Morlock Elloi on Sat, 19 Jul 2008 16:34:54 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> RFC 7888 - Potlatch Now

Never Working Group                                             M. Elloi
Request for Comments: 7888                                            VS
Category: Informational                                        July 2008

                               Potlatch Now

Status of This Memo

     This memo provides information for the Nevernet community.  It does
     not specify an Nevernet standard of any kind.  Distribution of this
     memo is unlimited.


     There is a lot of swindling happening in the art world. There is a
     clear need to establish a baseline from which art can be uniformly
     evaluated and levelled.

Table of Contents

   1. What is ???Potlatch Now??? ? ........................................2
      1.1. The Venue ..................................................2
      1.2. Inside .....................................................2
      1.3. The ritual .................................................2
      1.4. Shredder ...................................................2
      1.5. Post production - Art Body Bags ............................2
      1.6. Philosophy .................................................3
   2. WTF is ???Potlatch??? ? .............................................3


Elloi et al.                 Informational                      [Page 1]

RFC 7888                     Potlatch Now                      July 2008

1.  What is ???Potlatch Now??? ?
    A high-brow circus event with a deep philosophical meaning and a
    brilliant comment on post-futuristic nightmare we live in. Also a
    good opportunity to get famous, laid, rich or damned.
1,1  The Venue:
    A stark industrial hall with full bar, DJ, live music, and a
    separate stage with  industrial-grade Art Shredder, capable with
    dealing with any art or artist.
    At the entrance:
    - People queue, many of them holding some art.
    - At the door, entrance is free to those who bring ???real??? art. The
    art is screened by Art Agents who will judge the art and decide if
    it's eligible. Must be shreddable - photography, paintings, mixed
    media, etc.. No painted bunnies or chicken. Otherwise it's $10.
    There are two kinds of agents: east european agents (see pic - also
    must have those european large thin leather handbags) and american
    fed agents from 60's - blue suits, black shoes, short hair.
    - The Art Agents should be totally humorless and business-like,
    slightly intimidating. Need a decent story about agents at the
    entrance - good enough so that there is always some doubt left that
    they may be real. Maybe: "There was flurry of art theft in european
    and american galleries and it's possible that thieves may try to
    sneak in some of the stolen stuff, so the FBI is cooperating with
    Czech agents and screening at the door" or "This event is funded in
    part by the Homeland Art Agency and the agents are here to enforce
    minimum standards."
    - A black unmarked van with tinted windows is parked in the front of
    the venue.
    - Whoever brings art is a Contributor.
1.2 Inside:
    - Industrial music. Think Rammstein and Laibach. Drinks. The focal
    point is, however, the act of art destruction, which happens in
    batches with 15-20 minute breaks in-between.
    The atmosphere contrasts a club scene with the impersonal
    industrial/burocratic process of destroying art.
1.3 The ritual:
    - The Contributor steps on the stage. Music stops. He/she is met by
    the Art Official, who carries the Book of Dead Art, where
    Contributor's and artwork's names are entered. A Polaroid shot is
    taken of art being held by the contributor in front of the shredder.
    And then the stuff gets shredded. Music continues.
    - The whole process is efficient and non-theatrical. Staff doing
    their job in impersonal business-like way. Preferably the shredder
    is operated by migrant workers in jumpsuits in sweatshop atmosphere
    and with robot-like/conveyer nature of the industrial process. No
    one of the involved ever tries to be amusing or funny or theatrical.
    - The culminating point is the execution itself, when the artwork
    gets shredded. No music, silence, audience can only hear itself and
    the deafening noise of the shredder.
1.4 Shredder:
    Preferably a garden wood chipper (see pic.) Cheap, loud and shreds
    The optimal number of Contributors should be determined by the
    process flow. If each batch has 10 Contributors, and each takes 1
    minute, it's 10 minute show with 20 minute break in-between, which
    processes 50 in less than 3 hours.
1.5 Post production - Art Body Bags:
    - After shredder is full, or all stuff destroyed, the shredded stuff
    is packaged in cute little transparent art body bags dated and
    numbered 1 to 50. Each gets a certificate with list of all artists
    and works present in it. The bags are sold for $20 each or, with
    some Picasso and Matisse content, auctioned. Each bag must contain
    2% of Sanctioned Art of each Contributing Artist, and is unique by
    the nature of the process, accompanied by certificate and list of
    contributors, and may well become a collector's item

