Before Us Is The Salesman’s House: Exploring the Contingent Aesthetic of eBay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In 2012, data artist Jer Thorp and statistician Mark Hansen collaborated on an installation called Before Us Is The Salesman’s House. Commissioned by the eBay/PayPal corporation, and inspired by Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, this data art project has been described variously as “an investigation of eBay as a cultural artefact,” “a kind of fly-over of [eBay’s] rich data landscape,” and “a portrait of humanity in the purchases we make.” Based on big data from eBay and Project Gutenberg, it uses sheer random contingency to show the inter weavings of literary texts with everyday commodities. This essay seeks to read the challenging project that is Before Us Is The Salesman’s House variously as literary text, a piece of corporate art, an opening for social critique, and an example of Nicolas Bourriaud’s relational aesthetics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)88-106
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2019


Cite this