Cockshut Dummy Description

I produced an ongoing e-mail art project called cockshut dummy which began in March 2004 and completed in May 2015. Here is the original description of the project that was sent out to over 400 viewers/readers:

cockshut dummy is a cumulative artwork that I will make daily whenever I am at my job, performing as a banker: a series of images and texts originating from my mobile phone and transmitted by e-mail each evening (GMT) at the end of the working day, five days a week, excluding bank holidays and time off, beginning later this week. 

In the tradition of On Kawara’s telegrams and Alighiero Boetti’s mail works but using the communications systems of the present, cockshut dummy seeks to expose another sense of reality through its sculptural intervention into technocratic time and space. If you do not wish to receive cockshut dummy, please reply to this message with the word ‘resign’ in the subject heading.”

As it turned out, instead of sending out one installment of the piece every working day I would send, typically two or three a week. The e-mails are presented in the most basic possible way, with minimal formatting. As an overarching formal device, the title of each day’s installment (to which the text and image may be directly or be only loosely related) follows the plan of classification of Roget’s Thesaurus. A couple of years ago I stopped working in the banking industry in order to once again devote all my efforts to art and writing. The impetus behind the project changed as a result but I still felt compelled to bring it to completion because the e-mails had developed a life of their own outside the confines of office life. There are 990 categories in the thesaurus I used.

In the beginning the texts were composed in a highly improvisational style. But surprisingly to me the project became a process in which I learned how to write. I have come to spend much more time on revising and elaborating the texts, but I still consider it a form of sketchbook that uses the technology of our time. It is a work in its own right but also serves as material to be developed into further artworks, which I like to refer to as cockshut offshoots. These are focused on boundaries of likeness, or more specifically the Wittengstein concept of “family resemblance” which confronts the conventional views on how words can have meaning. The cockshut offshoots have taken various forms, including four books published with Bookworks in London, a set of lithographic prints with synonyms for being laid off, hoodies and business suits with silkscreened text, and installation and neon work, that use the cockshut dummy as source material.





Selected Categories

Full book is available through the artist's contact