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 Artist Auctions Off His Facebook Password to Strangers

Social media has given us endless enjoyment—but social media also has become a billion-dollar business by selling our personal information to advertisers and spying on our online activity. But one freelance art director-turned-conceptual-artist, Nick Hugh Schmidt, has turned the concept on its head by trying to auction his Facebook password on eBay. And the authorities on the site weren't happy.

After the account raised $200 from 34 bidders, eBay shut down the auction, saying it violated their terms of use. So Schmidt took to the streets, holding an IRL auction at the pop-up space Shwick in Brooklyn's Bushwick. Despite coming complete with a starting bid reset to 99 cents, a keg of beer and a certified auctioneer, the event somehow rendered the merchandise a little more abstract, coming up a little short compared to its Internet counterpart at $140.

Schmidt, who describes Facebook's role in his life as "like genitals on a pubescent teenager," finds the site to be an unfortunately addictive necessity, and he admits that one of his more selfish motives in the project is to pay someone to take the burdens of the website off his hands. But he's also interested in exploring the roots of digital agency and identity.

Unlike a related project earlier this year that led Schmidt to leave his unlocked iPhone at the mercy of strangers, who could pry into his digital life and join conversations with his contacts, this Facebook game is for keeps; Schmidt doesn't plan on making one again.

And as Schmidt remarked, his Facebook might be worth more dead (and reanimated) than alive. Facebook accounts and the hypothetical eyeballs associated with them are counted even when accounts are inactive, and the company assumes a neat correlation between one account and one person, which it tries to enforce by forcing users to use their "real names."

In a move that could lead to some seriously recursive projects, the winner of the auction, Andrew Ohanesian, also describes himself as a conceptual artist. Both artists, who seem to have some bad publicity on the web, seem to see the act of declaring themselves artists as an act of radical self-invention; as Schmidt has put it to Bushwick Daily, he wants to expose the hypocrisy that "I can’t sell myself but the social media sites can." What happens when two such personalities come together, though, has still yet to be seen.

Nick Hugh Schmidt

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