Perry A. Hoberman: Art Under Contract (Ender User License Agreement)

  • ©,

  • ©,



    Art Under Contract (Ender User License Agreement)


Creation Year:



    Steel box, servo motors, touch screen, LCD screen, computer software and hardware, ultrasound sensor


    Approximately 6 feet x 3 feet x 6 feet


Artist Statement:

    Each time we begin to install a new piece of software, a familiar window pops up. It contains an interminable text, densely packed with
    legalese and jargon. Its meaning is arcane, very nearly unintelligible, but that doesn’t matter; few of us will ever actually read one of these texts. The End User License Agreement, or EULA, functions as a kind of ritual; ostensibly we are being given a choice to “Accept” or
    “Decline,” but in fact we have no choice at all. We’ve already purchased the software, and our only choice is to submit to whatever regime is contained in the EULA, or forego installing our already-paid for software and come to terms with the fact that we’ve wasted our hard-earned cash. In the arena of intellectual property, the EULA makes sure that we all know who holds the whip hand: any rights we thought we might have had melt away under its relentless bombast. EULAs often contain proscriptions against criticizing, customizing, or even removing the software once installed; they give vendors free reign to alter and reconfigure your computer; and they demand acquiescence to any and all possible future addendums and changes. EULAs are at heart megalomaniac, corrupt, and drunk with their own power. But the bad faith in which I click “Accept,” agreeing to things I would never otherwise agree to, has no bearing under the law. In fact, EULAs serve their multiple masters well; the vendor retains all rights, but the end user avoids any inconvenience that the act of giving up these rights might otherwise entail. Just one click, and it’s over. Not a bad racket. But why should software vendors have all the fun? The concept of enforced preemptive agreement can easily be extended to other realms of cultural production. We no longer need to take chances with unconstrained aesthetic experience. Art Under Contract is the first artwork that requires its viewers to accept a stringent EULA before they can view the work. This EULA, while more succinct than most, is no less reasonable a document. And, although it is difficult to quantify aesthetic experience, this EULA proves that it is indeed possible. The artwork itself is contained within a secure metal box mounted on the wall next to the EULA. Once a viewer has indicated acceptance of the EULA by pressing the “Accept” button on the provided touch screen, a small automated viewing aperture opens, allowing the artwork to be seen by a single, contractually bound viewer. An ultrasound sensor ensures that, if the contractually bound viewer leaves before time is up, the aperture will snap shut, preventing any contract-free aesthetic experience. The artwork itself cannot even be described without breaking the terms of the EULA, incidently restoring an element of mystery to the art experience. We look forward to the day when all experience is subject to convenient, instantaneous agreements that preemptively clear up any and all ambiguities in our daily lives. Art Under Contract is a first small step toward this world .