Kim Asendorf & Ole Fach – The $20 File (2012)
The $20 File (2012) is my favorite work in this show. It’s “an artistic file format” that both delivers art—if you open a .$20 file, it contains an abstract ASCII artwork—and acts as art itself. When you press the download button on AMP’s site, the server generates a new, unique .$20 file and delivers it directly to you, without storing it. You can then verify the authenticity of the file with an online validator. “It is highly recommended,” we are told by the artists, “that the purchaser raise the price of a work, and that you make a verification before submitting payment.”
That’s dope as hell. The idea of an artwork generated only for the viewer, for one thing, is rich theoretical ground: can we discuss a work we each perceive differently, for instance, without recourse to its conceptual basis? Can artworks be generated by fingerprint, or retinal scan, to be seen in different forms by different viewers? What are the implications of that?
The actual ASCII artwork in the file—at least, in mine—was fairly boring, and a bit hard to view. The problem is that while a size of 256 x 256 characters makes sense in a certain nerdy sense, it doesn't actually suit how the file is going to be seen. 256 is the number of symbols in most ASCII character sets, and .$20 is an ASCII artwork, fine, but nobody has a text editor that can display 256 x 256 characters at the same time. You end up either decreasing the text size to the point of the ASCII being completely inconsequential, or looking at a tapestry-like scrollfest that doesn’t form much of anything.
It’s unclear, too, how one is supposed to “raise the price of the work”, as the artists suggest. If you change the file extension, for instance—say, to .$30—the validator rejects the file immediately; it even says, outright, that it has the wrong file extension. That’s a deliberate test and an error message, that needed to be programmed in specifically by Asendorf and Fach. It seems, though, to work against the whole idea of the piece, locking in the nominal price of the work forever (to be fair, the opposing example might be coin collecting). Surely a more fitting system would check the contents of the file, but disregard its price-extension.
Also, I’m not sure I understand why The $20 File is being put in a situation where one doesn’t actually exchange $20 for it. Is this a particular discount? Should we be excited to get something for free that should cost $20? Have these files ever cost $20? Again, some clarification would have been nice.
In any case, I’m keen to see if this works. Click the Paypal button above to receive my $20 File, number #47 of the unlimited edition, for the low price of $30. It has been featured in publications including Art Fag City.
David Horvitz – Fifty-Eight Cents (2011)
David Horvitz, a photographer/professional gimmick developer, got an MFA, and now he wants us to pay for it.
Horvitz has $58,420.10 in student loans, but not for long! Fifty-Eight Cents exhorts the viewer to send a check for the titular amount to Sallie Mae's P.O. Box, along with Horvitz's name and account number; the hope is that Horvitz's student loans will be paid off after a mere 100,000 donations. Art Micro Patronage even added a $0.58 level of donation, specifically for the project, that they’ll send to Sallie Mae on your behalf.
Okay, no. The idea of crowdsourcing tuition isn’t radical or interesting at all; it’s been a widely accepted public policy goal for decades. The government, after all, already directly or indirectly pays the majority of American tuition costs, principally by taking a small amount of money from a large number of people.
And, as Kyle Chayka asked at ArtINFO, “Why are we paying for his MFA, again?”
It’s not really clear. Horvitz presents himself as neither a particularly meaningful person to choose, nor a particularly arbitrary person to choose. That latter point is a huge loss; if he’d placed more stress on the growing popularity of giving tiny amounts for no particular reason—the Kickstarter curse of “why not”, as it were—there might be a discussion to be had here. As it is, it’s hard to see what this adds to, say, the Million Dollar Homepage.
0-Day Art – Art Micro Patronage Season 01 Complete, torrent (2012)
Lastly, Howard includes a torrent of every Art Micro-Patronage show to date released by 0-Day Art, the net art warez project begun by Jeremiah Johnson (Nullsleep) and Don Miller (No Carrier). The concept is the same as any of the other releases by 0-Day Art: art exists online; art is in danger of being taken offline; therefore Johnson and Miller pre-emptively “put Net Art back on the Net” by releasing the work as a torrent. The Verge published a lengthy writeup on the background and reasoning involved.
In a way, it’s trolling; 0-Day Art is robbing artists of their ability to control the distribution of a work, and that’s a little bit of a dick move. Johnson and Miller’s argument, though, is that by doing the inevitable—for someone would surely pirate these works eventually—0-Day Art acts to dispel artists’ delusions about their control over an artwork’s distribution. 0-Day Art, in short, is the trolling net art needs.
That makes sense. After all, however net art funds itself, it will need a value system that’s able to deal with piracy. If film, music, and computer games can find ways to make money despite the widespread availability of their products for free, why should net art be allowed to cut the Gordian knot?
One criticism of 0-Day’s activities as a whole might be its choice of soft targets. 0-Day Art has mostly focused on low-hanging fruit, like AMP, Michael Manning’s “Street Show” (shown on a USB outside Eyebeam), and the videos Robert Lorayn uploads to Facebook and then takes down. It has not, yet, released anything particularly thorny or contentious. Even in this release, it’s telling that The $20 File isn’t included; that would’ve required either access to Asendorf and Fach’s server or a lengthy process of reverse-engineering. It will be interesting to see how far 0-Day Art is willing to go, particularly with regard to artists who already have (potentially litigious) gallery representation.
Still, the torrent is a fantastic inclusion in “C.R.E.A.M.” if only because it provides a necessary counterpoint to the rest of the show—an example of the omnipresent internet id that any of these schemes would have to contend with. It’s not at all coincidence that the only work it can’t duplicate is also probably the best in the show.