I have added some prints found during the earliest days of the eBay Test Listings project, but only made available now for sale and entertainment which, after all, are the same thing.
July 30, 2015
July 16, 2015
What Would Danh Vo Do? Send in your proposal today! Must be "large and impressive"! #wwdvd— gregorg (@gregorg) July 7, 2015
Oh no, I was too slow. I was in the middle of a deadline-intensive project when I suggested that. While I understood the reluctance, even the revulsion, an artist might feel, but being compelled by a judge to make a "large and impressive" artwork--and a $350,000 one, no less--sounded like a fascinating situation. What would you do?
..., 2015, oak and polychrome Madonna and child, French Early Gothic 1280- 1320; marble torso of Apollo, Roman workshop, 1st-2nd century ad; steel 154.2 × 50 × 50 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery [works list (pdf) via palazzograssi.it]
Well, today, just as I was mapping out the parameters of my own proposal, Danh Vo apparently answered that question himself. His proposal to Dutch-in-Switzerland collector Bert Kreuk was a little unclear in the details, but it involves a quote from the demon possessing Regan in The Exorcist, which Vo had also used for a piece in his show at Marian Goodman in London last January, and which he included in "Slip of the Tongue," his fantastic group show at Punta della Dogana in Venice. [I guess it's still available. Ask for it by name!]
Maybe Vo already had this whole Kreuk/Gemeentemuseum/lawsuit situation on his mind when he chose The Exorcist for his source material. Who knows? But the artwork parameters cited in the court's new ruling in Kreuk's lawsuit are intriguing enough to lay out, and at least give some though to the question: What Would Danh Vo Do?
July 16, 2015
John Cliett's photo of Walter de Maria's The Lightning Field, 1977, on the cover of Artforum (Apr. 1980)
From the beginning, access to The Lightning Field has been tightly monitored by the administrative machine surrounding the project. Visitors to the site are required to spend the night and are not allowed to take photographs during their stay. Indeed the entire project is predicated on the viewer's personal physical experience of the work in its location. Yet, at the same time, the artist and his patrons have also sought to stake out a particular presence in the wider discourse of contemporary art for The Lightning Field, a goal they have accomplished in part through a carefully orchestrated approach to photographic documentation.Well beyond the artist's own writing, Jeffrey Kastner's interview with The Lightning Field photographer John Cliett has been central to my understanding of the work since 2001.
[John] Cliett worked from the beginning with De Maria on formulating the scheme for photographing The Lightning Field; many of the most often-reproduced images of the Field, including those which famously introduced it to the art world in the pages of the April 1980 issue of Artforum magazine, come from his two summer sessions. Indeed, that so many viewers have come to know The Lightning Field through these images--a fraction of the total he took, strategically promulgated over the years by the artist and Dia--emphasizes their essential role in the artist's plan for shaping the image and promoting the "idea" of the work.
Cliett told of taking the extraordinary, iconic, and extremely difficult pictures of The Lightning Field, but also of how images are antithetical to de Maria's concept for the work. This contradiction between the artwork and the art system surrounding it generated tension similar to other Land Art. During the 1970s and 80s when Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty was considered "lost" or invisible under the Great Salt Lake, the artist's film became the focus of critical attention.
De Maria felt that even this iconic imagery, which Cliett later jokingly compared to "a Pink Floyd album cover," could only ever fail to communicate the experience of the work. "Walter's work is designed to create an environment where a viewer can have a highly personal relationship with a work of art that is completely unique to each individual," Cliett said.
But the images had another purpose, controlling the discussion of the work, as I was reminded when I re-read Kastner's interview this summer:
With respect to the copyright, if you control the picture of a work of art, you will control everything that's said about it, because nobody will publish an article without pictures. So you get the right to pick, and that's a very powerful thing.Yes, well.
After many discussions, dreams, and failed attempts over 22 years, we managed to get a trip to The Lightning Field together for this summer. We built the rest of our cross-country road trip around it and got home a couple of weeks ago. A visit takes basically 21 hours, starting at 2pm, no stragglers. Dia's folks on the ground drive you to and from the remote site. There is room for six people in the cabin; in addition to our family of four, there was a young couple from Brooklyn.
