Last Monday, nothing was happening when I wrote about Caleb Larsen's sculpture A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter (here; I first wrote about it in November 2008, when he was still working on it). It was just sitting idly on eBay, attempting to sell itself at its original price of $2,500.
There were no bidders. There hadn't been any since it first went on sale January 7, the day of the opening of Larsen's solo show at Lawrimore Project, where the sculpture is having its debut.
Here's how it works: A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter is a black box with electronics inside it that connect it to the web (via wired ethernet). Every seven days, the piece puts itself up for auction on eBay. (If you're the owner when it sells, you get the value of the increase minus 15 percent to the artist, sort of like a royalty, and any eBay fees.) Even if you buy it, it still puts itself up for sale—and it might be bought, or it might not. You could be its rightful owner for years, if nobody wants it, or just until you're outbid. It is, as Felix Salmon of Reuters puts it, a work of art "so commercial that it can’t be collected." (The Economist, meanwhile, is calling it "cooler than a diamond-encrusted skull." It's also been on Slashdot, where it engendered a debate about whether nerds get art, Wired.co.uk, and Another Bouncing Ball.)
Due in part to all that publicity, the third week of bidding has seen 12 bids and the price is up to $4,250. The auction ends Thursday.
One funny detail to add: Last week, the week when all this happened, was the only week so far during the run of the exhibition when the actual physical gallery was not open for people to come and see the work. Lawrimore Project was closed because its owner went on vacation (and this is the first time I can actually remember the gallery ever being closed for an entire week).
Given the nature of the work, that seems exactly right.
LP opens again tomorrow, and Larsen's show, which also includes a dollar-bill-taker that gives you nothing in return (it's a funny feeling), closes February 13.