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Monday, September 13, 2004

AC Dickson: eBay Powerseller 

Andrew Dickson
AC Dickson: eBay Powerseller
Saturday, September 11, 2004

Postmodernism prompted artists to lay bare the structure of the art institutions and social structures they were enmeshed in, often through parody and mimicry. What postmodern art often does not achieve is actual subversion of these systems, instead, displacing the rules of these systems into the art world in order to launch an intellectual attack on them. During his eBay Powerseller performance, Andrew Dickson skirted this type of postmodern displacement. Assuming the guise of AC Dickson, eBay Powerseller, Dickson deftly delivered a humorous and engaging motivational speech explaining his journey from slacker socialist artist to earnest capitalist via the democratizing economic force, eBay. Part stand-up comedy, part motivational speech, eBay Powerseller recalled Dickson’s previous TBA incarnation as Bradlee Simmons, a San Francisco transplant trying to fight xenophobia in Portland. The glaring difference between Simmons and AC Dickson is that Andrew Dickson, the person & artist, is truly engaged as an eBay Powerseller.

Dickson’s hour-long performance captured key aspects of corporate motivational workshops, from the dazzling promises of the introductory video to the optimistic ennui that permeated the last 15 minutes of the presentation. Dickson outlined the key steps to success as an eBay Powerseller in a polished Power Point presentation, punctuated by personal testimony and interactive audience surveys. Though the entire performance was carried out with a wink, and many members of the audience maintained a knowing smirk and ready laughter, the unsettling realization that Andrew Dickson, artist, and acdickson, Powerseller, were really, truly the same being disturbed the normal relationship of the satirist with his subject.

I was expecting one of two things to occur: one--I would discern at some point that this was an elaborate hoax meant to explore the absurdity of the idea of an artist giving up his socialist/communist badge to embrace the entrepreneurial dream and join the ranks of capitalists; two–I would find some sign that Dickson had somehow infiltrated this other market in order to stage a critique of the art market, or perhaps even to bring the rules of the art world into the world of eBay. A quick trip to the eBay website confirmed that this was probably not an elaborate hoax (you can check for yourself by going to www.andrewdickson.com and following the links to acdickson’s eBay listings). And, if I am to believe the eBay “About Me” blurb and information on the artists website, then it is clear that Dickson is not infiltrating the market in order to use it to critique art, or to reclaim the process of selling art by using eBay as an artistic act, but rather as a real source of income. This is where the performance came to an irreconcilable dilemma–it was a parody of ultra-commercialized marketing techniques and eBay Powersellers that was presented by one engaged in the process. It was ultimately unclear whether this disruption was intentional, as a way to renounce postmodern cynicism and detachment, or if the disruption was simply an unintentional side effect of the intersection between Dickson’s art and life.

–Katherine Bovee

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