Flexible Distribution Strategies?

December 17, 2007

I’ve been told by many a person that my work is, essentially, unmarketable.  I’ve had gallerists (who shall remain nameless unless you want to contact me for the scoop) “hold on” to my work after it failed to sell because that failure was somehow my fault.  And, though I’m feeling a little less cynical than I was a few days ago about the machinations of the art market, I also know that trying to find a place for the work you see here at any gallery in the country is going to be very, very hard.

So, post In Rainbows Radiohead, I’m wondering about what might take the place of the phsyicality of the art object when most of my work ends up in digitized form at one point or another anyway.   Also, I’m broke.  Again.  And I’m tired of being accused by witless middle-class people of somehow purposely being poor, as if it’s all a fun adventure.  (I’m reminded, at school, of the Pulp song “Common People” on an almost daily basis.)

So, in addition to trying to forego traditional exhibition structures for things ranging from artist books to hit-and-run anonymous conceptual photo exhibits in public places, I’m wondering whether I can have what amounts to a fire sale: any print you see here or on my website, emailed to you as a high-res jpeg, for $20.  Unlimited editions.  (I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about Adrian Piper’s proposal that the cost of a work of art be directly indexical to the materials and labor required to produce it.  Seems fair enough to me.) 

So, if anyone reads this, do you think this is a good and/or insane idea, and how should I go about doing it? Comment!   

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4 Responses to “Flexible Distribution Strategies?”

  1. AdamFeldmeth Says:

    Nicholas,
    the Piper proposal brings up an issue on the aspect of the labor fee and an interesting question- On what bracket should an artist (if they are producing in house ala working as there own labor force) charge/pay themselves per hour? What’s minimum wage now? Ian told me that the latin americans standing outside of home depot work for $10/hour, which is higher than minimum. It seems that even with the suggestion Piper makes towards pricing an artist may find themsevles stuck unless they have assistance and a labor force already working for them. And wouldn’t the Piper proposal limit an artist to continue making the same size, same material cost, same labor/hour print indefinetly? I suppose one could begin with a large size work, take the sales money and produce to smaller size works, but they may evidently take more hours of labor to produce forcing you to work overtime without receiving ample pay from the money you’ve made from the previous sale.

    Art is for books and school in the end. Why not begin there a little sooner instead of it doing the big loop around, dragged on by others?

  2. Nicholas Says:

    That’s a good point. As somebody who’s only made over $10 once in my life, it occurs to me that maybe I should just stand outside of Home Depot instead.

    But actually, the point you raise about labor costs is a good one, but tricky when it comes to the work that I make. The labor involved in photography and related printing is mostly outsourced at this point, so what I’m doing is closer in spirit to ’60s conceptualists who would sell instructions/permission to make the work itself. A person would theoretically pay me for right of (infinite) reproduction and then pay someone else for the labor of actual material production. But that does leave the question of my production capital: cameras and computers.

    And I think you’re right in your final point. I’m doing a show in January that’s going to be presented simultaneously in three formats: 1) as a show in a physical space, 2) as a freely available .pdf of everything in the show, and 3) as a book you can buy “at cost.”

  3. AdamFeldmeth Says:

    Are you producing/providing the first of the three formats (the physical space show) because of (1)obligations to traditional methods of “showing” artwork? (2)Is it due to a feeling that at this point in time a majority of viewers just aren’t ready to make prints from the pdf on their own and would prefer to drive to the gallery in order to see the already made prints in front of their face before seeing it in front of them on their screen at home? (3) Or a need of your own to fill and compose a space with your work to satisfy your own demons?

    I suppose there could be more options than these. It just seems odd in some ways to pursue a physical show if the pdf and the catalogue (printed/physical) are already obtainable. Is the pdf going to be the pages of the book? or just the images of the show? I am curious if one might in the end be drawn to purchasing a print in the show if they are available free of charge online. The physical prints in this case may become something more lucrative as they are “already physical” and in that way something of more value because (1) they were made by the artist’s hand (an age old dilemma) and/or (2) even though they have access to making as many copies as they could dream of, they may not be drawn to the thought of spending their own time processing/producing x number of prints if someone has already made x number already.

    I am not sure if you’ve read the derrida essay I wrote on my website. It’s main source is taken from an interview that discusses the shifts of technology in relation to hands, namely the development of writing tools to the point of portable computers. And with this invention Derrida opens up a notion of physical books becoming a thing of religious relic as we are now able to read entire books on screen, on our “power books”. I’ll email you the interview through attached word file.

  4. Nicholas Says:

    Actually there’s an option 4: I ended up with an extra week in Stevenson Blanche to do with whatever I wanted, and the idea actually developed from there. I couldn’t decide what to show specifically because of a cash-flow problem for printing, and then I was reminded of a comment someone made to me about Martin Kippenberger and how sometimes he paid as much attention to the invitations as to the show.

    So I decided the “show” would be giving possible viewers the ability to reposition themselves physically and figuratively to “what is being seen.” Providing the choice for the end-user is the key thing for me. So being able to read the book on screen, as it were, is less interesting to me than the temporal overlap that allows me/us to read the book onscreen and next to the computer, side by side.

    That kind of redundancy, and the effect it has on perception, is what I want to explore–besides the question of how to dwell within the “art world” (such as it is) without participating in the “art market,” if the two are even separable.


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