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jgates@outtacontext.com

eBay

Here are some reactions to my piece (my email responses are in blue). To begin, here is an email I sent out as an announcement to the work:
Information. The currency of the new millennium! You have it? You want it?
What are you willing to pay for it?

I'm selling my personal demographics to the highest bidder! And what more
perfect place to do so but on Ebay, the world's largest flea market!

The sale is on and can be viewed at:
http://cgi.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?MfcISAPICommand=ViewItem&item=1121
57084 [this is no longer an active URL]

Please note: this is not a solicitation to buy but rather an announcement
of this action. Please feel free to forward this message to interested
parties.

Jeff Gates

From Respondent #1:
Dear Jeff,
Suuuper idea.


You are my first reply and, as such, you  deserve a nice personal   
response. Thanks. I appreciate it. Know any potential buyers? -g


Dear Jeff,

While information is a much sought after commodity, privacy is a most
endangered species, so even finding something about oneself that isn't
already well-known to the world may be nearly impossible...but then the
Brooklyn Bridge has a reputation for having been sold to a few buyers, so
don't despair over finding a few (and being information, there is no reason
why it can't be sold to everyone who is interested; after all, that's why
there is so little privacy already)


From Respondent #2:
i really love it.  and while I hope this concept makes you very rich, I also 
hope that the ebay auction nets you exactly what demographic profiles 
actually cost most marketers, probably about $0.05 or so.  Actually, I also 
like the idea of you getting "residuals" each time your demographic info is 
sold in the form of a "list" to any old marketer.  In N.Y., living artists 
get a small percentage each time their work is resold.  (I think Calif. and 
Ill. also have or are adopting such laws)  Why shouldn't individuals get a 
percentage each time their demographic info is sold.  Keep up the good work, 
it's beautiful.


Thanks. I appreciate it. 

There is *some* value to actually having the idea. In this marketplace,
being the "first" often has some cache. Call it R&D if you'd like. Hence,
the higher than "normal" price.


From Respondent #3:
...I'll click in to your artisitic prostitution
later, when I've got some time.  Point is, I could hardly publicise the
longest URL in history, could I?  I presume there's a direct link from your
home page.

There's a reason for the long URL. If you've never been on eBay, then I can 
understand your concern. To be a part of the "form" one has to 
adhere to some rules of the game. Don't mean to be obtuse. But if 
you're doing an art piece on eBay, then that's how it works.


From Respondent #4:
you and ray johnson are my favorite fluxus artists


From Respondent #5:
Would you throw in the photos?


From Respondent #6:
Jeff – Well, you've done it again.  I've been saying for several
years – first put it forth publicly at the Modern Language
Association a few years back – that artists should start staking
out intellectual property rights in their genetic information,
since the trend in intellectual property rights is to stake out
processes from which a string of other processes and products
come.  Since artists are uniquely innovative, staking out the
first stage of their processes would then yield automatic rights
in what is produced by them.  Do you want to sell your
demographics – or stake out ownership in your genetic
information via intellectual property rights?


From Respondent #7:
Go Jeff. I am tempted to bid. $100...hmmmmm. No doubt I would be 
outbid by some deep pockets out there. 

I am happy to hear you haven't changed!! 

Or have you? 


From Respondent #8 (who thought she was sending this email to her friend, who must have forwarded my eBay URL to her):
Unfortunately he is not Chippendale material, or I would spring a couple of
bucks!!!!!!!!!!


From Respondent #9 (who also didn't realize she was sending her email to me):
Intertesting, although I'm not sure what I think of the gimmick.  I am
usually suspect of gimmicks (as they are so , so, gimmicky), although
I get he is making a tongue and cheek point, and maybe a little money;
and, God Knows, I always want to see an artist make a little money,
and I am for sure outraged by the selling of demographics, and
solicitations, be they phone, mail, or whatever.  Still I don't  know
about the gimmick.  What do you think?


Well, since I'm the one who you're talking about I suppose I
should respond. I have in front of me the definition of gimmick: "an
indirect, ingenious, and often cunny means to gain an end." Hmmm, that
about sums it up, don't you think?

Ok, I know you didn't mean it in that way. So, let's talk about it. Ebay is
an interesting place. If you're at all interested in consumerism, either
academically or as a consumer, the things that are bought and sold here are
amazing. And, more importantly, the value that people attach to things is
even more amazing.

Ebay has become an icon in this regard, so it seems like an ideal place to
sell my goods and, of course, make my point. As an artist, finding the
right medium with which to create your idea is always one of the first
steps in the creative process.

