David Horvitz’s “For One Minute”
One of my favourite projects to show the students I teach is David Horvitz’s 58 Cents. Started long before the Montreal Student Protests of this year, Horvitz created an interactive artwork where anyone can help pay down his $58,000 student loan from the Sallie Mae Corporation in tiny, 58¢ increments. The idea is pretty brilliant: Sallie Mae says they will accept payments of student loans from anyone, in any denomination, so Horvitz is putting this logic to the test, trying to overwhelm the company by having to process hundreds of thousands of tiny payments to point out the absurd nature of corporatist student debt in North America.
My students always love it, in part because I think they can identify with the frustrations and bureaucratic acrobatics that are involved in paying for post-secondary education, and partly because it literalizes the way that public subsidies for education work. Having strangers who are willing to contribute 58¢ (or more) for Horvitz’s education seems to cheekily undermine the threatening rhetoric around publicly funded university programs in a way I really like.
Now, Horvitz has graciously agreed to create a new version of a project for an exhibition I’m curating for Vancouver’s Access Gallery that plays on some of these themes. For For One Minute, Horvitz is offering to stop everything he’s doing and think about you for one minute in exchange for one dollar. By signing up and paying for his services online, viewers are not only guaranteed to receive his undivided attention for one minute, but will also receive an email recording the date and time that they were thought about and two images of the sky: the view Horvitz will have as he thinks about you, documenting the start and end of your minute. Throughout the exhibition, the gallery will print these emailed diptychs of the sky and hang them throughout the space, creating a kind of log of Horvitz’s minute spent thinking about strangers, and a map of the places he has been while doing this work.
I like the way For One Minute plays with the affective economies that circulate online, both through email romance scams (and Hito Steyerl has written brilliantly about this emotional/economic exchange for October) and the more banal interactions that take place on dating websites or Facebook; but it also underscores the way that artists’ attention or time is (under)valued, both by structures like the CARFAC artist fee guidelines, and by the increasing numbers of unpaid arts internships and apprenticeship programs across North America.
To sign up for your minute, visit Horvitz’s website, or swing past the gallery once the show opens on June 22.