings the human body into the conversation, and how it interacts with products to satisfy its needs.
--> I positioned each product on the jacket according to how easy it would be to reach while wearing it, referencing my interpretation of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
The front is full of easy-to-reach, instantly-gratifying, and cheap products such as junk food, makeup, and temporary warmth/heat, that aim to satisfy the two lowest/primary levels of needs: physiological and safety/security.
--> The back of the jacket (hard to reach) contains products that address lower-level needs in with more long-term and expensive approaches, such as organic food and nice housing, as well as objects attempting to address the two higher-level deficiency needs: belonging/love and esteem/prestige.

Jacket: Front

  • stress balls
  • cough drops
  • ice packs
  • cozy socks
  • astrology booklet
  • reflective belt
  • candy, cotton candy, cheese puffs
  • soap, tissues
  • handwarmers
  • instant noodles
  • shampoo
  • hair gel
  • sponges
  • cotton balls
  • cigarettes
  • fake eyelashes
  • pedicure stuff
  • mints
  • face masks
  • ibupreufen
  • Jacket: Back

  • "fearless to the finish" pillow
  • external hard drive
  • to-do list
  • phone protector
  • medicine
  • expensive condo ads
  • "girlds with dreams become women with vision" tee
  • conversation starter cards
  • pepper spray
  • "self esteem" tee shirt
  • "believe in your dreams" pillow
  • whole foods gift cards
  • super hand warmer
  • party invitation
  • job fair flyer
  • Part Two: Jacket Consume (Jacket Destroy)
    The next logical step was to introduce an actual body to the jacket of packaged needs, and consume it. I partnered with Niya Sun to create an "unpackaging video," which ended up becoming a performance in itself. I recorded Niya wearing the jacket, unpackaging and consuming each product one by one, first getting through the front then moving on to the back, until the jacket is empty and reduced to nothing but a pile of plastic on the floor.

    Video collaboration with Niya Sun
    Music by Lately Kind Of Yeah
    Background footage from "The Cult of Consumerism" documentary by Steve Brown

    Video collaboration with Niya Sun
    Music by Lately Kind Of Yeah
    Background footage from "The Cult of Consumerism" documentary by Steve Brown

    What a mess we have now to clean up!