If you are outraged by the selling of your demographics *without your
permission* then we can occupy mutual ground. I just tried to make a
statement as a person and an artist about this issue. And I think I found
an appropriate venue for doing so. If nothing else, I don't think we'd be
talking about it if you hadn't been alerted to it... And that's something.


Jeff,
I hardly know where to begin this reply, so first I'll try an apology.  I (
as a technology fearing half-baked Ludite with computer - in - mouth
disease), did not actually/consciously intend to send that email to you,
but rather to the person - a friend...who forwarded the site to me; as
she found it interesting.

Secondly, I take your point, or the part of it that corresponds if I
construe it rightly, that as artist as provocateur and commentator on
current social trends the E-bay thing as medium is right on the mark.  I
hope my previous email did not sound like an outright dismissal (which I
suppose it could have).

I need to take more time to read over your email to be more thoughtful
about it, but I liked what you have to say there in very much, particularly
as you speak of E-bay as an icon.  The idea of Icon and art is a fascination
to me.


No apology required. I actually loved your email. My background
is photography (well, one of my backgrounds). I think my interest in that
medium, as well as art itself is that I am attracted to the voyeur quality
of observing.

I remember in 1992 I had a show at the Baltimore Museum of Art. One of the
biggest joys in my life was going to the museum as often as I could and
just standing near people to listen to what they had to say about my work.
Your email was similar. It was truthful and provided a chance to talk
about the issues inherent in the ebay piece. So I look at it as a
wonderful opportunity. 


Jeff,
I myself find it a happy mistake to meet an interesting person via email
gone amiss.  I will check out your web site.
I like to think of myself as artist as observor.  I am disturbed to think of
it as voyeurism, but what is the difference, semantic convenience?  I will
think on this.  Given the opportunity, I feel sure I would do the same to
hear what people have to say bout my work uncensored by knowledge of my
presence.  I think, though, I take things more personally than such action
would warrant; even though in theory I believe my artwork becomes not my own
once I give it out.


As for what people think of my work, it's interesting that you should
bring that up as I was just thinking about that today on the Metro coming
into work. I have been surprised just a little by what people think about
this piece. There are many who "got it" immediately. "Got
it," meaning that they understood what I was trying to say (not that there
aren't many ways to interpret it). But there are many who simply don't
understand it. I have begun to wonder about the differences in how I and
those who don't understand it think.

It's not a hierarchical thing. I don't think of myself as superior to
those who don't understand. It's just that we approach cultural input
differently. I've noticed this in other parts of my life where I
interact/intersect with others who are not artists (not that artists are
homogeneous). 

As for voyeurism, the word doesn't necessarily have to have a negative
connotation. I think there is a component of joy which is part of the
word. Of course, it can be taken to excess or in a  prurient direction
too.


From Respondent #10:
Prostitution is one of the traditional trades of artists


From Respondent #11:
Hi, I have been collecting personal demographics since, well, next to 
forever... What a collection...!!! my kids have already started bickering 
over who gets which when Im dead!!!
Prize among them are:
*my 1952 Senator Joe McCarthy 
*the legendary CBS great Fred Friendly
*former NYGiant Lawrence Taylor (he is MINT and worth a bundle now that he is 
a recovering drug addict and a nobody!)
*Melissa Gates (Mrs. Bill... guess why the company's called Microsoft!)  
((Hey, Any relation???))
*3 --count 'em, 3--- cashiers, a Nordstroms, a PepBoys, and a Walmart (found 
at a yard sale for next to nothing!)

But Ive never ever gotten my mitts on a middle-age artist who is also a 
bureaucrat....
I'm ALWAYS beaten out by last minute eBay snipers, and forget about ever 
finding one at estate sales... the dealers swoop them up.
So, questions, please:
*Is the emphasis on 
"Important Artist Demographics" or "Important Artist Demographics"?  
This could affect bidding.... As you can see, I am a collector of the 
eclectic, all socioeconomic backgrounds...  But there are snobs out there who 
will ONLY collect the pedigrees...
*Do you ever divulge your reserve ahead of time?  
*Have you ever considered a barter or swap of demographics?  
*Do you take payments?  
I'm on a budget with the kids all in college....  but might be willing to 
sell them on eBay if you are reasonable and affordable! 


From Respondent #12:
I love it! I'm trying to get an office pool together.


From Respondent #13:
I love this idea.  i've passed on to friends I know will appreciate it.
How's the bidding going?  If you were younger and in that male zone 
that all the advertisers are into, I'm sure you'd do better!



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