Asianness for Sale

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Asianness for Sale

by Peter Peng 2008 

You can find update project here:
http://mmotp.com/Peter-Pengs-Asianness,name,5001,auction_id,auction_details

Used: www.mmotp.com, Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended, Asianness, my brain

Introduction 

'Asianness for Sale' shown above is a contemporary (2008) update of Keith Obadike's original piece 'Blackness for Sale' shown below in which he put his racial identity up for auction on the popular auction site eBay.

Background About the Original Piece: Blackness for Sale

The original work can be found at:
http://obadike.tripod.com/ebay.html

 

Keith Obadike's original work created in 2001 was a commentary on race and politics. It is considered a net performance piece in which he used the popular platform of auction site eBay that usually sold physical, tangible items which could be mailed or shipped to sell an intangible entity - his racial identity, his "blackness." In his work, Obadike played with the racial stereotypes surrounding blacks. In an interview with www.blacknetart.com conducted by Coco Fusco, Obadike said his work was about exploring the intersection of commerce and race, something he had not seen up to that point.

Four days upon his initial listing, eBay terminated his auction.

The interview can be found at: http://www.blacknetart.com/coco.html

Intentions of the Updated Piece: Asianness for Sale

The above image is a screenshot of my listing for my Asianness. Like Obadike's piece, 'Asianness for Sale' is a net performance piece, and thus the real art lies in the concept and subsequent reactions and occurrences that may happen to the piece. In deciding how to update 'Blackness for Sale,' I thought about what made Obadike's piece ironic and captured that same essence of irony in my piece. eBay, a place that at the time sold only physical items, was a gathering ground for people to exchange something they could physically receive in the mail. As such, the scene was set; Obadike could sell something new, something intangible -- his blackness -- that would comment on the notion of race for sale resembling the slave auctions of the past. In the past, blackness was sold in the form of slaves, auctioned off, being compared to one another for their value (to work hard, be strong, pick cotton, etc.) in relation to the other black slaves being presented for sale. Obadike's piece is a modern day re-thinking of this situation, of repositioning race for sale on the auction block. Interestingly though, Obidake made the comment that his blackness for sale was as an alternative to whiteness, rather than a blackness to be gauged in relation to other blacknesses.

My piece then takes the Asianness, as an alternative and as something real (though intangible), and its relationship with online commerce many years later in 2008. When I say online commerce I don't mean the online commerce Obadike was thinking of ten years ago, but rather I mean the online commerce in world that is one further level removed. If we have real life physical commerce at one level (buying things from a brick and mortar department store, for instance), and the migration of commerce to additionally include online transactions (buying things from e-retailers with your credit card) at another level, then the digital commerce of goods within a world that is already online (gold, accessories, weapons, etc. for sale in an online gaming world such as WoW that charges players real world money to live in this fictional, digital, online world) is clearly a third level. The good I am selling in at this third level, in the WoW (which ironically can only be transacted via the real first level world) is of course my Asianness. Of course, the irony in my piece is that I am selling something real in an unreal world in order to comment on the relationship of race to this third level of commerce.

Instead of simply reserving the dynamic (selling something tangible in a marketplace for the intangible...that is not what I did at all; I am selling something intangible in an intangible marketplace), I wanted to capture the same irony Obadike's piece did in invoking the return of blacks to the auction block and the offering of blackness as an alternative to normative whiteness.

Thus, I choose the platform of www.mmotp.com, an online marketplace similar to eBay, but catering specifically to auctioning off gaming accounts for popular titles such as World of Warcraft. The thing to recognize is that these identities (player accounts) exist in a fictional world, of WoW, of Maplestory, of Runescape, or any number of titles, and the identities themselves are completely fictional and intangible. These identities are created out of a fantasy, perhaps even a fetish, for that which cannot be obtained in the real world - WoW has druids, and warriors, and mages, and ogres, and all your run-of-the-mill fantasy characters. The players build up character identities to battle each other and go on quests as they navigate the fantastical world of WoW.

