Tuesday, July 8, 2008

For sale

I'll return to the backlog of 'diary entries' shortly, in the hopes of being caught up by the time I return to Dufftown next week. But I couldn't resist a news story that broke this week:

A Minneapolis college student was charged with a felony on Friday for offering his vote in November's presidential election to the highest bidder. The Ebay auction started at $10 and had thus far attracted no bids. Max Sanders was charged with one count of bribery, treating and soliciting under an 1893 state law that makes it a crime to offer to buy or sell a vote. The scarcely used law had its heyday in the 1920s, when many people sold their votes in exchange for liquor, said Assistant County Attorney Pat Diamond. Perhaps they are worried that the impending recession will cause others to discover this potentially lucrative revenue stream.

Most interestingly, Diamond states that "there are two things going on here in terms of why it's a crime - one is the notion that elections should be a contest of ideas and not of pocketbooks and that everybody gets one vote, and you don't get to buy another one." Both of these ideas seem positively quaint in an era where the influence of lobbyists is enormous and the ability to fundraise is critical (Obama's ability to out-fundraise Clinton was key to his successful bid for the Democratic nomination).

Sanders faces up to five years' imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

I take the student at face value when he claims it to be a joke, but it's too bad, because it could've been effective form of protest and provocation. Unusual Ebay auctions still garner major news attention - as recent as last week Canadian fiddler got international coverage for auctioning off half of his future earnings, for current a payoff of one and a half million. The item is closed and no word on if he (like Bowie before him) found any takers.

A few years ago I was editing a book that was to be published by Art Metropole for their "...by Artists" series (Books by Artists, Video by Artists, Museums by Artists, Sound by Artists, etc.). Titled Retail by Artists, the volume explored the artists use of commerce as a medium. One of the projects was to be included was a recounting by artist Keith Obadike of the time he auctioned off his blackness in 2001. Since this time I've been collecting instances of conceptual uses of Ebay, which are not uncommon, either as artwork, protest or joke (or all three), for example:

Disgruntled citizen Gerrit Six (a schoolteacher and onetime journalist) listed his country: "For sale: Belgium, a kingdom in three parts ... free premium: the king and his court (costs not included)." He also noted that the country was second hand and came with $300 billion in national debt.

John D Freyer sold all of his belongings over Ebay, then traveled the world to visit them in their new homes, then documented it all in his book All My Life For Sale (www.allmylifeforsale.

Wind and rain from Hurricane Katrina was bottled and offered for sale from a number of residents hit by the storm.

Montrealer Kyle MacDonald traded a red paperclip for a house in Kipling, Saskatchewan. Trade-ups initially included a doorknob, a truck, an afternoon with Alice Cooper, and a bit part in a film. (http://oneredpaperclip.blogspot.com)

No comments: