WRITE FIFTY WORDS
group show. Work based on Vladmir Zykov’s process experiment ‘I was told to write fifty words’ (2008) using Amazon’s ‘mechanical turk’, with permission from the artist.
Communion, SHIFT, Cardiff
For I Was Told to Write Fifty Words, Vladimir Zykov employed the services of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (an online labour pool specializing in repetitive tasks paid piecemeal) to create a work conceived of but not written by himself. On the job board, he gave the simple instructions: “Write fifty words.” Offering a payment of one cent for every fifty words received, he was able to “write” each poem for one cent; the project was finished when Zykov had collected 500 sets of words, costing him a total of $5.00. The final work is completely unedited by Zykov.
Although Zykov touches on a number of issues here, most prominent is the concern with modes of production, labour, and value: What is the value of language? Can poetry be farmed out by proxy? Is there a mode of production for poetry that follows capitalist models? Almost Warholian, Zykov imagines a textual factory. His plan is far-reaching: eventually he hopes to commission a range of full-length works written in this manner, spanning every literary genre, from sci-fi to detective novels and cookbooks.
Sadia Pineda Hameed restaged ‘I was told to write fifty words’ in an exhibition setting, offering one penny as a fee, alongside participation in the group show. The following line was given to each participant to put onto their arts portfolio / CV if they wished: Group show. write fifty words, Communion, SHIFT. Cardiff, 2019. Commissioned by LUMIN. The restaging interrogated labour in the arts, considering what condition or environment might create a more equitable exchange, when monetary exchange within institutions fail to value labour sufficiently.
Images: Adam Lewis