What is the alternative to these normative (at least in WoW) identities of Level 70 Warrior and the like? My offering of something real, though intangible, is clearly an alternative. To echo the different classes (Mage, Druid, Warrior, etc.), which function much as race does in the real world, I am selling my own real racial identity, my Asianness. This not only invokes the original irony in Obadike's piece of selling something new and strange (as an alternative) in a marketplace that has already been defined, but also the irony in pointing out the fantasy for obtaining that which cannot or can no longer be obtained. Just as Obadike's piece calls attention to the fantasy of buying slaves in a world where slavery has been abolished and to the fact that racial identity is not something that can be transferred as a commodity anyways, my piece calls attention to the fantasy of buying something real in an environment that is completely unreal -- the players so desperately want to believe that their world of WoW is real, and thus they immerse themselves so deeply in this fantasy land to the point that they are willing to part with real world currency for fictional world capital and worth. WoW is a world that thus cannot make use of Asianness, of something real.

You can find my auction listing here:
http://mmotp.com/Peter-Pengs-Asianness,name,5001,auction_id,auction_details(It may be removed at any time, or the auction may simply end after two weeks - the alloted auction time.)

Asianness for Sale

Below is a documentation of the text used in my description of my auction listing on www.mmotp.com. It will serve as an archive in the case that the moderators of the auction site remove my listing or in the case that the auction ends.

Level 21 (nearly 22) Asian.

This heirloom has been in the possession of the seller for twenty-one, nearly twenty-two years. Mr. Peng's Asianness has been used primarily in the United States, however, its functionality in China and Taiwan are also secured. No guarantee for other locations. Buyer will receive a certificate of authenticity.

Benefits and Warnings

Benefits:

1. This Asianness may be used for participating in the World of Warcraft tournaments in Asia without shame or scrutiny.
2. This Asianness may be used to creating Chinese calligraphy and other Asian art.
3. This Asianness may be used for writing critical essays or scholarship about other Asians.
4. This Asianness may be used for making jokes about Asian people and/or laughing at Asian humor comfortably. (Option #4 may overlap with Option #3.)
5. This Asianness may be used for accessing some affirmative action benefits. (Limited time offer. May already be prohibited in some areas.)
6. This Asianness may be used for dating an Asian person without fear of public scrutiny.
7. This Asianness may be used to greatly increase your alcohol tolerance.
8. This Asianness may be used to increase drifting skillz and tune your car to a top-of-the-line ricer (Japanese models only).
9. This Asianness may be used to devour dog paws, chicken feet, frog legs, and bugs without repulsion.
10. This Asianness may be used for scoring high on the math portion of the SAT and other tests.
11. This Asianness may be used for sporting the bowl cut or spiked hairdo.
12. This Asianness may be used to properly utilize chopsticks.
13. This Asianness entitles you to receive red envelopes full of money on Chinese's New Year.
14. This Asianness may be used to reduce prices further even on rock bottom specials.
15. This Asianness may be used to infiltrate predominantly Asian scenes such as Chinatown without discrimination.
16. This Asianness may be used to demonstrate piano and violin playing abilities.
17. This Asianness may be used to eat rice daily and never become overweight.
18. This Asianness may be used in increasing your chances of obtaining an 'A' in all your classes. (Disclaimer: In the case that this Asianness was used for this purpose, but an 'A' was not obtained, prepare to receive a beating at home for receiving a 'B.')
19. This Asianness may be used for securing the right to use the terms 'chink' and 'fob' in reference to Asian people. You may also use the phrase 'aiya' with this Asianness. (Be sure to have certificate of authenticity on hand when using Option #19).
20. This Asianness comes with a black belt level kung fu background. It may be used to instill fear.
21. This Asianness may be used by Asians as a spare (in case you have been white-washed and wish to convert back).

Warnings:

1. The Seller does not recommend that this Asianness be used during legal proceedings of any sort.
2. The Seller does not recommend that this Asianness when conducting a business transaction.
3. The Seller does not recommend that this Asianness be used by females considering the likelihood of obtaining subservient, exotic, sex kitten, mail-order bride status.
4. The Seller does not recommend that this Asianness be used when trying to date a white person.
5. The Seller does not recommend that this Asianness be used while demanding fairness.
6. The Seller does not recommend that this Asianness be used while demanding.

©Peter Peng 2008

You can also view a .pdf of my auction listing here:
https://wiki.brown.edu/confluence/download/attachments/9994735/Asianness+for+Sale.pdf

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