Thursday, May 25, 2006
The Sheep Market, by Aaron Koblin, seems like the cutest thing in the world: a collection of 10 000 sheep drawn by people from all over the world.
#1. Don't ignore it as I nearly did.
#2. This is not about lots and lots of different drawings that create one cute whole.
#3. It has more to do with economics.
#4. And dreaming.
#5. Maybe it has to do with the economics of dreaming?
Here are some hints: Each drawing was paid 2 cents. The name is Sheep Market. The short description says "10,000 sheep created by online workers". One of the 8 pieces of data we get in the long description is the "Average wage". It's $0.69/hour.Is this a political statement? Oh, let us not reduce everything to simplistic, social terms.(Although I must mention that in an interesting e-mail he sent me, the author, Aaron Koblin, mentions Marx and Engels).Notice that if you put the cursor over any given sheep, above you get an exact reproduction (animation) of how it was made. "Within the inspiration for The Sheep Market is the urge to caste a light on the human role of creativity being expressed by workers in the system, while illustrating the massive and insignificant role each plays as part of a whole.", writes Aaron.
The ambiguity of using paid workers to do an artistic job reminds me of the earlier works of Santiago Sierra (paying people to do various, sometimes humiliating, things). Only here, several factors seem new: contrary to the classical taylorist ideas, there is no specialization. And contrary to Sierra's workers, these here are plainly, positively anonymous, faceless, nameless. I've tried to find a signature. I think I found one. Also, the work itself has another dimension: where is it? How can it be used? The author decided to make stamps out of the drawings. He could have used it in any other way. The people behind it simply vanish. It might seem ridiculous, given the amount of effort they were asked for. After all, Sierra tattoos his workers, Vanessa Beecroft makes her "models" undress... while here, all they do is draw a tiny, funny little thing. Probably not for money, but mainly for fun, or just to do something, or for whatever reason. But the work of art seems to have a quality, a certain opacity about it, that allows it to showcase some hidden traits of the (social, economic) systems that we commonly ignore. And thanks to the symbolic work we always do when reading a work, we easily go the distance that separates the sheep from any other task. After all - it's the system we see, not its elements. In this case, the system happens to be a work of art. And a pretty one, too. Full of lightness, humor. Very user-friendly. Aaron Koblin quotes The Little Prince: ’If you please--draw me a sheep . . .’ Looking at the rows and rows of sheep (notice the plural is the same as the singular), I associate it more with the ones we try to count when fighting to fall asleep. Only this time - 2 cents a piece. Or, if you're on the consumer end, $20 for a block of 20 certified stamps.
Oh, and actually, forget #2. I changed my mind. It is also about lots and lots of different drawings that create one cute whole.