All I Possess

Look at it go!

Look at it go!

I saw “All I possess“ linked on an Internet Art thread on Reddit.

It’s a straightforward idea - the artist (Simon Freund) is documenting everything they own on a web site.

At first the artist appears to live an incredibly minimalist life. But then you scroll. And things keep loading. There’s always more stuff. Each item is photographed against an off-white ground as if it were a high-end product in a boutique retailer’s shop in NW Portland, OR. The project is “supported” by Shopify - which lends heavily to the shopping aesthetic.

Freund has good taste in things - and I found myself tempted to click an item and shop for it, even though it’s already owned. I also found myself comparing my own possessions to Freund’s. Would mine measure up? If I photographed everything would my stuff look as good?

There is a small amount of glee in scrolling past something which I also own. Oh hey me too I own the same thing an artist owns.

I don’t have a grand unified field theory of art or anything, but once you get past the particular media or execution I think art comes in two categories.

  • Art that makes you think
  • Art that makes you feel

This art work, being the work of a conceptual artist, definitely succeeds at the former. But it also, perhaps accidentally, succeeds at the latter. In reviewing all of the items on this site, I become conscious of everything I own. I think about my own failed attempts at minimalism. I think about all those books that I know I will never open again, but I feel guilt for recycling.

If you scroll far enough, you will find that the artist possess old his own artwork. And well, of course he does. No artist sells everything, and no artist can part with everything.

Precedent

When I saw this work I was immediately reminded of Sol Le Witt:

“LeWitt’s practice of photographing the contents of his Hester Street loft eventually led to the 1980 publication Autobiography, a composite self-portrait comprising hundreds of snapshots organized in a grid. His possessions are documented with a leveling, deadpan aesthetic: artworks by his close friends are given the same banal treatment as bathroom fixtures or potted plants. This indexical presentation belies the intimacy of the project, in which readers are invited to become voyeurs, peering into cabinets or scrutinizing personal notes on a bulletin board, admitting a certain fascination with the historical and personal circumstances of the artist’s life and work. Autobiography is read with different levels of specificity or abstraction relative to the reader’s knowledge of the subject—the items she recognizes, the extent to which the significance of a bottle of liquor or book on the bookshelf is registered. It exemplifies the project of LeWitt’s conceptual art: indexical clarity that recognizes, even elicits, the subjective and historical nature of perception and experience.”

Excerpt From: Kirsten Swenson. “Irrational Judgments.” iBooks. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/irrational-judgments/id1054383969?mt=11

Sol Le Witt’s Autobiography is different in tone - it’s somehow more intimate in recording family photos and more focused on minutiae like keyholes. It’s not so laser focused on things. Freund’s approach to this idea, particularly the execution of the web site, frames all of their possessions as former things for sale. All of these possessions are ex-products. Le Witt seemed to be capturing evidence of his existence while Freund seems to be capturing the end of a vast funnel of supply chains, commerce, and kipple.

Michael Barrett

Tacoma, WA 98402