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750px-Walker-Minneapolis-window-20050719
Would you pay good money for intangibles?

Intangibles? Yes, things that are not really visible. Voicemails, snapchats, ringtones and avatars? Probably not.

But some people are paying. They are part of a revolution in retailing that could just take off.

Wired reporter Liz Stinson paid $10 for what was promised as ‘a great voicemail’ in order to explain this latest idea/gimmick.

Why part with cash for what is designed to ‘ignored or deleted?’ Well, that voicemail was sold as art.

New Online Store

The voicemail in question is unique to the buyer and is available from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (pictured above). They sell the usual sort of art centre/museum stuff – books, coasters, watches, mugs and cards.

But now they also offer personalised emphera.

These are the intangibles, ‘an online collection of art objects that have no physical form, existing side by side with the very tangible items already for sale on the Walker Shop site.’

They are explained as ranging ‘from conceptual scores to digital renderings, an impossible object or a dance in the woods, a high concept film experience to a humble PDF, the Intangibles forgo materiality to instead offer experiences, ideas, and services, connecting artists and audiences in new ways.’

Intangibles are a money-making operation for the centre but also a ‘conceptual investigation into how we assign value.’

The Joy of the Ephemeral

This idea was born from the fact that much of what we do, including a visit to the Walker or similar institution is based on a fleeting experience like a short visit or a live performance.

So, using the shop’s website as a canvas, 16 artists and designers were tasked with creating intangibles, including text descriptions, images, drop down menus and pricing.

They came up with – apart from the $10 voicemail – a pdf of summarised sci-fi future scenarios, The Future Mundane, a dozen personalised ringtones, a visual avatar to use on social media and an intimate dance performance for local people ($150 for 15 minutes).

The Photo

Disappear With Me by photographer Alec Soth is an example of the new intangible market.

Like our local Tom Mackie, Soth makes his living selling prints of his work for people to hang on their walls and keep for years. With snapchats, that can’t happen. They disappear quickly.

The argument is that we pay for meals out, films, holidays which are temporary experiences. Should art intangibles be any different? Clearly not, as his works are currently sold out.

The value of a snap is subjective. So is all art.

What the intangibles project does is to turn fleeting experiences into products to be marketed as art in a new way. They are ‘a strange and unnatural amalgamation of ideas and concepts. And the truth is, it does feel weird to add a piece of conceptual art to your basket and pay for it with your credit card,’ as Stinson reported.

Because things are ‘intangibles’ in the traditional sense do they have more or less value?

Connected blogs and ideas:

Photographs of Dreams Make a Vivid New Art Form, 3 February 2015

At Last the Selfie Is Designed Into Oblivion By Clever Design Work, 25 November 2014

Look Up and Smile, You’re on Drone Camera, 28 August 2014

Which Direction Now for Movies in Terms of Technology? 29 July 2014

Good Quality Art in the Streets Would Be Better Than Tailored Adverts, 9 April 2014

Image: Peter Merholz