||Here are some
reactions to my second eBay piece (my email responses are in blue). To start,
here is an email I sent out as an announcement to the work:
In June of last year I put my personal demographics up for auction on eBay
(http://www.outtacontext.com/ebay/ebay.html). If information was the commodity
of the new millennium, I wanted a piece of the pie. But no one bought and I had
to rethink my business plan. Perhaps all of this was too conceptual.
While this is the Information Age, where ideas are commodities, the markets
still lust for objects. So, I've retooled and have created an EXQUISITE fine
art print of the eBay auction itself, suitable for framing and displaying in
the finest galleries from Chelsea to the Continent!
Come view my latest attempt to commodify:
For some background, take a look at Marc Fisher's article: "Stats
Entertainment" in the January 30th Washington Post Magazine:
[This article has been archived on this site.]
From Respondent #1:
I assume you picked up my address from the G2 opening the other night. I
remember your exhibit from last spring. I must admit, it didn't really
stick with me beyond a brief sort of "hmm, that's current" consideration. I
think it seemed too much like either a one liner (read: clever) or too
similar, too plausibly a shareholder possibility: unlike, say rtmARK's
corporate-sabatage corporation, where the critique of reality both mimic's
the system and undermines it. A number of other examples come to mind as
well, from the Re/Search magazine issue "Pranks" to various activist art
events that draw attention to capitalism and it's inherent flaws (and its
loopholes, such convenient spaces for subversion!)
I do appreciate the idea you are working with. I encourage you to continue
with it and I will further investigate your website and review your newer
Thank you for contacting me. Keep me posted on your progress.
Thanks for your note...
I'm not familiar with rtmARK's work, but would like to know more if you've got
the time to fill me in or send me a URL.
I am familiar with Re/Search and their issue on Pranks. It got my mind to
thinking: is this a prank? No, I don't think it is. It is humorous and
sometimes irreverent. But I think of a prank as "fooling around". I'm pretty
serious about the use of my personal information by marketeers and
corporations. Just because I find a "clever" way of expressing it (and I don't
seem to implant the same connotation on "clever" as you do) isn't a reason to
dismiss it (not that you are).
As to my second piece, which focuses on the notion of market value, well,
certainly many before me have dealt with that subject. I wouldn't put myself in
the same category as Marx. But it does seem to be a logical extension of my
first piece. In addition, the ideas of information and market are not only very
current (again, not a reason to dismiss), but, IMHO, very important.
I work in the "cultural sector," a large museum. And I am party to much
dialogue on what to do with seemingly ephemeral "net art." Some, like the
Walker, and soon to be, SFMOMA, are actually "collecting" it. Very funny,
seeing as the nature of the net is not to be one person's or organization's
collection (hmmm, maybe these are pranks!).
I will grant you this: the art market has been through this before. So, in this
respect, the dialogue on commodifying thoughts may not be new. But it's
currency makes it a logical and important subject. If the art market had
"solved" or understood this issue the first (second, third, etc.) time, then it
wouldn't bear repeating.
Again, thanks for the note. I appreciate it as I also hope to learn something
I'm not sure if your original goal in sending me info about your work was to
get such opinionated responses, but by contacting me, you did sort of walk
into a bed of outspoken convictions! I am a bit of a loud mouth. But if
response is welcomed, I am more than happy to help.
>I'm not familiar with rtmARK's work, but would like to know more if you've
>got the time to fill me in or send me a URL.
They can be found at www.rtmark.com
>I am familiar with Re/Search and their issue on Pranks. It got my mind to
>thinking: is this a prank? No, I don't think it is.
I guess we may be discussing semantics, but a good number of the folks in
that issue are "conceptual artists," to use an oft misused term. Those that
really stand out to me are the pieces that work on multiple different
levels. The difference between Boyd Rice painting a town landmark, which is
a one-level prank, versus a bus tour through a gated community, without
permission, for people from poorer neighborhoods. The difference say
between Candid Camera and TV Nation.
That is similar to how I view the word "clever." In my undergraduate
studies, we were taught to avoid being clever because, as we defined it, it
leaves room only for a one level read. The fact is, the average person
spends about three seconds looking at a piece of art (obviously works that
deal with the element of time shift that a bit, but you get the point) so
for something to draw a person in deeper, the piece has to accomplish, in my
opinion, a multitude of tasks.
I bring up rtmARK because their projects work on many different levels. By
analyzing what makes a corporation so difficult to defeat legally,
economically, etc, and by utilizing the history of how they received rights
equal to that of a US citizen without the burden or responsiblity of being a
citizen, the folks at rtmARK formed a corporation for the purposes of
commiting acts of corporate sabatage. Now, they have shareholders, stocks,
etc to raise capital for projects that, often illegal, allow them the same
personal protection under the law granted to say, the CEO of Bristol-Meyers,
Squibb or Union Carbide. If you are still living in Chicago, there is a
tape of theirs at the Video Data Bank. By the way, they are the same folks
that brought us the Barbie Liberation Organization a few years back.
I guess I am dwelling on this point because I think what I like about their
work is that it isn't simply noting or documenting a situation, nor is it
simply mimicing it for artistic post-modern irony. They do all that, *and*
mess with shit in hopes of maybe throwing a wrench into some incredibly
immoral plans. At their website, you can see a history of pieces they've
done that have really "made a difference," to use yet another commonly
>In addition, the ideas of information and market are not
>only very current (again, not a reason to dismiss), but, IMHO, very
Actually, "current" for me is a place to enter a piece. There is certainly
a hell of a lot of brand new, incredibly out of date work around here!
>on what to do with seemingly ephemeral "net art." Some, like the
>Walker, and soon to be, SFMOMA, are actually "collecting" it. Very funny,
>seeing as the nature of the net is not to be one person's or organization's
>collection (hmmm, maybe these are pranks!).
Maybe then someone should design a web site that these new virtual
collectors can drool over, that once purchased, proceeds to search out and
delete all other web-based work from the collection, leaving them virtually
virtual-less. (because, quite honestly, I find the need to collect such work
>Again, thanks for the note. I appreciate it as I also hope to learn
>something from this.
As is hopefully the goal in all information-space based work! I think we
can all learn from all of this and from my point of view, the most effective
part of your piece seems to be the potential for dialogue folks can enter
sparked by your work. But then, I am a performance boy who loves a little
Thanks again and I wish you luck.
Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you.
> I'm not sure if your original goal in sending me info about your work was to
> get such opinionated responses, but by contacting me, you did sort of walk
> into a bed of outspoken convictions! I am a bit of a loud mouth. But if
> response is welcomed, I am more than happy to help.
As I said, I enjoy learning (otherwise, what's the point of making art
--I realize that this might not be a good reason to make art for many, but it
is for me). Thx.
> They can be found at www.rtmark.com
Oh, yes, now I see. I have been to their site before. I contacted
them about my piece and we've made contact.
> I guess we may be discussing semantics, but a good number of the folks in
> that issue are "conceptual artists," to use an oft misused term. Those that
> really stand out to me are the pieces that work on multiple different
> levels. The difference between Boyd Rice painting a town landmark, which is
> a one-level prank, versus a bus tour through a gated community, without
> permission, for people from poorer neighborhoods. The difference say
> between Candid Camera and TV Nation.
So, the question with my eBay piece naturally would be: is it working
on multiple levels or is it a one-liner. I think it's easy to dismiss something
that has a punchline of sorts. I'd get tired of my own work fast if it only
worked on one level (and I've got a wastebasket filled with stuff like this
--ideas that seemed good but never passed my "24 hour test." If it still sounds
good after a day then I proceed further, with further tests along the way).
There's two parts to this piece now. The original eBay piece that dealt with
privacy and the value of personal information. Then there's the latest work
which bounces off the results of my first endeavor to sell my demographics by
making them into an object that may have value in the traditional sense.
While one of my interests does have to do with the right of individuals to
protect their personal privacy, I'm also interested in the nature of the art
market. I'm especially interested in its attempts to separate the artist from
his or her work (the product from the process). Of course, nothing is black and
white these days. The market would be equally willing to wed the product to the
artist if the artist's name becomes valuable. This leads me to another interest
of mine: the notion of celebrity.