I'm not sure when I decided to livetweet our visit to The Lightning Field, maybe after I started seeing people I knew from Twitter in the registry. Or when I read one excited, tweet-sized comment left by a dealer about soaking in the sublime, which seemed like a lot to feel before you even get there. And so as I was about to learn the difference between an image and an artwork, I started thinking about real and virtual, individual and network, living and publishing, an account and an experience, a livetweet and IRL.
Without wanting to blow my actual encounter with The Lightning Field, I was interested to isolate what happens when you approach an experience with a livetweeting mindset: do livetweeters dream of 140-character sheep? Since there was cameraphones, and no hope of connectivity anyway, I decided to write my tweets down. My black Field Notes book looks very iPhone-ish, and I was quickly aware of being glued to it like any other screen, so I did not write every tweet in real time; I'd put some in my mental drafts folder and batch them.
There's still a lot that didn't make it in. Stuff I left out. But from there, also what de Maria left out. After several ventures into and around the Field, the artist's almost total silence on the land itself is stunning. "The land is not the setting for the work but part of the work," wrote de Maria, in bold, at the beginning of his Artforum essay. He wrote that the site was "searched by truck over a five-year period," and that's about it. The entire rest of his statement is about the hyper-precise calculations, surveying, and technical challenges of manufacturing and installing the poles. There are two pages of credits for the companies and construction workers involved.
Like Cliett's photos, de Maria's industrial fetish text was intended to manage the discourse around the work. No one could dismiss it as nonsensical, non-serious or unintentional. And it's not some basement project, either; this is not your grandpappy's mile of fence. Yet the only way to get around The Lightning Field is on foot, and the landscape makes you literally watch every step. And then there were the coyotes howling at sunrise, hoo boy, that was freaky.
I ended the livetweeting right before our ride came, but one of the most interesting parts for me was the drive back to town, and the conversation with Kim, the longtime Dia staffer who runs the guest program on the ground. I decided not to tweet that, though, just as I didn't really mention our cabinmates too much. Besides basic respect for their privacy, I figure that's also truer to the work: tweets aren't reporting, but a reflection of a single, individual experience.
Once I had this notebook of tweets, I had to figure out what to do with it. I scanned them and figured I'd play them back, tweet them in real time. That idea quickly ran afoul of my schedule. I guess I could have set a script to automatically post them at the prescribed times, but instead I tweeted each by hand, beginning yesterday at around 2 o'clock New Mexico time. I didn't anticipate the friction of overlaying this recap of The Lightning Field with my back-to-normal life. Where visiting The Lightning Field was an intensely physical experience, livetweeting The Lightning Field became all about time. I could not anticipate the next tweet accurately; I was always way too early. I got in trouble for tweeting at the dinner table. I realized only after I started that twitter-as-usual would kind of blow the whole thing, so I stopped retweeting and responding to people until it was done. [Sorry!]
I may work the tweets up into an edition, a facsimile notebook or something. Dan Perjovschi made a little sketchbook facsimile for Kunsthalle Basel a few years ago that I like, and Field Notes are the perfect on-brand readymade. Or maybe I'll do some other project, involving barnwood, Hudson's Bay blankets and yoga mats. I don't know yet, but something's sure to come of it.
June 25, 2015
June 4, 2015
I'm slow to take a closer look at the conservation project to restore the coloration to Mark Rothko's badly faded Harvard Murals (1963) using computer-calibrated light projections. The project has been going for several years, but the last winter the lit paintings went on view for the first time in decades, and remain up until July 24th. Which was the trigger for the roundtable discussion in Artforum that piqued my interest. It's fascinating all around, but I really liked that it included artists Rebecca Quaytman, David Reed, and Ken Okiishi, who ended discussing the fate of paintings and the use of projection on painting as a creative medium in itself.
Even before the conservator Carol Mancusi-Ungaro explained that the projection was tuned pixel by pixel to approximate Rothko's intended colors, I found myself jonesing to get my hands on the image, and turn it into a work of its own. Called a compensation image, it's made by calculating the chromatic differences between the paintings' current state and the target state. It's a map of everything the painting has lost, an accounting of how far it's fallen from its (hypothetical) historical potential.
