I’m interested in the juxtaposition of the blithe visual ataxia that exists in the current exponential aggrandizement of images and the purported sagacity of curators and gallerists. Why show a photograph in a gallery? With 40 Million photographs uploaded to Instagram every day, is the gallery an antiquated keepsake of an erstwhile era?
All of the pieces of this new project came together with very little effort on my part. I, like many of us, “photographers” or not, take pictures with my phone and share them on Instagram. My friend was curating a show about summer for the new Nave Gallery Annex in Somerville (held in the dead of winter) and asked if I would show some of my Instagram photos. This was literally on the first day of the residency. My first thought was, sure, this is an easy enough project that will look great on my somewhat anemic CV; with the residency happening I didn’t want to take on a time-consuming project, but over the course of the following 10 days the project emerged, largely as a result of the gifts seminar that I took with Cesare Pietroiusti. This was not going to be the same-old thing. The curators were on board and worked with me.
The project hits on many of issues I have with “art” and photography., specifically: the seeming arbitrariness of pricing, the art object (something I always thought was missing from digital photography), the clutter of visual information [a great piece by Penelope Umbrico that was recently brought to my attention that really nails this visual literacy issue is called Suns (From Sunsets) from Flickr], and the oh-so-important making pretty pictures.
The statement is below, but basically, I’m making 1/1 prints from my Instagram photos. Unedited, the images are 612 px x 612 px, which prints out at 2.55”x2.55” at 240ppi. This print is the only one I will ever make and sign. Next to the images is a link and QR code to download these images (the exact image that I printed from) and the option to download, for free, and a “license” to use the images any way. Each download page has a counter that tracks the number of times the image has been downloaded, and the price changes with each download. The idea was to try to get gallery viewers to interact with the art and present some tension with the act of downloading. Judging by my observations at the gallery opening, and the number of downloads so far, there haven’t been many downloads, so it’s not reading as well as it could. I think people are just conditioned to behave in a certain way in galleries and are scared to break with the norm. I submitted the work to ADGSA and specified the exhibition requirements to include a statement and labels to my specs. Maybe it will help… We shall see.
Many thanks to Tom Gearty and Jenn Harrington for these words:
In an age of easy and endless reproduction, can a photograph be scarce? Is
an image unique if it is also ubiquitous? And how do you set a price on
Artists and galleries often sell work in limited editions in order to
charge a higher price. It is not uncommon to increase the price as more
prints are sold from the edition and the work becomes less available.
This project plays with this concept in two dimensions. I invite the gallery viewer to download an image via a link below the print. They may use them as
they wish, without restriction. The files are available to anyone,
anywhere, without charge. In this sense, they could not be less precious.
But I'm only going to print and sign one copy. Ever. In this form, each
work could not be more unique.
Instead of setting price according to scarcity, however, the gallery and I
will assign the value according to how widespread it is. Or, rather, THE VIEWER
will determine its value. The price will change every time an image is
downloaded. And since any attempt to value art is inherently arbitrary, no
print will follow the same rules.
As soon as a print is sold, the unique will end my engagement with the
universal: I will close my offer of unlimited access by removing it from
If you’d like to participate in this art project, here are the links to the digital versions of these images, with prices and further statement: