AC Dickson: Rising up to the challenge of his rivals

Niki Russell on eBay selling as performance

An image of a ‘matador’ Smurf figurine on the big screen over the performance space is accompanied by text claiming it was sold through eBay for £75 pounds. More items, more sales. Shortly eBay PowerSeller AC Dickson emerges to the power riff of the Survivors’ early 80s hit, Eye of the Tiger. He’s not sporting a red cape, but shows the right exuberance as he punches the air, almost in time; he is here to take on something much bigger than a bull—the world, or so he claims.
The first of the 4 presentations that comprise Inbetween Time’s Lecturama series was corporate seminar, self-help meeting and edu-tainment all rolled into one. This was educational, particularly for the eBay ‘virgins’ (including myself) that surprisingly made up the majority of the audience. Doubt was already heavy in the air as increasingly high figures appeared; £250,000 for a round of golf with Tiger Woods—“I don’t believe that” exclaimed the person next to me. These doubts were central to the intrigue and confusion surrounding ‘AC.’

A female assistant, Susan Beal, checks the computer before introducing AC, assuring us that we are in for a “real treat.” AC appears on the screen for a preamble-cum-pep talk, using every bad transition in the film editing book in images of walking down the street, ‘emerging’ from a swim, or at home, tennis racket in hand.

“Let’s get this party started!” The espresso on the way in starts to make sense as AC arrives, pumping up the crowd, heading straight into a show of hands. “Do you want to have more money? Do you want to have more free time? Do you want to make the world a better place?” Arms hesitantly, but fairly unanimously go up. He pre-empts the sniggers, explaining how eBay is “paving the way to world peace.” Whilst this may seem vaguely ludicrous, AC has a fair stab at explaining the thinking behind this belief, discussing the global marketplace and eBay’s potential to escape the corporation. “Nation building” may be stretching it, but I can see how it could be deemed a type of “personal empowerment.”

AC takes us through the basics of using the eBay site, eBay etiquette and eBay slang; I certainly felt like I was learning. The patter of his speech, with its Mr Garrison “m’kay”, hypnotically encourages us to go straight home and sign up to the eBay community: if you are already a seller then aim to be a PowerSeller; if you’ve only bought then now is the time to sell; and for people like me, this is your chance to join up.

The climax involves the final countdown on a selection of AC’s photographs of moon-landing astronauts selling live on eBay. As the clock ticks by AC introduces his usual celebratory ritual, the “dancing shoes”, a collection of dance moves. Daft Punk plays over the PA and AC circles the space casually mimicking the Michel Gondry video for the same track. As each item ‘pops off’ (the eBay slang for a last minute flurry of bids to increase the selling price), he grows increasingly excited and encourages others to join him on the ‘dance floor.’

It would have been so easy to satirise the whole eBay world, and this was definitely in the mix, but fortunately it wasn’t that clear cut. AC Dickson’s eBay Powerseller left me doubting a number of assumptions. I would expect that most came not believing that Andrew Dickson was actually a PowerSeller moving more than $1000 of goods in a month, but any doubts I had made me more willing to go with it. I am now registered with eBay, having just received my first email telling me that I have “won” my first purchase, the prize that went online as part of the presentation, an evening out with AC himself. I am certainly not fully converted, but maybe, just maybe, tonight is the night that I will be convinced of the power of the PowerSeller.

Andrew Dickson is a West Coast artist using video, PowerPoint, music and audience interaction to create satirical character-based performances. He is also a screenwriter, actor, and antique dealer. For more on Andrew and AC see www.andrewdickson.com and www.urbanhonking.com/powerseller. AC Dickson: eBay Powerseller continues to tour the US and UK.

AC Dickson: eBay Powerseller, Lecturama, Arnolfini Theatre, Feb 2

RealTime issue #72 April-May 2006 pg.

© Niki Russell; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

2 February 2006