27 May 2011

Added Value

Saw dead frog crushed on sidewalk on way to work, took photos of it every morning for about three weeks. Ended up with a series of photos, from fresh crushed to completely disappeared, reflecting the endless cycle of change, of life, death, and decomposition leading to our ultimate nonexistence.

What I could not photograph was that frog's soul. Where is that frog's soul?

This is a classic case of what we in the industry call added value. From a dead frog, I have created a work of art potentially worth tens of hundreds of thousands, and I have created these dollars without taking from or injuring anyone. Admittedly I owe a debt to the family of the deceased frog, and I have in that event set up a trust in their name with the First Union Bank of the Pacific, located in the Marianas Trench behind the five and dime. Even should the trust remain unclaimed, I will rest a little easier knowing I have given meaning to and immortalized the existence of their relative, that this noble amphibian did not die in vain, that it was not for nothing pancaked.

But the reader is sure to ask, where does this value that I claim to have created actually reside? While no doubt one may spend many delightful hours thoughtfully dissecting the wide-ranging philosophical implications of the whole mess, speculating as to the meaning of existence (why oh why did that frog have to die? why was it ever born?) and the role of fate (why was it hopping by at precisely that instant?), the nature of art (what kind of moron takes photos of dead frogs?), and so forth, it must be admitted that in a pinch this epic photo series (which at this point, having been conceived but not actually executed, remains in point of fact a mere theoretical construct) --

The Plain People of Piscataway, New Jersey: Theoretical construct? Pipe down, we're watching the game here.
Myself: I do beg your forbearance. I avoid the big words in conversation but occasionally the pen does get carried away.
The Plain People of Piscataway, New Jersey: Sure whatever, just put a cork in it until halftime there, squirrel-boy.

-- would not be worth the proverbial paper it was printed on. Nonetheless, it may be safely ventured that, at auction, during good times, the photo series is apt to fetch significantly more than the crushed dead frog carcass. Ipso facto, added value.

But is art to be valued merely for the price it can fetch? Have not many of our finest artists been spurned in their lifetimes, barely scraping by while producing masterpieces now taught in the schools?

These and related questions will be explored exhaustively, during halftime. (Go Coogs!)

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