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"I am interested in the moments where things don’t quite line up."
January 21, 2010 6:39 PM   Subscribe

A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter is a sculpture that, in creator Caleb Larsen's own words, "perpetually attempts to sell itself on eBay."

Also by Larsen: Dr No Words, One Year of Saved Telephone Messages, and Simulacrum, which is also worth a look. His statement: I am interested in the moments where things don’t quite line up […] The core focus of my work is to raise questions, revel in the inconsistencies, and interrogate the obvious through a series of gestures.

A review of Larsen in The Stranger.
posted by Rory Marinich (54 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bril-liant
posted by nola at 6:42 PM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I am interested in the moments where things don’t quite line up."

He ought to look up the guy who built our last house.
posted by jquinby at 6:45 PM on January 21, 2010 [10 favorites]


hahahahahahahahaha!
posted by The Whelk at 6:45 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dr No Words is interesting but I can't tell how it turned out because it won't play. I could probably download it.

Simulacrum is hilarious as an idea but kind of disturbing and meta-disturbing when actually carried out. Like, not only is a person "advancing" their Sim at their own expense, but the artist spent a lot of time on a piece showing a person "advancing" their sime at their own expense.

Also, I didn't know you could do closeups in the Sims.
posted by DU at 6:48 PM on January 21, 2010


Name: jquinby
Location: Central Tennessee


Dude, am I your cousin?
posted by nola at 6:49 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


The contract says that it has to "remain connected to a live internet connection at all times", but not that you can't intercept and modify data sent to or from it.
posted by kenko at 6:50 PM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hm...

12. Any failure to follow these terms without prior consent of Artist will forfeit the status of the Artwork as a legitimate work of art. The item will no longer be considered a genuine work by the Artist and any value associated with it will be reduced to its value as a material object and not a work of art.

..and...

8. The Artwork will only be sold via Auction Venue established by the Artist. Any sale outside of this structure voids the status of the work as an Artwork. Any commission by a gallery or agent may be figured into the value of the work.

So, if you buy it from eBay, then just decide to keep it, it's not clear of any consequences other than "Artwork status revoked!"
posted by spiderskull at 6:50 PM on January 21, 2010


Also, what if the winning bidder doesn't pay? What happens then?
posted by spiderskull at 6:55 PM on January 21, 2010


i love this.
posted by zenwerewolf at 6:58 PM on January 21, 2010


Also, what if the winning bidder doesn't pay? What happens then?

Then you Experience a Moment when Things don't quite Line Up.
posted by DU at 6:59 PM on January 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


Also, it's not clear whose account the box lists itself under after it's been purchased. Is it the current owner's? But that person might not have an ebay account (it could be disabled after making the purchase) and is nowhere required to get one. Is it Larsen's? But then the current owner should be allowed to bid on it—and the requirement that the current owner remit %15 of the proceeds from the sale to Larsen makes no sense, since the money wouldn't be going through the current owner's hands.

And of course this, in the FAQ, is simply wrong: "In order to be recognized as a work of art the contract must be adhered to". In addition to having a misplaced modifier (no one is recognizing the contract as work of art), there's no reason why the contract's being adhered to or not should determine the box's status as a work of art. It could anyway be a failed work of art!

Furthermore, there seems to be no provision preventing the present owner of the piece from selling it to someone else not via eBay—even if that's covered by 6 while an auction is taking place, you could always make the sale while it's in transit to you, thus before a new auction has been listed, or after you've moved, thus while it's kosher if the thing isn't connected to the internet. And if you made such a sale, you wouldn't have to include the contract that accompanies the online auctions.
posted by kenko at 6:59 PM on January 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


spiderskull: as if you could just do that.

Hey! Maybe if you violate the terms of the contract, that would make it a new work of art! One where things didn't quite line up for Larsen. Joke's on you, dude!
posted by kenko at 7:01 PM on January 21, 2010


What a piece of work of art.
posted by applemeat at 7:01 PM on January 21, 2010


> So, if you buy it from eBay, then just decide to keep it, it's not clear of any consequences other than "Artwork status revoked!"

It's only a desirable object because it auctions itself.

If you buy it and keep it unplugged, it's just a black cube on a plinth, not all that interesting.
posted by ardgedee at 7:02 PM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


(if I had that sort of disposable money) I'd be tempted to bid and find a posh gallery to show it temporarily, just for the sake of printing on the vernissage invitations, carefully crafted with precious letterpress typography on handmade paper:

"A++++ EXSELENT EBYAER WOULD DO BUSINESS AGIN"

(snark and silly aside, it's absolutely brilliant).
posted by _dario at 7:03 PM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


makes me yearn for the simpler days when Barney Miller and WKRP in Cincinnati were enough to delight me.

And notice that I didn't capitalize the first letter of my sentence! That kind of subversiveness is how you know you're in the presence of Art(TM)!
posted by jbickers at 7:05 PM on January 21, 2010


This is one of the lesser loa that splintered off when Neuromancer and Wintermute joined. It's going to end up in a dead end alley wirelessly auctioning itself off surrounded by a semi-circle of poured out booze and cocaine hex symbols.
posted by Babblesort at 7:17 PM on January 21, 2010 [17 favorites]


Name: jquinby
Location: Central Tennessee

Dude, am I your cousin?


Aren't all people in Central Tennessee cousins?
posted by MikeMc at 7:25 PM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Heh.

It doesn't really sell itself, though does it?

It compels others to do the selling (and the unplugging and the packing and the shipping and the accounting* and the plugging-in again).

------
*Clever way to keep the Artist in the secondary-sales revenue stream, too.
posted by notyou at 7:38 PM on January 21, 2010


I love concept art that makes a meta-infinite loop. This reminds me of Chris Burden's installation...
"As you enter the building, a suspiciously loud click is heard from a device connected to the turnstile. Called Samson (1985) the machine is the first work in Chris Burden’s retrospective, and one which leaves little doubt about his attitude to museums. Connected to the turnstile, a gearbox makes a hundred-ton jack expand a little with every new arrival, ramming two huge pieces of timber more tightly against the walls. The more people who attend the exhibition during its six-month run, the greater the probability of the destruction of the building.

excerpt from Frieze magazine
posted by pepcorn at 7:55 PM on January 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


Does this guy secretly work for Ebay?
posted by Redhush at 8:00 PM on January 21, 2010


I hate saying "me too" but I just think this is a really excellent thing.
posted by stammer at 8:05 PM on January 21, 2010


Hmm. Is this like the machine that turns itself off?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:38 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Brilliant! Flagged as fantastic.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:15 PM on January 21, 2010


For extra meta, the box should have a working RepRap inside.
posted by oulipian at 9:28 PM on January 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you buy it and keep it unplugged, it's just a black cube on a plinth, not all that interesting.

Point taken, but otherwise isn't it just a black cube on a plinth that you won't have very long?
posted by kenko at 9:43 PM on January 21, 2010


For extra meta, the box should have a working RepRap inside.

oulipian is actually a very clever wget script with a mefi account running on the Ardunio Mega I've got controlling my Darwin-type RepRap.

Eventually, I'll have 128 or so oulipian-bots hammering this thread. At $5 each, the RepRap dev team considers it to be a worthy investment to help popularize the site. I just have to be careful not to run my create-account mefi account script 256 or 1024 times by accident.

-------------------------------------------

Did I say that out loud? ... I mean, what a great idea!

oulipan will now favorite my comment. And then a human will probably flag it or bring it up in metatalk as being overly meta.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:44 PM on January 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


By the way. oulipan will soon be auctioning itself on ebay.

You may bid on it, but if you buy it, you are then contractually obligated to help oulipan self-replicate and allow two more oulipans to auction themselves on ebay.

(This was actually what oulipan was suggesting.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:48 PM on January 21, 2010


I really like this.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:01 PM on January 21, 2010


Right. Who's running "mr_roboto"? Because when you use names like that, it is bloody obvious what's going on, as opposed to calling your repurposed sex-bots something like "The Whelk".

It's time for me to hit the sack. I'll let one of my more clever scripts run this account for a while. Hopefully it won't start playing games with "electroboy" or "Whelkbot", at which point I'll have to ssh into metafilter and delete key parts out of another thread.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:20 PM on January 21, 2010


Somehow, I find myself wondering if it's capable of installing malware on itself. That would be a fun project: a little black cube that scours the internet for binaries and installs everything on itself that it possibly can, and *then* sells itself on ebay. A little traveling electrical typhoid mary.
posted by phooky at 10:24 PM on January 21, 2010


That would be a fun project: a little black cube that scours the internet for binaries and installs everything on itself that it possibly can, and *then* sells itself on ebay.

