Badlands Unlimited, the publishing house founded by Paul Chan, is now selling on its website a series of works called “Files,” which one can download upon purchase. The first three artists who have put some pretty wild downloadable artwork up for sale are Cory Arcangel, Martine Syms, and Chan himself, and the prices range from $150 to $300.
As a press release explains:
A file is the work before the work. It is the “score” that directs the printer, video projector, or speaker to create the expression that is experienced. And as such, artist files hold considerable value and potential in contemporary culture. They are works in their own right that illuminate the minds of some of the most compelling artists working today.
There’s a lengthy terms of agreement post that describes the various ways you can and cannot display and reproduce the works once you’ve downloaded them—for instance, if you plan to “use any of the Downloads on an institutional server,” you must purchase a three-year digital license for $1,000. But despite the restrictions, these are worth checking out if you’ve got the spare scratch (and hard drive space) to buy some downloadable works.
Arcangel’s contribution, Jabber.pl (2006), takes the form of an unfinished code script that, if completed by the buyer, will create a chat room in which three avatars read dialog from the film Easy Rider. (The text acknowledges that finishing the script would be a “challenge.”) Chan’s work, Politics to Come (2005), is a font. “Chan’s typeface retains the formal qualities of its serif forebears, like Times New Roman and Cambria: each glyph bears delicate finials and fine links to bond each component,” reads the press release.
But the most intriguing work may be Syms’s Notes toward a Kanye West VMA visionary award acceptance speech (2015), a Microsoft Word document that contains “notes Syms took as a speechwriter while helping Kanye West prepare for his 2015 VMA speech.” That would be the 11-minute masterpiece of an address where he began by thanking his frenemy Taylor Swift, and ended by announcing his candidacy for President of the United States. (He then dropped the mic.)
Chan told us in an email: “Every working artist I admire makes files. But no one seems interested in collecting and preserving this aspect of art, which I know from experience is so crucial to any practice. So we at Badlands decided to make it possible for enthusiasts, collectors, and institutions of contemporary art to support artists in a new and novel way.”