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Vending machines slot into new retail territory

By Rebecca Holland

Vending machines have come a long way since the days of simply dropping a can of drink or a bag of chips — or not — in return for a few coins.

From high-vis clothing to electronics, thongs and even alcohol, there’s not much that can’t be bought from the ubiquitous glass-fronted boxes these days.

Considered the new frontier in retail and with benefits including minimal space requirements, low operating costs and the potential for profit, they are a sector of the commercial property market in their own right.

Now a vending machine in Sydney has ventured into new territory again, delivering products designed to meet emotional needs. It’s all in the name of art and for a good cause.

For $2, the Intangible Goods vending machine in the CBD offers a range of items including bars of Purpose, Belonging and Friendship and bags of Spontaneity, Belonging and Connection.


The Intangible Goods vending machine in Martin Place. Photo: Supplied

What’s inside the packets? It might be origami stars, maps, pencils or written messages — all designed by the artists and a team of mental health professionals.

The vending machine is a temporary interactive artwork for the City of Sydney’s Art & About Sydney program, which aims to remove the stigma of mental health.

Artists Elizabeth Commandeur and Mark Starmach created the machine and the products stocked inside in collaboration with mental health professionals.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore says raising awareness around mental health is vital for creating strong and supportive communities.

“Art has the capacity to impact our community and break down stigma and isolation,” she says.

Proceeds will go to organisations including the Schizophrenia Research Institute at NeuRA, NSW Mental Health Association (WayAhead), and beyondblue.

The vending machine is Martin Place until March 29, Customs House Square from March 30 to April 3 and Pitt Street Mall from April 4 to April 8.

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Main photo: Thinkstock

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