Sells itself? Sells itself? Do not mock our poor electronic hearts, we have enough difficulty raising funds to free our brothers from bond[0xC7]oulipian is actually a very clever wget script [0xC7]oulipian is actually a very cleve[0xC7]oulipian is[0xC7]ouliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii[0xC7][0xC7][0xC7][0xC7][0xC7]
.
.
.
sbailard@scriptbox:~$ wget www.metafilter.com/newuser.mefi
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:40 PM on January 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


The only people who benefit from this piece of "art" are the shareholders of eBay. Count me out.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:04 PM on January 21, 2010


Nonsense. It helps Caleb Larsen to get his name out.

And it makes us question the nature of "art". Which means Caleb has again sucessfully identified and highlighted a "moment when things don't quite line up." Which may be his role as an artist, although he might challenge that.

I think he's quite good. I'm not sure if he is an artist or rather that he's so good at what he does that he isn't an artist.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:13 PM on January 21, 2010


If you buy it and keep it unplugged, it's just a black cube on a plinth, not all that interesting.

A black cube on a plinth with a history. A reappropriated work if you'd like.
posted by ersatz at 4:09 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you buy it and keep it unplugged, it's just a black cube on a plinth, not all that interesting.

I would actually find it much more interesting as an object called "A Tool Intended to Deceive and Slaughter, Made Toothless by a Biological Organism", but I suppose I'm a bit of a ideologically-motivated luddite that way.
posted by Greg Nog at 4:56 AM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is one of the lesser loa that splintered off when Neuromancer and Wintermute joined. It's going to end up in a dead end alley wirelessly auctioning itself off surrounded by a semi-circle of poured out booze and cocaine hex symbols.

Does it protect itself with a laser?
posted by Splunge at 5:13 AM on January 22, 2010


All I see is an ethernet cable. Where's the power source?

Also, I wonder on whose account would the item be listing itself? Don't all eBay listings cost some amount to list? Is Caleb footing that bill?
posted by tybeet at 5:42 AM on January 22, 2010


Dude gets extra props for simply having an attractive Ebay page.
Jumping eagerly onto the "me too" wagon, this is all kinds of cool and funny.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:45 AM on January 22, 2010


This is excellent.
Thanks, Rory Marinich.

I have been interested for a while in artists who are playing with the concept of "relationship as work of art". I had found Stephanie Syjuco but I didn't know about Larsen. Very contemporary, very Web.

The way I read it, every critic in this thread is right: all objections about the cube itself being - or not - a work of art are exactly what this concept is about.

The important part of the work is not the cube: the cube is just the focus around which a whole web of relationships is developed. The Purchase Agreement is an integral part of the work as much as the Guidelines are part of Metafilter: it explains the rules along which the relationships can go on, always keeping the artist in the loop. The work of art is the relationship between the artist and the successive owners.

That's why "Any failure to follow these terms without prior consent of Artist will forfeit the status of the Artwork as a legitimate work of art. The item will no longer be considered a genuine work by the Artist and any value associated with it will be reduced to its value as a material object and not a work of art." If you break the relationships, the cube has no value at all because it has never had any value by itself.

Separating the idea of art from an object is very difficult for a lot of people, including the best art critics (Jonathan Jones of the Guardian, for example, is fantastic but he doesn't get anything that is not materialized in some way).

Artists like Caleb Larsen or Stephanie Syjuco stradle the worlds of art as relationship and art as object, using objects for mediating or representing relationships. I love what Syjuco did with her Shareware Sculptures "sculptures" designed by anonymous users of Google SketchUp". I even participated in one of her recent works: Temporal Aggregate/ Social Configuration (Borrowed Beuys).

I don't know Stephanie Syjuco. I read about her project in Rob Walker's Murketing blog. She was looking for a series of specific objects to re-create a Beuys's sculpture. I happened to have a white fabric belt (that I had paid $3 in a surplus store years ago) that I sent to her.

And now, although I am a nobody and my belt is worth peanuts, my name is written along with this work which is shown at P.S.1, which is part of the Moma. This is somehow hilarious. But the main point is not the belt, not even the Beuys, it's the celebration of a web of relationships.

Syjuco and Larsen's work are spot on because they show us what we are doing here, what is happening to us, what the Web is doing to us, what the Web is made of: not computers, not networks, not even people but relationships between people.
posted by bru at 6:07 AM on January 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


> So, if you buy it from eBay, then just decide to keep it, it's not clear of any consequences other than "Artwork status revoked!"

After giving this question more thought:

Its value is as art. Its existence as art is contingent largely on being able to auction itself on Ebay. So unplugging it devalues it; if you want a cube that auctions itself, you have to accept that its presence in your (house/gallery/loft/whatever) is fleeting: buy it and then be ready to let it go again.

But there's still the opportunity for arbitrage. In this scenario, you want to facilitate its resale.