Elloi et al.                 Informational                      [Page 2]

RFC 7888                     Potlatch Now                      July 2008

1.6 Philosophy:
    Read the Potlatch section below. Everyone has art they hate but find
    it hard to get rid of. This is a great excuse, a ritual cleansing.
    As opposed to usual situations when art is judged for some quality,
    here is an implicit understatement that it's inadequate. So there is
    no stigma, on the contrary, the contributor is deemed to have high
    standards because she/he thinks the thing should be destroyed. The
    better the art, the higher the standards. But even during
    destruction, you get exposure, and your stuff continues to live in
    the art body bags.
    For collectors this may provide an actual reason for having art and
    raises its value - after all, you are the one who destroyed it
    forever and no one else can have it. Any jerk with money can own a
    Matisse, but only one can destroy it. In other words, this offers
    opportunity to collectors to become unique as the works they own,
    not just one in the long line of rich rednecks - and the destruction
    is the *only* creative act a collector can perform. This is the
    means. Ideally, eventually the expensive stuff is brought in, and
    there will be competition. Think of the press ... "Picasso shredded,
    owner drunk but happy". Hopefully in few years most of that old
    garbage is cleaned up and art collection market becomes open for new

2. WTF is ???Potlatch??? ?
    "Some groups, such as the Kwakwaka'wakw, used the potlatch as an
    arena in which highly competitive contests of status took place. In
    rare cases, goods were actually destroyed after being received."
    "Ornate weaving and woodwork were important crafts, and wealth,
    defined by slaves and material goods, was prominently displayed and
    traded at potlatch ceremonies. These customs were the subject of
    extensive study by the anthropologist Franz Boas. In contrast to
    European societies, wealth was not determined by how much you had,
    but by how much you had to give away. This act of giving away your
    wealth was one of the main acts in a potlatch."
    Becoming illegal:
    "Potlatching was made illegal in Canada in 1885 and the United
    States in the late nineteenth century, largely at the urging of
    missionaries and government agents who considered it "a worse than
    useless custom" that was seen as wasteful, unproductive and
    injurious to the practitioners. "
    "The potlatch has fascinated and perhaps been misunderstood by
    Westerners for many years. Thorstein Veblen's use of the ceremony in
    his book Theory of the Leisure Class made potlatching a symbol of
    "conspicuous consumption". Other authors such as Georges Bataille
    were struck by what they saw as the anarchic, communal nature of the
    potlatch's operation ??? it is for this reason that the organization
    Lettrist International named their review after the potlatch in the
    Juan Miro:
    An essay by Remi Labrusse in the catalogue discusses Miro's work in
    relation to 'potlatch', the Chinook word for a form of socially
    competitive behaviour which involves making increasingly lavish
    gifts to neighbouring, rival tribes as a form of challenge,
    sometimes to the point of destroying the gifts in front of those
    rivals. The idea of potlatch, introduced to Europe by
    anthropologists such as Frank Boas, was taken up by the sociologist
    Marcel Mauss as the keystone for his general theory of the social
    and the sacred, and subsequently by artists and writers in France
    after World War I. For many, potlatch constituted a critique of
    technological modernity and production-oriented views of the world.
    In his The notion of expenditure, Georges Bataille wrote that in
    art, 'the accent is placed on loss, which must he as great as
    possible for the activity to acquire its full meaning'. Miro was an
    associate of Bataille and strongly influenced by such ideas, as well
    as by the widespread interest in the primitive. Destruction was for
    him a way of bringing enchantment back into the world."

Elloi et al.                 Informational                      [Page 3]

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info:
#  archive: contact: