Start-up art

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Start-up art is a curatorial, art historical term designating art that appropriates, adopts and repurposes the discourses, operation modes, strategies and look-and-feel of the entrepreneurial start-up culture, including but not limited to product design, business operations, financing, PR activities, advertising, marketing and sales.

Works are presented often in the form of a fictional company, or actual registered company, and its various real and/or attributed activities, ranging from a webpage or a crowdfunding campaign, through outdoor advertising to actual manufacturing, business transactions and financial operations.

The term does not apply to artists, who simply turned their production into a business operation, the operation per se not being part of the artworks presented.


  • Smell Dating by Tega Brain and Sam Lavigne, 2016 - not a start-up or company: the artists have created a dating site, where participants can find their match and date people, based on their smell preferences. The matching is done using t-shirts, that participants are required to wear for three days, and then the worn garments are randomly redistributed between them. The artists maintain a website for the participants to register and sign-up, and which essentially constitutes a fully functioning social service platform. The scope of Smell Dating is limited to 100 people and is only available in New York City. The operation is non-profit, although participants are required to pay a small fee to cover the logistic expenses.
  • Pure Human by Tina Gorjanc, 2016 - not an actual company: a multifaceted project involving a UK patent application, company logo and visual standards, laboratory work with cloned human tissue, product design, product samples, product photography and advertising copy and visuals. The artist uses actual DNA harvested from hair samples, of deceased fashion designer Alexander McQueen, to grow artificial skin tissue in a laboratory, which is then tanned and processed into human leather, and fashioned into bags, jackets and backpacks.
  • DullTech™ by Constant Dullaart, 2015 - a fully realized enterpreneurial project, unique in that it is an actual, successful hardware start-up, not presented by the artist himself as art, but as an answer to a real-world problem; yet the project received publicity and curatorial attention comparable to other projects, designated as art by the artist. It comprises of a start-up company, successful Kickstarter funding campaign, a physical product (a single purpose, boxed, digital video player), product designs, hardware manufacturing chain outsourced to China, Internet shop, promotional visuals, merchandise (t-shirts), shipping and customer service.
  • Unfit-Bits by Surya Mattu and Tega Brain, 2015 - not a start-up or company: the artists investigate DIY quantified-self spoofing techniques by creating several prototypes of devices that trick fitness trackers into generating false fitness performance data, with the declared intention to achieve more favorable treatment by insurance companies for the owner. The project is presented in an openly ironic, tongue-in-cheek manner. The artists maintain a website that introduces the concept, presents the (humorous) prototypes and "research" behind each, and only hints at the possibility of future purchase.
  • The Innovator's Dilemma, The Personal Effects of Kimdotcom, New Management and other works by Simon Denny, 2012-15 - not a start-up or company: the artist creates sculptures and art objects informed and inspired by the discourse and visual culture of the contemporary technology finance world, and often stylizes his exhibition as an industry tradeshow. He doesn't howevever create consumer products or product designs, and neither does he deploy an entrepreneurial infrastructure - the objects presented have no function other than aesthetic and conceptual.
  • by Jeroen van Loon, 2015 - not a start-up or company: the artist is selling his DNA sequence in an online auction. The presentation comprises of the website, the artist's actual, full, scientifically sourced genome sequence (380 GB of data), and a gallery installation (sculptural object with computer and screen, displaying scrolling data).
  • Invisible by Heather Dewey-Hagborg, 2014 - not an actual company: a fictional brand and an actual product (of questionable functionality). The artist has designed and is selling a kit of two sprays, that claim to erase DNA traces left by a person and replace them with obfuscated synthesized DNA. The project comprises of product design, the spray kit product (that is also presented as artwork for sale through the New Museum's webstore, scientific research citations, product descriptions, user testimonials and endorsements, product shots and promotional visuals.
  • SOMA by Ivana Bašić, 2014-work-in-progress - company name, mission statement, two products: Ivana Basic®, a static 3D model of the artist, and Ivana Dynamic®, a rigged and posed 3D model of the artist (to be used in 3D rendering software, or with real-time 3D platforms, respectively), product descriptions and promotional visuals.
  • OFF Pocket by Adam Harvey, 2011-14 - a one-product start-up, which produced and delivered a fully functional accessory for mobile phones, made from metallized fabric, that blocks all wireless signals to and from the phone. Comprising of product design, product prototypes, successful Kickstarter campaign (2013), promotional copy and visuals, dedicated website, merchandise (T-shirts and other apparel), user's manual and shipping.
  • Stealth Wear ‘Anti-Drone’ Fashion by Adam Harvey, 2012-13 - not a start-up or company: the artist developed several garments, fabricated with silver-plated fabric that reflects thermal radiation, enabling the wearer to avert overhead thermal surveillance, as used for example by drones. The pieces were sold online through the Privacy Gift Shop, some were offered as Reward items during his Kickstarter campaign for the OFF Pocket project. The project also included fashion photography and advertising copy.
  • Jennifer Lyn Morone™ Inc by Jennifer Lyn Morone, 2013-work-in-progress - inspired by the US Supreme Court's ruling that "corporations are people", the artist turned her self into a corporation, registered in the State of Delaware, USA, with the aim to obtain for her personal data the same level of control and legal protection as corporations are entitled to. Only the company has a legal right to sell or provide her personal data, including images and videos, health information, and financial information. Anybody collecting these data without a contract with the company is exposing themselves to a copyright lawsuit. The project comprises of the corporation, a health monitoring device that the artist wears, and a website with the mission statement and product description (structure of the artist's personal data).
  • Nebo by Thomas Thwaites, 2013 - not an actual company: a fictional brand, stylized as a ‘tech start up from the near future’, and four speculative, not fully functional product designs. Nebo is presented as "an online service and range of objects that employ some of the techniques of marketers and advertisers not to make you buy things, but to make you lead a more fulfilling and happier life. Nebo is advertising that influences you to act in your own best interests." In actuality however, the designs are such as to enable unprecedented surveillance and mind-control of the consumer.
  • Loophole for All by Paolo Cirio, 2013 - not a start-up or company: a global performance staged as a faux finance-world fraud operation. The artist was, through website, selling openly forged Certificate of Incorporation documents of 200000 real, anonymous, Cayman Islands-registered offshore companies, whose names he uncovered. The premise and punchline of the performance were built on the assumption, that the real owners of these companies, presumably involved in shady business and financial operations, would have their hands tied and would be afraid to publicly (re)claim ownership of their company.
  • Everlandia by Martin Bricelj Baraga, 2005-2007 - not an actual company: a fictional-only travel agency with limited realisation: company name, logo, mission statement and an online interactive graphical application.
  • Mindbending Software Inc. by codenerror (Robert Praxmarer) and Florian Berger, 2005 - a company developing and selling software, that inserts subliminal messages into games running on a PC, and enables parents to psychologically condition their children, while they are playing "mindless" computer games. The project includes a fully functioning system-level driver that intercepts the OpenGL 3D rendering process on a PC and superimposes custom designed imagery, in subliminal fashion, over popular games like Unreal Tournament 2004. The presentation comprises of the company website, logo, mission statement, a range of specific deployable content (packaged as distinctive products, with trademarks, usage descriptions, advertising visuals, expert reviews and customer testimonials), and a working internet shopping cart.
  • Google Will Eat Itself (GWEI) by Paolo Cirio, Alessandro Ludovico and ubermorgen, 2005 - an elaborate internet performance, comprising of (actually registered) GTTP Ltd. company; a network of software bots that automatically clicked on banner ads placed on a network of hidden websites; an “AdSense” contract with Google, that generated actual revenue from the botnet's activity; the money from the scheme was used to buy Google shares for GTTP Ltd., with the aim to distribute them to everyone, and consequentially to turn Google into a public company.
  • Tradeshow by Ivor Diosi, 1996 (recreated 2006) - not an actual company: the project presents items from an imagined cyberpunk dystopian future as immediately purchasable, concrete products on show at a make-believe industry trade fair aimed at the hi-tech/low-life. The items span a spectrum of body enhancement implants, do-it-yourself genetic modification kits, cyberpunk urban warfare weapons and self-defense gadgets, anti-surveillance obfuscation, and network and hardware hacking tools. Actual 90's iconic consumer products are appropriated and re-purposed as cyberpunk accessories, tools and gadgets from the year 2020. The products' features and benefits are elaborated on promotional leaflets accompanying the items' "trade fair" presentation. Their function is not explicitly stated in the promotional materials, it is presumed that the "knowledgeable customer" will infer the intended purpose of each piece from the advertised features.


No pages meet these criteria.

The term has been first coined by this entry on on 17th August 2016.