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Soul satisfying


Russian emigre artist Vitaly Komar (of Komar and Melamid) was in town last month for a Slought Foundation panel coinciding with an exhibit of contemporary Russian video art. (You may remember K&M’s Asian elephant art project which came to town at the same time as the Republican National Convention in 2000. Image here is of “America’s Most Wanted,” a painting based on survey research data into the general public’s taste for color and imagery.)

Komar showed slides from the team’s projects and one that especially tickled me was the “Sell Your Soul” project, a 1979 foray into capitalism that followed the duo’s arrival on America’s shores in 1978.

Using Madison avenue tactics, K&M posted their sales pitch on billboards and posters in New York and in ads in major art magazines. The price was negotiable and many sold their souls to the duo. (Andy Warhol sold his for $1.)

Later, the individual souls were resold at an art auction in Russia — for a lot more money. Somebody made a profit.

I was reminded of this trans-national trafficking in souls when I got an email recently from Fernando Velazquez, a young, Uruguaian artist living in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Velazquez, too, is a soul collector. The young painter, photographer and media artist is not into buying and selling, though. His web project, “The Soul Collectors” is an on-going project in which people email images of themselves to his site and he puts them up in a grid of mugshots. <” align=”left”>breasts leftgoatee Everybody from baby to grandma to Keanu Reeves is represented. Velazquez said in an email that he doesn’t know when he’ll be finished with the project. Understandable. It’s hard to know how many souls are enough.

Velazquez’s site (bone up on your Spanish) is inquisitive as well as acquisitive — in a spiritual kind of way. In addition to collecting your soul/image, the artist would like your help amending the 10 commandments. Now there’s an opportunity.