It's the color that might have been. In the case of Rothko's Harvard Murals, Mancusi-Ungaro explained that they weren't seeking to return the paintings' appearance to a new, "original" state, but simply to erase the damage caused by Harvard leaving the works to bake in the sun for 15 years. The target state was determined using color-corrected Ektachrome slides from 1964 and a sixth painting, excluded from the set, which has been in dark storage in the Rothko estate.
The images above showing three of the paintings with and without the corrective projection come from a TEDx talk given by Harvard conservator Narayan Khandekar. The dramatic reveal, when the museum turns off the projection, happens every day at 4 o'clock, and is by all accounts dramatic.
What is not shown is the compensation image itself. Here is a photo of part of it, when Khandekar holds some foamcore in front of the painting. I would like to see and use the entire thing. There may be a way.
In 2011 other Harvard conservator Jens Stenger published a report on the project at the International Committee of Museums triennial in Lisbon, which is circulating as an ICOM-CC newsletter pdf. In it, Stenger discloses that the team confected a small scale test of the light correction process by using identical materials (egg and pigment) to paint another Rothko and superfade and correct it.1, 2
A is the Conservators' Rothko. B is the painting after a few weeks under some tungsten lamps. C is the interpolated compensation image (A - B). D is the lit painting (A + C).
In an incisive essay last April, John Pyper likened the compensation image's duplicative relationship to the painting as a similar to a print and a plate. Seeing it now makes me think of a color photo negative.
Which makes me think of Alma Thomas, who painted Watusi (Hard Edge) in 1963 [!] using the form from Matisse's giant cutout, L'Escargot, but in the inverse colors. For Thomas the colors signaled a reversal of direction for cultural appropriation. What does the color of a compensation image represent? Here it is loss, a loss caused, let's face it, by Harvard's years of neglect, mishandling, and occasional abuse. [Actually, the projector project does not address the physical damage, dents, scratches and graffiti the paintings received in what was, after all, a campus dining room.] At least in this case, compensation feels too diplomatic; maybe we should call it a restitution image, or a reparations image.
Now that I look at it a bit, the particular colors of the Rothko compensation image remind me of not just any photo negative, but the first photo/negative, made by Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce in 1826. And just because a projection is used to index and compensate for loss or aging now doesn't mean that's all it's capable of. It turns out photography could do more than capture a view out a window.
1 I don't think it's a spoiler to say this outcome is literally the kicker from the Artforum discussion.
2 This is the second instance I've heard of conservators making post-war painting simulacra, and now I want some.
Stenger, J. et al., "Non-invasive Color Restoration of Faded Paintings Using Light from a Digital Projector" [icom-cc.org, pdf]
After Mark Rothko, American [printeresting.org]
Previously, and very much related: On Peter Coffin at the Hirshhorn, also Donald Moffett
other early Donald Moffett projections on paintings
May 21, 2015
The third edition of Paul Soulellis's Library of the Printed Web is out, and it looks fantastic in many forms. What started as a tabloid zine is now, with Printed Web 3, a sprawling, multi-platform, medium-jamming festival of publishing. 147 people responded to Paul's invitation by submitting 329 files, which are now being released in a variety of print and digital formats, at prices ranging from free to entirely justified. Each one looks as interesting as the next.
I've already scraped rhizome.org, which is presenting all the files in one giant Apache directory, in the order they came in. And I've ordered the full set of sorted print-on-demand zines. And I'm thinking of pulling the trigger on the limited edition, full-color hardcover Chinatown Edition, a handbound/POD hybrid which comes wrapped in a digitally printed neoprene book blanket.
Yes, and in fact, there are digitally printed neoprene book blankets available separately, too, which feature a small selection of the images. I'm stoked to find that my submission, Untitled (Andiron Attributed To Paul Revere, Jr.) is one of the ten neoprene options. And the only reason I might not get that one is because doing so might deprive the lonely andiron of the company of a(nother) sympathetic steward. Won't you help?
There's even a 5.5mb, 147-frame GIF. Printed Web 3 is dropping IRL this weekend at Offprint London. Everything else is below. Congratulations and thanks!
