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Ten Thousand Cents
April 12, 2008 6:24 AM   Subscribe

"Ten Thousand Cents" is a digital artwork that creates a representation of a $100 bill. Using a custom drawing tool, thousands of individuals working in isolation from one another painted a tiny part of the bill without knowledge of the overall task.

On the website you can see all 10,000 pieces being drawn simultaneously and explore each drawing on its own.
posted by sveskemus (35 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great link. I especially like how some of the collaborators quit halfway through, or drew stickmen or other random images.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:19 AM on April 12, 2008


interesting, but it did get boring about about 25 cents...
posted by HuronBob at 7:32 AM on April 12, 2008


Here are a few of my favorites.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:51 AM on April 12, 2008


We might as well go back to that artificial crack in the museum art floor. I guess after I am finished desecrating Andy Warhol's grave--if he has one--I will move on to Marcel Duchamp. My point being--I find that most "conceptual art" is better in the idea and less interesting in the product. This product I find...ordinary. Interesting idea, yes very interesting, but the end product is not visually engaging, and I guess I need a weblink with words and stuff to know what I'm looking at--you know, to 'splain it to me. I find it temporarily tragic that a great deal of the visual arts community is, ah, actually not in touch with art--that is, not making it, that is, not engaged in a physical process. What would Michaelangelo be without physical process? That's so retro, I know. We're way more advanced and pushing the envelope, I know. And all interactive and diverse and community based and shared and tinged with Surrealist tricks, I know. So when I go to France to desecrate Duchamp's grave, I'll find this on his epitaph, "D'ailleurs, c'est toujours les autres qui meurent;" or "Besides, it's always other people who die."
posted by wallstreet1929 at 7:57 AM on April 12, 2008 [4 favorites]


Check out the cat / goblin in the very bottom left of the A of America.
posted by afx237vi at 8:00 AM on April 12, 2008


Check out the "A N" in Franklin. Niiiicely done.
posted by orthogonality at 8:09 AM on April 12, 2008


Yeah, I find this pretty dull as well
posted by delmoi at 8:24 AM on April 12, 2008


The thing I find most interesting about this, process wise, is that there are lots of subtle colour variations in the original large fields of green. Many of the people assigned those squares didn't even attempt the variations, they just painted a green square of some shade. But collectively, you still get an impression of subtle colour variations because of the differences amongst neighbouring squares.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:24 AM on April 12, 2008


Also interesting is watching how people decide what's positive and negative space in their drawing.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:26 AM on April 12, 2008


it's all about the benjamin's. why did google checkout consider it an "unacceptable product?"
posted by quanta and qualia at 8:33 AM on April 12, 2008


I wonder if all the contributors had an identical palette of colors to choose from, or did each one have a palette containing only "appropriate" colors from their assigned morsel?
posted by Rafaelloello at 8:41 AM on April 12, 2008


My point being--I find that most "conceptual art" is better in the idea and less interesting in the product. This product I find...ordinary. Interesting idea, yes very interesting, but the end product is not visually engaging, and I guess I need a weblink with words and stuff to know what I'm looking at--you know, to 'splain it to me.

I'm no expert, but isn't that the point of conceptual art? Art doesn't need to be visually engaging - just engaging. A plain, pure idea can grab you and blow you away just as well as a painting, or sculpture, or music. The product is just a token to prove that the idea has been had.

Though I did find this particular idea more "heh, cool" than "wow, amazing!".
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 8:51 AM on April 12, 2008


The underlying Mechanical Turk work distribution system by Amazon is fascinating. It's named after this, of course, and here's an interesting Salon article about the Amazon system: I make $1.45 a week and I love it.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 9:08 AM on April 12, 2008


I thought it was kind of shitty that the artists each got paid a penny, and the result is selling for $100 a pop, but then I read this: All procedes from the sales of bill prints will go to the One Laptop Per Child project, to "empower the children of developing countries."
posted by joannemerriam at 9:34 AM on April 12, 2008


The black rectangle floating up and to the right of Franklin's left eyebrow is pretty tragic.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 10:00 AM on April 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Sheep Market project mentioned in the Salon article is pretty interesting also.

