The eBay Show uses artwork purchased on the internet to reveal the internet itself as a work of art. No other technology has comparable power to change the way we live or is so widely used as the internet, which is very young. The e-bay show introduces new possibilities for the dissemination of art and thus captures the infinite number of developments and effects that the internet might bring. For technology always signals a portent of the future. It invades our psyche like an effective art.
Like art, technology expands our view of our place in the world. It has the power to put us atop the ever-cresting wave of all previous human thought. It comes into being and works its effects independently of any attempt to stop, to adopt, or to embrace it. In this, technology is no less sublime than our greatest works of art; its mysteries work outside, above, and beyond what any singular human mind might produce, comprehend, imagine, or even sense. If we accept this, then the way in which we ride this wave-whether we masterfully “surf” it or collapse beneath its weight will surely affect the tone of our life experience. Thus it is all the more important to discover the very real humanity that exists in cyberspace. For, as members of a cyber-community like e-bay, we are not separated from but are brought closer to each other.
Many animals and bugs, seemingly without consciousness, modify their environment to facilitate their continued existence. Why shouldn’t we see ourselves as functioning in this same way? In as far as we are animals we must admit that some aspects of our behaviors are as unselfconscious as those of nature’s creatures, even the ant. Nature, whatever it is, sets a precedent for art by revealing how beauty, and the “truths” it unveils, are never “self” conscious. Following this, the very idea of “self” can be considered an obstacle in the way of producing a potent art.
One of the pleasures of representing ourselves electronically on the web is that we aren’t chained to the singular, physical “self.” There is an appeal to this anonymity and/or ability to shift identities. In our current world, where each caller is identified, even the most menial job requires an extensive background check, and anyone’s position can be tracked through a global satellite system, it comes as a relief to temporarily escape a fixed identity.
Indeed, technology now offers a clear sense of how we can change even our material composition of flesh and bones. Though captivated by the beauty of the flesh, humans—since Plato right up through the advent of Christianity and beyond—have nonetheless tried to escape it. The flesh ages, rots, and is malformed and easily damaged. In conjunction with the growth of the internet, we now witness a plasticization of bodies (porcelain teeth, silicone, plastic hips, collagen lips, botox, bionics, etc.) like never before; of humans longing for a prosthetic immortality that their flesh denies them. In doing so we have begun to treat ourselves as we would a machine. And in the end we may indeed be more like machines than we would have ever foreseen. Shedding our “natural” bodies might be one step on the way towards fulfilling new needs, and discovering new uses for new materials and forms.
Our unconscious involvement in the creation and development of the surrounding world is undeniable. It is this involvement, as Henry Miller suggests, that is the art of the living. Living is an act of creation. As artists, we do not live when we merely channel our “self” into material objects. We must, says Miller, become a piece of art that reflects the world:
“The work of art is nothing. It is only the tangible, visible evidence of a way of life, which, if it is not crazy is certainly different from the accepted way of life. The difference lies in the act, in the assertion of a will. For the artist to attach himself to his work, or identify himself with it, is suicidal. An artist should be not only able to spit upon his predecessor’s art, or on all works of art, but on his own too. He should be able to be an artist all the time, and finally not be an artist at all, but a piece of art.”
The function and structure of this new type of on-line community involves artists who—in the context of this show—can be viewed as a kind of living artwork in and of themselves. We believe the meanings inherent in the act that is the e-bay exchange are more pertinent than any of the actual art works procured. On e-bay, artists can enjoy a heightened sense of anonymity while at the same time distributing their individual work to the world. E-bay fosters this freer environment by subverting the importance of the “individual” artist, and we reflect this by selling the whole show as one work—as a symbol of one kind of healthy action, of a shared creative and connective idea.