Check out all the instances of Printed Web 3, by Paul Soulellis [newhive.com]
Previously, related: Untitled (Andiron Attributed To Paul Revere, Jr.), 2015
May 10, 2015
We'll talk about this in the morning.
Chris Burden, Modified Moon Piece, 2010 image: manpodcast
MORNING UPDATE A WEEK LATER, BECAUSE APPARENTLY IT TAKES LONGER THAN ONE NIGHT TO PROCESS THIS
November 2011: This was sitting right there in the first episode of Modern Art Notes Podcast, waiting. And even though he wouldn't tell me who the guest was, Tyler had been goading me before the launch, that I better listen, there is a surprise. Because he knew about the satelloons.
And I did not know about Chris Burden's unrealized 1986 proposal for The Moon Piece, which is basically to launch the biggest possible spherical inflatable mylar balloon satellite into orbit.
Which was basically the same idea I'd had four years earlier. Or nineteen years later, depending on who's counting.
Or was it? Maybe it's fine? Maybe it's different? Relationship status: it's complicated. Green teed the question about Burden wanting to build something like the Eiffel Tower. And in discussing The Moon Piece Burden said it could be a giant spherical balloon or an even more "giant parabolic mirror you could control." Which, if you made it about "the size of Lake Havasu," [78 km2, btw. -ed.], you could use to "light [all of] New York from above."
So maybe it's not a satelloon at all, then. And he's talking about something permanent, and big enough to light cities from space. This sounds like the Russian thing. Except it can't be, at least not originally. Green cited a 1988 interview with Paul Schimmel as the source for this proposal. And solar mirrors didn't really show up until the 90s. Russia ran a proof-of-concept solar mirror program called Znamya from 1992-99 which, it was hoped, would boost solar power production and bring light to darkest Siberia. But it only had one success: a 20-meter-diameter mirror launched in 1992 which produced a 5km-wide beam as bright as the full moon. Later, scientists at Livermore Lab proposed massive solar mirrors as one extreme technological approach to geo-engineering humanity's way out of the climate change crisis. So this solar mirror aspect is different, maybe an adaptation, an addition, and it shows the artist was keeping tabs on things. But Burden's original The Moon Piece idea is/was a satelloon.
It turns out Burden first pitched The Moon Piece in a letter to Edward Fry, who was co-curating Documenta 8 (1987) The letter was [first?] published in the appendix of the amazing 2005 monograph, Chris Burden. [Which I bought in 2008, but didn't read all the way, even after getting more into his work in 2009.]:
[The satellite's] "only function and purpose would be to reflect light back to earth. This special satellite would function much in the same manner that our present moon reflects sunlight. I foresee that this huge satellite could be manufactured out of fairly inexpensive, highly reflective Mylar film and be carried into outer space in a deflated state (like an uninflated balloon).On the one hand, it's nice to feel like you're on the same wavelength with someone whose work and career you admire. On the other hand, damn.
The Moon Piece will be highly visible to the naked eye and appear, in relation to the pin points of starlight, as a bright automobile headlamp moving rapidly across the night sky, one-fifth to one-tenth the size of the moon. The most sophisticated and the most primitive of cultures will be aware that something has changed in the heavens.
This is not simply a conceptual project. This project is technically feasible and to function as a work of art it must be actualized.
Obviously more research and information needs to be done on the specifics of the Mylar balloon such as size, thickness of Mylar, weight, etc., but I believe that The Moon Piece is physically and financially feasible given enough energy. If this idea, of putting into orbit a highly reflective satellite that would light up the heavens, could come to fruition I believe it would well be worth the effort.
But some things stood out. Like Burden "foreseeing" the possibility of the satellite's existence, and not knowing any of "the specifics." Is it possible that Burden really did not know that these exact objects had already been created and deployed in the 1960s, when he was a teenager? I can't believe it. Was it not important to his concept, or his pitch, to reference their historical sources, or their current non-art uses? Apparently.
And he adapted The Moon Piece, which began with the assumption that after 20 years, an inflatable satellite could be bigger, and after 30 years it could be bigger still. Or it could use future-state-of-the-art technology and be a mirror as big as a lake. Burden's constants were big, reflective, and in space. But other than that, the 2010-11 version didn't sound any further along than 1986's.
A few months later (in 2012) I was working on making and showing a satelloon at apexart in New York, and I uncovered aspects of satelloons and their history that mattered. The concept had originated with none other than Wernher von Braun, who proposed, not a new moon, but a new, "American Star" which would awe the lesser nations into supporting the US in the Korean War. Von Braun wrote that in a widely published Time | Life book on space travel. Burden's language about "primitive cultures" knowing "something has changed in the heavens is straight from von Braun's pitch. The NASA engineer who had claimed the most credit for Project Echo came up with the idea at von Braun's V-2 rocket conference. It was OK'd after Sputnik because US military leaders wanted a visible satellite would normalize people to the presence of spy satellites and surveillance.
This is context I only pieced together after five years of researching. Burden missed or omitted not just this, but the very existence of Project Echo, when he proposed Moon Piece for Documenta1. Would it have turned up in Kassel? How would that've gone over? I can't even imagine.
Except that I did, and I still do. My apexart experience has made me very wary of satelloons, which are seductive, but also politically problematic. Their beauty and surface make them impossible to ignore, which makes it worse. I've also found that where I once felt daunted and insecure about having the same idea as a major artist I admired, I am OK with it. Partly because I realized my project is better.
And that, plus a $25,000 Marquis Jet card, can get you to Basel. Burden nailed it the first time: this is not a conceptual project, destined merely for Hans Ulrich's files. It must be actualized. And so it's especially unfortunate that Burden, whose genius was superlative physicality, can't see The Moon Piece in the sky himself.
After hearing about The Moon Piece, Green's follow-up question was whether Burden would be OK with people "mining his files" to produce his unrealized projects "after you're no longer with us." It's a conversation that obviously sounds very different now than it did in 2011, which is just one reason it's taken me more than a week to write this blog post. "if somebody wanted to do that after I'm not around, that'd be fantastic," Burden said. "I think that's why people become artists, you know. To have a life beyond them. I mean, it's a way to become immortal."
The Project Echo satellites stayed in orbit for five and eight years before gravity pulled them into the earth's atmosphere. It's not quite immortality, but it's a start.
Related, devastatingly: Chris Burden dies at 69 [latimes]
2007: If I were a sculptor, but then again
2013: Exhibition Space [apexart.org]
Listen to the entire discussion between Chris Burden and Tyler Green on Episode 1 of MANPodcast [manpodcast]
Or listen to the 3:00 MANPodcast excerpt where Burden & Green talk about The Moon Piece [dropbox, 4.6Mb mp3]
 What did Burden end up showing in Documenta 8, anyway? I have found him listed in the participating artists on Documenta's own site, as showing "audio". Of Burden's four pre-1987 audio works, only The Atomic Alphabet and Send Me Your Money, both 1979, seem likely. For his part, the artist's official CV only mentions Documenta 6, in 1977. Fry was the American co-curator on both.
May 7, 2015
When I asked a recent buyer of some eBay Test Listings prints how he'd found them, he explained he had been searching for some items to boost his feedback ratings. I marveled how, within their own context, these dollar photos functioned just like more expensive transferring social capital to their collectors.
[It also made me wonder about monetizing this mediated reputational currency; maybe each cash-flow-negative transaction should be viewed through a customer acquisition cost lens, and the whole project reconceptualized as a startup. Old habits die hard.]
This unanticipated parallel to IRL art practice was fresh in my mind when I read Mike Pepi's review of the situation of Surround Audience, the New Museum's current triennial exhibition. Pepi argues that the solipsistic, theory- and commodity-driven artmaking context, and the exhibition form itself, are as poorly suited to presenting ideas and discourse as the single-voiced descriptive magazine review is at interpreting them.
Something like the Triennial deserves to be interpreted using methods that at first might contradict the delivery vessel of the exhibition.Then I read David Salle talking to Michael H. Miller about the current art world's numbers games:
What future are we creating when we double down on the hollow notion of singular judgment spreading forth, unidirectional and divorced from the connections now forged by a pervasive exchange of information? Our critical tools are just as responsible for art's caboosed condition.
