Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Forever for Sale

Our discussion the last few weeks on the commodification of art is the central idea behind a piece of art I recently heard about on the NPR program “On The Media.” The following description comes from Caleb Larsen’s website on his piece “A Tool to Slaugher and Deceive”:

Combining Robert Morris' Box With the Sound of Its Own Making with Baudrillard's writing on the art auction this sculpture exists in eternal transactional flux. It is a physical sculpture that is perptually attempting to auction itself on eBay.

Every ten minutes the black box pings a server on the internet via the ethernet connection to check if it is for sale on the eBay. If its auction has ended or it has sold, it automatically creates a new auction of itself.

If a person buys it on eBay, the current owner is required to send it to the new owner. The new owner must then plug it into ethernet, and the cycle repeats itself.


In this piece the raw material from which the “Art” is created is created is the commodification itself – the transactions. If not for these transactions it would be nothing more than what Larsen describes as “just a collection of parts.”

The piece is interesting to think about in light of last week’s essay “What Children Say.” It is certainly “made up of trajectories and becoming” as it physically moves around the world every time it is purchased. And it will continue to do so in perpetuity, constantly becoming. This may be a rather crude and literal interpretation of Deleuze, but this piece (again, titled “A Tool to Slaughter and Deceive”) is nothing if not crude.

I’m still undecided on my personal feelings about it, but I felt that it is a worthwhile work to discuss given our current discussions, and am certainly interested in everyone else’s thoughts.

-- Jake


  1. As a side or parallel comment on the issue of the economics of art I just wanted to note that the art world is not solely made up of museums and major galleries. It seems to me that there are plenty of smaller, less profit driven areas to view/show your art. Backyard galleries, micro-cinemas, co-op residencies, and so on provide a much more modest space for distributing, and creating art. These spaces still operate on the basis of art as a commodity but in a way more comparable to a small business than to Walmart. While this form has its own problems and is in no way a revolutionary change in the commodification of art it does offer an alternative to, or at least a less extreme example of, that process. Other Cinema & ATA in San Francisco and Light Industry in Brooklyn are great examples of this non-profit model.

    -Benjamin Schultz-Figueroa

  2. I like the idea a lot, although the sale on eBay is not super-active (there are 0 bids so far); but I guess it's not the point: the important thing is the potential for the work for being sold at any moment. Interestingly, it is also something like a time-bomb, which may explode one day if the artist is suddenly famous...