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A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter (ebay.com)
227 points by mcantelon 2587 days ago | hide | past | web | 49 comments | favorite

Okay - this counts. It's art. It's rare, so it could be valuable. It's a smart idea, so it could get exposure. It's plugged in with ebay, so it's social and self-promoting.

Really, it's one step away from a basic (parasitic) life form. I like it.

It's even better --

The software driving the project will remain hosted on servers of the Artist’s choosing to aid in maintenance.

So the "artwork" is only complete so long as the "servers of the Artist's choosing" remain connected. Much like the "artwork" that people purchased from Yahoo! or Microsoft was no longer complete when the DRM servers went off-line...

...so it's a social commentary too. Definitely art.

I like it, but I'd like it more if it printed and adhered a shipping label to itself and scheduled a FedEx pickup after it was sold. Once you saw the label, all you would need to do is put it on your doorstep and wait for it to disappear.

Totally! Of course, if it didn't need to be plugged in, a la Airnergy[1]^, and if it used wifi... and maybe if it were weatherized, then it would never need to be indoors in the first place. As long as it was never delivered to a place without wireless, it would be "alive."

Arranging its own transportation via FedEx would incorporate the printing method you describe, and it could pretty much move on its own.

1. http://www.ohgizmo.com/2010/01/09/ces2010-rca-airnergy-charg...

^ probably vapor, and clearly underpowered, but let's pretend

Why go with just wireless? It could just as easily be hooked up to 3G and Edge to access eBay.

Much harder to arrange payment. With DHCP Ethernet, you can plug and play on any modern network on Earth.

To extend this, the 'shipping label' could be an e-ink screen under a plastic/protective cover.

That's quite clever. I like it so much... I just bid on it.

Nice! If you win, monitor the Ethernet port and let us know what it does.

Awesome, keep us posted!

Will do! I reasoned this way: if I win it won't be the most rash ebay purchase I've ever made (I'm still paying slip fees on THAT one) because a) I'm curious about its workings (as apowell mentioned I'll definitely monitor its traffic) and b) I can actually see significance in it as a work of art - though of course, if I do win it I probably won't get to keep it long and c) if I do win it I can choose the price at which it's next listed; that price is going to be more than $2500. d) this is going to be fun.

There's a decent chance I shall be outbid, though.

I was under the impression that if it re-lists itself then it will always list at the same price - $2500.

Upon purchasing the Artwork, Collector may establish a new value for the Artwork. The new value may not exceed current market expectations for the Artwork based on the current value of work by the Artist. This value may be reassessed quarterly.

Thanks, well spotted.

I wonder how this is achieved? Perhaps there is an eBay account username and password that goes with the sale.

The artist should hook it up to a microblogging service so that it can keep a log of the auction winners. It could be a very exclusive club to be in.

I'm somewhat torn between "novel" and "greedy" (15% of appreciated value? Really?)

I also like how the contract declares the box to be worth nothing (well, component cost) once the contract is broken.

On the other hand, the average EULA is more onerous. At least one owns this box.

Firmly both: "In the event of a sale the Collector agrees to pay a sum equal to fifteen percent (15%) of the Appreciated Value (as hereinafter defined), if any, occasioned by such transfer or distribution or payment of insurance proceeds to the Artist (or Artist's agent for the purpose) within thirty days of the sale."

Coupled to the fact that this device continually tries to sell itself on ebay q7days, it's clearly designed to be a money making scheme for the artist. Surely, he would argue that this, too, is part of his art.

I think the money making bit is part of the witty name, "to deceive and slaughter." :)

Otherwise, it would be "a tool to auction and ship around."

I don't think he's greedy. 15% of appreciated isn't that much: assuming the current auction settles for $2500, and in the next auction it sells for $2600, then that's only $15. I suspect agent's fees are usually a % of total, not a % of the diff. And if in the subsequent auction it sells for $2400, then that's $0 commission.

The contract declares the box to be no longer "A Work Of Art" should the contract terminate. But I don't think that means it's worth nothing. Ex-works-of-art are pretty rare.

Who here knows about an art work titled "Erased de Kooning Drawing" ?

I'm not a lawyer. Is it the case that because the contract specifies a (financially nebulous) penalty for its breach, there can be no other legal repercussions for breaking it?

Actually adhering to the first clause seems difficult. As I'm sure everyone knows, Internet connections are notoriously unreliable; coping with this is a key distributed systems problem.

On another note, I bet it uses DHCP to get an IP address. What if it's a live Internet connection, but the local network does not have a DHCP server? Seems like that may not be in breach of the contract, but I bet that the box won't be able to get online.

The FAQ covers DHCP:

Q: What means does it use to connect to the Internet ? Wireless or other ? A: It specifically connect via wired ethernet, and it automatically obtains is IP through DHCP.

I assume that since the agreement stipulates that the "Collector agrees that the Artwork will remain connected to a live Internet connection at all times", then it is up to the buyer to provide a DHCP connection if none exists.

It says in the FAQ at the bottom of the sale page that it uses DHCP to get an IP address. I'd think that that would count as a requirement for sale.

  Q: What means does it use to connect to the Internet ? Wireless or other ?
  A: It specifically connect via wired ethernet, and it automatically obtains is IP through DHCP.