And now we're in a situation of measuring the success of something by the audience size. Which is for me, personally, the beginning of the end, because that was always the thing that set art apart from other areas of culture, there was no equation between quality and audience size.And quantification and the interpretive value of data and its manipulation, and, as I think about the takeaways from these eBay Test Listings--and the point, frankly--it suddenly occurs to me that I've overlooked one crucial aspect of the project: the feedback. Which constitutes a very medium-specific form of review for the images, the objects, the project, the experience.
So I've collected it here:
April 27, 2015
This post is for the archivists out there, and is inspired by putting away sweaters and Paul Soulellis's Rhizome post about zip files.
In September 2010 I wrote about what I called the Gala-as-Art Movement.
installation image of Untitled (#rank Gift Bag) via hyperallergic
In December I presented an expanded history of Relational Aesthetics For The Rich at #rank, Jen Dalton and William Powhida's Art Basel Miami Beach follow-up to #class. Both #rank and #class were done for Ed Winkleman Gallery. #rank was actually part of Seven, the independent satellite exhibition. I later put a poorly edited audio/slideshow version of the Gala As Art on Vimeo. I expect I will edit the transcript and images into book form as well.
I decided at the last minute to create an edition for the #rank event, and that the most appropriate form was a gift bag. I was reminded of how, staying true to its gift bag nature, I had not explained the edition, and had not identified it as an edition per se, even though, if you looked, there were clues. Up until now, this Hyperallergic photo of Veken and Jesse Lambert was the only public documentation of this edition.
Then I was putting some sweaters away this weekend, and I found a bag of leftover parts from editions that had gone uncollected after the event. I will now describe the edition, its elements, and its development.
The impetus for an edition was the gold-leaf chocolate lips dessert edition created by Kreemart for Marina Abramovic's The Artist Is Present after-gala. I put edible silver leaf on red wax lips, and repackaged them. I also bought edible gold leaf, which, having never bought it before, I found unexpectedly expensive. I tested with the silver and found it satisfying, but I did not return the gold.
The lips alone were insufficient, however, and thus the gift bag idea was reached. The color theme came from the silvered lips, which, as the colors of a Diet Coke can, also evoked the autobiographical. I wanted to add a tchotchke, like a LIVESTRONG bracelet, but the lead time was killing me.
I decided to publish the supporting media for the project the way Doug Aitken had made an artist book for his MOCA Happening. I thought of burning a bunch of DVDs, but I didn't want to get all designy. I thought of a customized USB stick, but again, I had too little lead time. These two objects merged into one, though, when I found a silicone bracelet with USB memory embedded. I signed and numbered the band, and named each drive with its edition number. I remember after the event, hearing people not realizing it was a USB stick, and thinking oh well, no one gets it, and no one will ever see it.
In the few minutes between finding these USB bracelets and opening one again, I imagined publishing the whole thing as an e-book, or a PDF. I'd remembered more texts and fewer videos. Which is why Soulellis's zip file art publishing stuck in my mind. But that's the beauty of zip-based publishing: it can take anything. And so they're here, as Gala-as-Art_Gift_Bag.zip. The contents are as seen in the screenshot above.
The bag also contained a card, in the format of a gala invitation, in which all the artists mentioned were listed as benefit committee members. I have not found the leftover stack of these cards, which were hastily and unsatisfyingly produced on the ground at some Kinko's in Miami Beach. But when I do, I will document it here.
The bags are similarly suboptimal, looking nothing like their pictures in the Oriental Trading Co. catalog. The silver mylar, however, is just right, and should be properly considered by future historians of the exhibition history of satelloons.
Untitled (#rank Gift Bag) is the second time I've introduced an artwork in the context of a presentation. Instead of site-specific, they're situation-specific. In each case, I took Cary Leibowitz's practice to heart, and signed something "so you won't throw it away." And yet even considering fluxus and James Lee Byars and the stuff I've got socked away in storage, I expect that few if any examples of either piece have survived in the wild. I also expect that it doesn't matter.
So while this doesn't reconstitute the works, and I'm not inclined to do anything with the leftovers, when it comes to ever discussing the works and their experience, I have changed my position on whether you really had to be there.
Previously: An Incomplete History of The Gala-as-Art Movement [greg.org]
The Gala As Art As Slideshow [ibid.]
The Gala As Art, greg.org, at #rank 2010 [vimeo]
Why Ed Winkleman did #rank at the Seven Miami Art Fair [hyperallergic]
April 16, 2015
UPDATE: OK, I decided the images are the priority, and getting them out there, so they're all relisted and ready to go, including exciting groups of ducks, frogs, fruit, monochromes, and office cube minimalism.
Looks like I picked the wrong week to get high-handed about arbitrary-seeming market-related rule-driven art practices. After almost six weeks and nearly 100 prints shipped, eBay suddenly dropped the hammer on my Test Listings series. 35 listings were canceled without warning tonight, and I spent an hour bouncing around eBay's call center to find someone who could explain what happened, and how to fix it.
Apparently the main problem boils down to having actual items to sell in the test listings category, which is for testing only. But the content from test listings (image and title and description texts) apparently triggers an automatic rejection if you try to list in a mainstream category like art > photographs. Calling something a "test," or using the word "test" in your title is enough to keep a listing off the site. But that's eBay's tautological problem. They also actually ban listings "where the value is placed on an intangible factor," like, no joke, "someone's 'soul'".
I had a couple of confounding discussions with CSRs about appropriation, context, and an awareness of the process of selling. I was asked how I could possibly claim I was actually selling an object, and that I wanted someone to buy it, when my descriptions clearly said "NO ITEM" and "DO NOT BID OR BUY." And how could I think it's not confusing that I put, "Actually, there is an item, and you can buy it." right underneath it?
And who would even try to sell an image that had DO NOT BID OR BUY printed right across the middle of it?
"Is this your image?"
"It is now."
"Then you can change it so it doesn't say that, right?"
"Does eBay have any other instructions for how I should change these artworks?"
Was a real conversation I had with one Resolution Manager, after he'd already told me to change the title of the works, too.
It was a challenge to explain the project in this situation, to someone who had no interest or expertise in the art context, and whose job was to maintain the integrity of eBay's transactional experience. Even though I had been instructed by an eBay CSR to list my items in the testing category, I was clearly selling, not testing. And the way I was selling would disrupt the expectations of someone shopping in a normal part of the site. Which, of course, was my entire point. Which he accepted and rejected at the same time.
Maybe I'm the one who needs to pay attention to the context. eBay is full of art ridiculousness, more or less interesting, and apparently, I'm just wanting to add one more.
Matt Latourette reminded me of the 2014 4chan stunt listings to sell posts, then screenshots of posts, then making-of screenshots of posts, &c. which culminated/dissipated into Hyperallergic selling a blog post about the whole thing.
And @yunginstitution linked to this kind of thing, where an Italian creator of unabashed fakes hopes that kerning and an amazing incantation of a copyright disclaimer will keep the reaperbots at bay:
The work is not supplied with certificate of authenticity and warranties (as has never been evaluated, estimating expertise) and then, having regard to the recognition and similarity to the style of the author, is proposed as a copy of copyright, false copyright, in the manner of the author, under Article 8 of the law of 20 November 1971, n.1062 (Official Gazette No 318 of December 17) (according to law "dl 41 22/01/2004 art 179)"a copy of copyright, false copyright, in the manner of, full of grace..."
I guess my interest is primarily not in becoming an eBay crank, nor in reverse engineering the site's unwritten policies and assumptions about selling. But I am still fascinated by the images and language of not-selling, and the aesthetic decisions being made in these unimaginably rare situations where marketing, promotion, strategy and enticement aren't just absent, but avoided. And the implications of this for art are still worth considering even after Armory Week.
I'll revise this tomorrow, but, in the mean time, I have published a list of all the items eBay terminated, with their titles and (now defunct) item numbers. This will serve as a Googleable registry/reference for these works as I try to figure out whether and how to relist them. And then I'll think about what to do with the prints for the two dozen new test listings arriving this weekend.
UPDATE You know what, enough nonsense, the images are what interest me, so I'm stripping out all the text and title stuff and just relisting all available prints. They'll all be properly titled when they're shipped out, according to the registry below. Bid and buy with confidence.