And, while I may be taking a gigantic leap here (as I'm far from
celebrityhood), I got a hint of what it's like to be in the public eye when I
posted my second piece for auction with the simultaneous publication of Marc
Fisher's article about me in the Washington Post. First, I heard from a famous
Jeff Gates (author and former Reagan worker) (the intersections of my life with
those who either look like me or have my name have been a consistent theme in
my online musings (http://www.outtacontext.com/past7.html). The article had
been sent to him from one of his friends at the World Bank. He was very amused.
He suggested a possible collaboration and sent me quotes that famous people
(like Correta Scott King) had made about him (which I immediately posted on my
own site under the headline: "Read What They've Been Saying About Jeff Gates*.
The asterisk leading to the disclaimer. Then I heard from Jeff's partner.
Obviously, Jeff hadn't conveyed his sense of admiration for my sense of humor
as this guy was incensed:
"You don't show a whole lot of class by pilfering the name
and reputation of another person. In fact your friends should
repudiate you for doing so -- a kind of predictable "fuck you"
attitude toward the world. But I' m sure that you think you
are really clever."
Add to this the various and sundry reactions I received to the e-mail mailing
of my eBay announcement (from a simple "Fuck you!" to your note). While this
idea of being in the public wasn't thought of in my initial idea, it became
important as the days went on. I've seen the net as a way of circumventing the
gatekeepers of traditional markets and information outlets. I don't need a
gallery to publicize or market my work (another plus for eBay's democratization
of the market). However, I'm finding that there are other gatekeepers
developing in the info world. In fact, the part I like best about the net (it's
accessibility) is also the part I hate about it (everyone's a critic and feels
they can hide behind the false anonymity of e-mail. I'm in the middle of
processing all this.
Old rules out, new rules to learn. I got a note from eBay warning me of
spamming. It's against their rules to send a notification of a sale to any eBay
members. I was a little mortified as I never targeted any eBay people in my
announcement mailing. The announcement was meant to inform (damn the media
gatekeepers! -grin) rather than to entice anyone to bid. I'm being reminded of
my own paraphrased adage: "The three most important words in the late 20th
century are: context, context, and context."
Finally, within the piece is the nature of eBay. A site that seems emblematic
of the nature of marketing on the web. The form is attractive to millions
(including "everyday" people, serious collectors, and, as we're seeing, critics
of all sorts). Using this to frame my work was a natural to me. I'm a home
shopping fan from way back. I used to go over to my mother-in-law's to watch
QVC before we had cable. I was amazed that they could talk and talk about the
wares they were selling. Who wrote that stuff?!
Once, one of these on-camera personalities was trying to sell a dress. "Don't
you just love the way this looks?" she said to thousands of people on the other
end of the screen. "Don't you just hate it when you go to the mall and you see
everyone wearing the same thing? This dress is unique [as thousands were being
sold]!" I love the language of selling but this up'ed the ante for me. Ironic
and postmodern. Theory being put into practice. I was amazed.
> That is similar to how I view the word "clever." In my undergraduate
> studies, we were taught to avoid being clever because, as we defined it, it
> leaves room only for a one level read. The fact is, the average person
> spends about three seconds looking at a piece of art (obviously works that
> deal with the element of time shift that a bit, but you get the point) so
> for something to draw a person in deeper, the piece has to accomplish, in my
> opinion, a multitude of tasks.
Ah, the average person! Now this is an interesting point. Making a work accessible.
I was going to work on Friday, taking the subway as I always do and my neighbor
saw me and yelled across the entrance: "Saw the piece about you in the Post."
I responded: "Now you know what I really do." I'm learning not to second guess
the nature and intelligence of the average person.
> I bring up rtmARK because their projects work on many different levels. By
I'm curious as to how accessible you think rtmARK's work is to the general public.
I sent a note to rtmARK about my piece and got this response:
Wow, just took a look at the eBay page--really great idea. Looking forward
to reading the article.
Tempted to bid....