According to the artist:

Combining Robert Morris' Box With the Sound of Its Own Making with Baudrillard's writing on the art auction this sculpture exists in eternal transactional flux. It is a physical sculpture that is perptually attempting to auction itself on eBay.

Every ten minutes the black box pings a server on the internet via the ethernet connection to check if it is for sale on the eBay. If its auction has ended or it has sold, it automatically creates a new auction of itself.

If a person buys it on eBay, the current owner is required to send it to the new owner. The new owner must then plug it into ethernet, and the cycle repeats itself.

Link: http://www.caleblarsen.com/projects/a-tool-to-deceive-and-sl...

What I found curious about it is that it's listed under 2008. Has it been selling itself before or did it just take two years for it to convince the artist to plug it in?

...and the Box has not published its source code under the link on that page either :(

Even if the purchase agreement is actually enforceable, would buying something on ebay even count as entering into that contract?

Also, what does "In order to be recognized as a work of art the contract must be adhered" mean? Is there actually someone out there officially `recognizing` artwork, or is this just a fancy way of saying "follow these terms or I'll get annoyed".

If the artist feels a certain aspect of the work is integral, that can be important. There are probably a lot of people who would be influenced by an artist's threat to declare a work "not art," especially if it is his own work. I think that's all he's saying: "I can't stop you from breaking the terms of this contract, but if you do the work is dead to me."

can't a work of art remain a work of art - or even take on new artistic meaning - if it's declared 'not art' or 'dead' to the artist? Especially when it's entitled 'a tool to deceive and slaughter'!

For instance, if someone was found brutally bludgeoned to death with said black box, this changes the context and thereby completely revolutionarizes the artistic and cultural, not to mention physical, impact(s).

Sure, it all depends on what's most important to you. The important thing to realize is that the art/not-art distinction is completely fabricated -- everyone means something different when they say "art."

I'm kind of wondering why he started it so high ($2500), especially considering that part of the deal is that he gets 15% of the appreciated value every time it sells itself anyways. I guess it rubs me more as doing something to make money rather than doing something to be interesting... not saying that is a bad thing. It's an interesting concept at least.

He gets 15% of the value of subsequent sales, but 100% of the first sale. Plus, I'm sure a significant amount of time and material went into the piece.

Sure, but why not play out the auction thing and start it at $1 or something and see what the market will bear. I guess I do wonder as well how often it may sell if it's listing itself every week. How much does it relist itself for? The buyer is responsible for all those fees generated by the box as well. I don't know, the more I think of it, the more it seems like a big hassle.

In the art world, perception of value often is value. It is (nearly) guaranteed that it will sell for more since he asked for more.

Starting it at $1 risked the work being sold at a low value, probably to someone who won't value it as much and in turn might be less prone to follow the contract and thus continue the cycle. Restricting it to people who have $2500+ to spend on 'art' means that these people will more likely appreciate the creativity of the piece and preserve it.

The question becomes how does one associate the new auction with their account?

Maybe it has its own account.

Who is paid when the item moves? It would seem that the artist set up his own eBay account and would be paid every time it was sold. If this is the case, why does he want 15% of the appreciation between sales? That would only make sense if the recipient was paid by the new buyer.

I assume once you buy it, it will keep trying to sell itself? So you wouldn't own it for long, and maybe you have to enter your ebay account somewhere so you get the money? Very cool.

That would be interesting if it tracked all the buyers, and slowly raised it's own price

it'd be a lot cooler if the device was entirely self-hosted--the software is hosted elsewhere, according to my reading of the terms and agreement. once you get a machine smart enough to adapt to changes in the ebay API (http://developer.ebay.com/common/api/) i'll be excited enough to consider spending thousands of bucks on it.

i wonder if "hosted elsewhere" doesn't translate out to "mechanical turk" (https://www.mturk.com/mturk/welcome) somehow (i know you can request to see the software...but only after you buy it!)

Someone should make a widget you can attach to any existing piece of artwork that does this same thing. It could be a new model for artists to make money in general. iTunes for physical art.

I'm a bit fascinated on how the contract stipulates that it can become not art under certain conditions.

I also wonder if the drama due to non-payment would be considered part of the art piece.

I also wonder if the drama due to non-payment would be considered part of the art piece.

This was my first thought here too -- perhaps his goal is to get someone not to pay and thus violate the contract, and then try to sue them in civil court and have it officially determined to not to be a work of art anymore.

I'm a tiny bit disappointed that it needs to be plugged in.

3G + a chunky lead acid battery inside, and it could probably keep selling itself for months without even being plugged in. ;)

Stop, or the Universe might implode! (Ohhh, that's why it's called that.)

It's the ultimate pyramid scheme. Like which, it could do worse than deceive and slaughter, it could fizzle.

OMG: It's the Internet, only wired.

("The IT Crowd" Series 3, Episode 5.)

I see the deceive part but where's the slaughter?

So, it has to be connected to the internet... I wonder what happens if you put it behind a firewall which blocks access to ebay...

you'd be infringing the terms of your contract with the artist, and he could sue.

there's a cold, hard legal side to this work which I find every bit as fascinating as the invention itself, and I would consider totally inseparable from the work in terms of its artistic merit

Final price: $6,350.00 - wow!

So it logs into eBay and tries to sell itself? Funny.

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