From the article:

In its earliest days, someone posted a request on Amazon Mechanical Turk, offering to pay 2 cents for a drawing of a sheep facing left. Peter Cohen, director of Amazon Mechanical Turk, says the company was "puzzled by" the request. The requester was Aaron Koblin, a student in UCLA's Design/Media Arts program, who was writing his master's thesis about the site. He was intrigued by Amazon's effort to "establish a framework for the utilization of people as computers," as he wrote in his thesis. "My project was very tongue-in-cheek," he tells me. "On the one hand, it's using the system the way it's meant to be used. On the other hand, it's asking them to do this ridiculous thing."

Over 40 days and 40 nights, the sheep flooded in at a rate of 11 per hour. By the end, 7,599 turkers had participated. He collected 12,000 sheep and promptly put 10,000 of them up for sale at the rate of $20 for 20 sheep at the Sheep Market. This caused some consternation among the people who had drawn them. "They're selling our sheep!!!" wailed one poster on a turker message board. Another wrote: "Does anyone remember signing over the rights to the drawings?" In fact, they had.

posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 10:11 AM on April 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also interesting is the breakdown of average time/user spent for each country:

Country Avg. Time Spent/User Percent Unique Visitors
1 United States.......00:02:48.......83.35%
2 India.....................00:11:32.......75.31%
3 China....................00:23:52.......10.61%
4 Canada.................00:01:57.......93.88%
5 Philippines............00:10:05.......60.00%
6 Egypt....................00:31:54.......3.12%
7 United Kingdom....00:01:24.......93.75%
8 Germany...............00:01:51.......76.92%
9 Netherlands..........00:01:11.......100.00%
10 Poland................00:02:29.......75.00%

Note that users from third-world countries spend considerably more time, whereas Europeans are much lazier. The US is trailing the developing countries, ranking even behind Poland.
posted by sour cream at 10:15 AM on April 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


Lazier? Or, more efficient? Huh? Huh? See there!

Yep. I work in marketing. How'd you guess.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 10:17 AM on April 12, 2008


I'd like to see a version of this that was made only only youtube commenters. You could call it "10,000 Tiny LOLFAGs". No part of the result would look anything like the original $100 bill, of course.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:17 AM on April 12, 2008


Ahem. "only by" youtube commenters.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:21 AM on April 12, 2008


wallstreet1929, I wonder what you think of Christos? I saw him and Jeanne-Claude do a speech and presentation once. I'm curious because I used to hang with a bunch of artists and they all had strong opinions on what was art (and were quite critical of one another, especially behind each other's backs). I am more familiar with other types of art than I am conceptual art.

This is quite interesting, thanks for the neat post, and thanks Fuzzy Skinner, for the grouping of pics.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 10:24 AM on April 12, 2008


So I was made curious by seeing the Egyptian dudes who spent 31 minutes on average doing this.

I did some math. I assume they were able to complete 50 drawings in that time. (On the one hand, they could probably draw faster than that, but on the other hand, the Mechanical Turk site sucks and slows one down, at least when I tried it.) Comes out that for their time they were earning something like twice the Egyptian minimum wage, at least with the old exchange rate on the random Google result I got.

Meanwhile, for an American, Mechanical Turk is "I can transcribe podcasts on this crap site for about two bucks an hour?"
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:34 AM on April 12, 2008


I thought it was kind of shitty that the artists each got paid a penny, and the result is selling for $100 a pop, but then I read this: All procedes from the sales of bill prints will go to the One Laptop Per Child project, to "empower the children of developing countries."

It still seems shitty to me. These two can blather on all they like about "anonymous artists," but they seem pretty unperturbed about reserving the old-fashioned perquisites of authorship for themselves: they've slapped their faces and CVs right on the front page, and they're the ones who'll reap professional, financial, and social benefits from the project even if every cent goes to charity.

They also could've incurred real costs to themselves that might've deepened the project's implicit commentary about global markets - why not pay $0.10 per painting? why not a dollar? - but it almost seems part of the concept to be as exploitive as possible. Many of the contributors are children of developing countries, who participated not because they were momentarily bored at their office jobs, but as part of an overall strategy scavenging in the margins of Western economic activity. I don't read the 31:54 spent by the average Egyptian as testimony to Egypt's craftsmanlike deliberativeness: I read that as Egyptians (and Chinese, and Indians) doing as many of these as they can stomach to earn money in order to eat.
posted by dyoneo at 10:39 AM on April 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think my favorite is still the whitespace rectangle where the artist spends three minutes drawing an intricate picture of a man riding a dinosaur and then signs it, "Jonathan Richman was here." and paints it all over with a single color.
posted by puddnhead at 11:25 AM on April 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


Aaron Koblin is behind this project as well as the sheep market one mentioned above.
posted by estherbester at 2:08 PM on April 12, 2008


quanta and qualia: it's all about the benjamin's. why did google checkout consider it an "unacceptable product?"
Um... probably because it's a laser printer copy, in the exact size and shape of a $100 bill, of a reasonable fascimile of the face of a $100 bill. For which they are then selling for $100.

