Craft & Design
Caleb Larsen’s A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter

 Files Gimgs 9 Fall200820
 Files Gimgs 9 Fall200823
Perpetual online auction, internet connection, custom programming and hardware, acrylic cube…

Combining Robert Morris’ Box With the Sound of Its Own Making with Baudrillard’s writing on the art auction this sculpture exists in eternal transactional flux. It is a physical sculpture that is perptually attempting to auction itself on eBay.

Every ten minutes the black box pings a server on the internet via the ethernet connection to check if it is for sale on the eBay. If its auction has ended or it has sold, it automatically creates a new auction of itself.

If a person buys it on eBay, the current owner is required to send it to the new owner. The new owner must then plug it into ethernet, and the cycle repeats itself.

24 thoughts on “Caleb Larsen’s A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter


  1. # In the event of a sale the Collector agrees to pay a sum equal to fifteen percent (15%) of the Appreciated Value (as hereinafter defined), if any, occasioned by such transfer or distribution or payment of insurance proceeds to the Artist (or Artist’s agent for the purpose) within thirty days of the sale.

  2. With the mind of an engineer and the heart of a poet, Larsen’s work is an amalgamation of exacting science, earnest sensitivity and incisive wit.

  3. When I first saw it this morning, my gut reaction was “Why is this in here???” I resolved to think on it until lunch, and do research.

    I saw that a copy of the software would be supplied to the owner of the ‘art’. Ah ha! maybe that was the MAKE angle- after all, if you cant open it, its not yours, right? It might be open for hacking. So I asked the Artist. The reply was a big NO!

    “As an art collector it would be considered irresponsible
    to discombobulate the work of art and it would be the
    responsibility of the collector to maintain it in its condition. However, if you want to know more about how it works I am happy to answer any questions you have and point to all of the resources that I used in making it. It is really no secret, while I have not made the source open, I am more than happy to discuss how it works and so forth. What would you like to know?” (Direct quote from the Artist)

    Finding a “loophole” in the legal contract, another question was “Presumably, since there is nothing to say otherwise, the Agreement will be held fulfilled if it is connected to a working intenet connection, but not supplied with power?” “A: Since the work exists in two parts, the physical object and the perpetual auction any event that would create a scenario where one half was lost, would cause the work to be destroyed. And thus, as an artwork it would no longer exist and it would default to the discretion of the artist to either re execute a new work or deem it forever gone.”

    Well, at least the artist is willing to share how it is done. With a few questions and a little research, this could have been a neat MAKE post. As it stands, it is a minimally descriptive advert for a piece of art. Quite shy of the quality content I am used to from you, PT. If you would, please explain. I have done all the research I can to try to understand its relavance to MAKE.

    BTW- I have been careful not to even approach the “is it art?” question. Looking at the artist/seller ‘s history, this is the first time it has been put up for sale.(Or should I say “The first time it has put itself up for sale”?) Bidding started at $2500, and is at $4250. Obviously a desired piece. Bravo Mr Larsen!

  4. @Volkemon – i thought it was a interesting art project, and that’s what i like to cover from time to time.

    like many of the “here’s what i am reading about” posts it was a short-and-sweet “check this out” my goal with those is to inspire readers to check out the artist, learn more, perhaps even contact a maker or artist – meet new people, make connections.

    and you’ve done just that, thanks :)

  5. @PT- Job well done, then. Got me to think and explore new things.

    From the Artist:

    “Hi, I saw that it made it on to MAKE. I was surprised and
    delighted by that. The piece was written about on Wired.co.uk, they may have found it there. MAKE is fantastic! I’ve learned a lot from them. Thanks for the tip. I will check out the comments and chime in where necessary.

    – cmlarsen”

  6. Hi MAKE thanks for shout out!

    Some people have been asking me how it works (thanks @Volkmon for encouraging me to post the guts). I don’t have a how to or anything, but I am happy to answer questions about the technical side of it. The reason I don’t talk about it on my website, in the auction, or in any of the press is that in my experience talking about to many technical details with those that either have no interest in the technical working or are confused by them, it can misdirect the focus of the work. First and foremost, it is a work of art and i wanted to make sure it was read as such, not just as a fun project (it was a very fun project BTW :)

    Inside the box is BBB Arduino from the kit by Paul Badger (one of my faculty from RISD) of Modern Device (http://www.moderndevice.com/). The Arduino is coupled with a ethernet adapter module from Lady Ada (http://www.ladyada.net/make/eshield/). The coding on the Arduino is pretty simple. Every ten minutes it hits a PHP script running on a server.

    When the PHP script is run, it checks to see if there is an active auction using the eBay Trading API. If there is no auction, then it creates a new one. If there is an auction, then it does nothing and checks again in 10 minutes. There is a simple config file that holds the auth keys and base price, etc.

    When the object sells, it will physically transfer to the new owner and the new owner will link his/her ebay account with it (if they don’t have one, then they will have to create one).

    I deliberately used the ethernet instead of wifi because I wanted there to be a visual and physical connection to the internet. In a gallery context, there is very little explaining what is going on. Just a black box on a pedestal. But the visible connection is intended to subtly urge the viewer to find out more – like what is going on. Then, through either talking with the gallery, reading the wall text if there is any, or other research, they find out what is happening, and the thing thing unfolds.

    I am totally happy to answer any more questions. Please let me know!

    1. I had been wondering what kind of computer was in there, but you answered that nicely.

      I’m also curious what led the decision to make the actual eBay interface external to the piece?

      1. I moved the heavy lifting the server so that as the eBay API changes it would be easy to update it easily without having access to the physical box.

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