I’m not always fond of conceptual art–the self-reference is, for me, often tiresome, and after the first chuckle upon discovery, most pieces quickly succumb to a system of diminishing returns. But artist Caleb Larsen’s “A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter” gets pretty much everything right (except maybe the name).

“A Tool” is an object which continually tries to sell itself on ebay. In one simple, elegant movement, then, it challenges notions of ownership, possession, value, trade, self-interest and, of course, capitalism. By purchasing it, one agrees to abide by the rules established not only by the author, but by ebay. Meaning you can’t bid again on it once it’s in your possession. In other words, you can’t keep it. But you can turn a profit. And because the artist gets 15% of each transaction, so can he. The temporary custodian of the piece has an interest, therefor, in bringing the work to people’s attention, and quickly. It is a brilliant, and quite active, statement about art-as-commodity.

It’s one of those rare pieces of art that makes you suspect the artist is laughing at your expense, but is so excellent in its execution that you happily submit to the (s)laughter.

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SHYA SCANLON is the Fiction Reviews Editor for The Nervous Breakdown. Scanlon's work has appeared in the Mississippi Review, Literary Review, New York Quarterly, Guernica Magazine, Opium Magazine, and others. His book of prose poetry, In This Alone Impulse, was published by Noemi Press in January, 2010. In 2009, his novel Forecast was serialized online across 42 journals and literary blogs as part of the Forecast 42 Project. Forecast will be published by Flatmancrooked in December, 2010. He received his MFA from Brown University, where he was awarded the John Hawkes Prize in Fiction. Please visit him at www.shyascanlon.com.

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