I'm kind of surprised that only Google had a problem with this, and not say the Treasury department and the FBI... seeing as printing their reproductions and selling them for $100 sounds an awful lot like "counterfeiting" dressed up as an art project. Haven't people been arrested just for things like "printing fake money for use in my movie"?
posted by hincandenza at 2:47 PM on April 12, 2008


dyoneo: I don't read the 31:54 spent by the average Egyptian as testimony to Egypt's craftsmanlike deliberativeness: I read that as Egyptians (and Chinese, and Indians) doing as many of these as they can stomach to earn money in order to eat.
I don't mean to be mean-spirited, because I get your point, but I think the particular people doing this turk must themselves be above average, income-wise, for their regions. They do, after all, own a computer (or have ready access to one). If they could barely afford to eat, I don't think they'd be spending 30 minutes at a time sitting at their computer.
posted by hincandenza at 3:15 PM on April 12, 2008


Goddammit--instead of reading these comments, I could've been making eleven cents.
posted by box at 3:28 PM on April 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's my understanding that in many poorer countries "internet cafes" are much more common.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:28 PM on April 12, 2008


Why did google checkout consider it an "unacceptable product?"

Section 411 of Title 31 of the Code of Federal Regulations says that that color illustrations of U.S. currency can be made without committing an act of counterfeiting so long as they're less than three-quarters or more than three-halves times life size (among several other restrictions). However, according to their site, the "Ten Thousand Cents" project was trying to sell prints that exactly matched the size of a $100 bill (6.14" × 2.61").
posted by RichardP at 3:32 PM on April 12, 2008


TheOnlyCoolTim, are you mentioning that to counter hincandenza's point? For people in 3rd world countries desperate for even a few cents, paying for 30 minutes of time at an internet cafe would cost them more than they would make.
posted by KingoftheWhales at 6:32 PM on April 12, 2008


However, according to their site, the "Ten Thousand Cents" project was trying to sell prints that exactly matched the size of a $100 bill (6.14" × 2.61").

Presumably these prints are not printed on paper that has anything like the texture of a US$100 bill, are single-sided, probably framed, and "look funny" to say the least. If someone were dumb enough to try to pass one off as a real bill, that would be that person's fault and they should be punished for it, but I don't think it's reasonable to hold the "Ten Thousand Cents" project people responsible as well or instead, any more than the Georgia Certified Development Corporation should be held responsible for some idiot printing out this, enlarging it, and sticking a bill together out of pieces of it.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:25 AM on April 13, 2008


wallstreet1929, I've always thought the primary purpose of viewing art is to make one think. By that humble definition, this project succeeded for you. There are other purposes for viewing, too, like the visual interest, as you note. I find the detailing on currency pretty interesting and engaging, but YMMV.

I find it temporarily tragic that a great deal of the visual arts community is, ah, actually not in touch with art--that is, not making it, that is, not engaged in a physical process.

I'm not sure that the use of different (unexpected? unprecedented?) tools legitimately disqualifies a piece as art. People probably thought Da Vinci was "cheating" by using a mirror.

I'd venture to say that the extended meaning behind this project is deeper than plenty of minimalist modern pieces like those of Barnett Newman, for example. (I walked out of the Stedelijk in Amsterdam after about 5 minutes because Newman's work there seemed so pointless to me. It was uninteresting visually, and didn't make me think at all except that I wanted to go look at something else. Again, YMMV.)

The other thing I find interesting about this is that we get to see it being made. And there is movement to it. Most other images are frozen, and we don't usually view artists' work while in progress, only after they're all clean and tidy and framed.

*plink, plink*
posted by yoga at 7:01 AM on April 13, 2008


I like the project. What bothers me, though, more than the $100 price tag for prints, is that they're being sold in an edition of ten thousand! If it weren't for the one-laptop-per-child donation aspect, that would be the equivalent of printing an edition of infinity. (And 1 million dollars for the whole edition? I guess that's part of the joke...wet blanket.)
posted by nobody at 8:18 PM on April 13, 2008


I can't find the dinosaur!
posted by spinturtle at 8:28 AM on April 14, 2008


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