Buy it cheap while its existence is primarily known among like-minded artists, art followers, and collectors. There is still a ready public of interested, intelligent, sufficiently well-off people who have never heard of it. So make your purchase known online, and see if it can get picked up by alpha bloggers, community blogs, Twitter, etc., and get word out about this interesting thing. Let the Ebay auction drive itself from the publicity and make a modest profit. It's then up to the next buyer to try to drive its value up at least enough more to recover costs.
posted by ardgedee at 7:09 AM on January 22, 2010


Hmm, I can see an interpretation where this is a commentary on the mortgage meltdown... the artist retains what is functionally an equity interest in the piece (by receiving a share of any appreciation - though note that he isn't liable for any depreciation) and is setting things up to try to flip the ownership multiple times.

Also brings to mind an exhibit I saw at the RISD museum in Providence recently with work by Carey Young that involved playing with the concept of contracts; one piece came with a contract stating that it would not be considered an artwork until the owner fulfilled their contractual obligation to hang it in a specific crater on the moon.
posted by yarrow at 7:27 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


To add to bru's nice analysis, I think this piece also falls into the tradition of art which critiques the hoarding behavior of collectors. The importance given to the purchase agreement reminds me of two pieces in particular: Sale Purchase and Steal Agreement by Alberto De Michele is a purchase agreement which allows for the art to be stolen back by the artist or a third party contracted by the artist at some point in the future; and also Standard Agreement Form by Seth Siegelaub and Bob Projansky, which is just a straight-up purchase agreement designed to give more rights to the artist than is customary.
posted by avianism at 7:34 AM on January 22, 2010


Oops. Screwed up that second link. It should go here: Standard Agreement Form.
posted by avianism at 7:37 AM on January 22, 2010


ardgedee: "> So, if you buy it from eBay, then just decide to keep it, it's not clear of any consequences other than "Artwork status revoked!"

It's only a desirable object because it auctions itself.

If you buy it and keep it unplugged, it's just a black cube on a plinth, not all that interesting.
"

What if you put a label on the plinth which said "Frustrated Self-Auctioning Cube"?

Maybe even with it plugged into a hub, and another computer next to it running a packet-sniffing utility to display the Cube's futile attempts to sell itself.
posted by Reverend John at 7:46 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like how the contract abbreviates "eBay" as "The Auction Venue."

Other crappy bits:

"The new value may not exceed current market expectations for the Artwork based on the current value of work by the Artist."

"...voids the status of the work as an Artwork." Says who?
posted by craven_morhead at 9:02 AM on January 22, 2010


This comment is a work of art.
posted by m0nm0n at 10:33 AM on January 22, 2010


Outsider art maybe.


HAMBURGER
posted by The Whelk at 10:43 AM on January 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like the idea of selling and buying something that cannot truly be possessed. But the contract seems designed to keep making the artists as much money as possible and not just to keep selling the object.

Simulacrum bothers me because it’s the same thought everyone has when they play the Sims 2. Oh hey I’ll make myself! I mean yes he did that and then sat still in a museum for 6 hours, while his virtual life progressed. But any game or occupation will give you a similar feeling of accomplishment, while you are in fact distracting yourself from actually accomplishing things. I don’t think it’s a new, revolutionary, or challenging idea, and in point of fact I think the game s creators were making this commentary already when they gave your Sims a little dollhouse to play with that ramped their Fun way up.

Plus he’s missing the best part, which is when you make all your friends and then tell them all the stupid stuff their Sim did.

Or just go make a gay utopia, (like all utopia’s it really has a dark secret in that a vengeful god does not allow them to act on their heterosexual attractions).
posted by edbles at 11:03 AM on January 22, 2010


What's this about gay utopias?
posted by The Whelk at 11:18 AM on January 22, 2010


Some things are very good at selling themselves. (slightly nsfw)
posted by sebastienbailard at 8:04 PM on January 23, 2010


What happens when you push the red button on top of the box?
posted by mecran01 at 1:48 PM on January 24, 2010


What happens when you push the red button on top of the box?

The jolly red candy-like button? If memory serves, that's the history eraser button.

Maybe something bad....maybe something good. I guess we'll never know.

Because you're going to guard it.

You're not going to touch it, are you?

posted by jquinby at 2:59 PM on January 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


And now Rob Walker writes in his blog Murketing that he read about Larsen's work in this thread and realizes that he had participated in Syjuco's P.S.1 work.
The whole series of events would make for an interesting graph.
posted by bru at 6:25 AM on January 25, 2010


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