Press contact: T.X. Watson, (603) 318-6850, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos available at www.txwatson.com/my-soul-press
Western Massachusetts artist sells soul to pay student loans
Art and philosophy student T.X. Watson is attempting to head off a lifetime of student debt, but they're risking a much deeper debt in exchange. Watson is selling shares of ownership in their soul for $45 each, which at 1,000 shares would provide enough revenue to pay the combined totals of Watson's student loans (subsidized and unsubsidized), credit debt, printing costs for the certificates, and income tax on the sales.
"This piece is mainly an art project, and I've tried hard to make it a genuinely beautiful piece," said Watson. "Something you could hang on your wall, you know?" The certificate, an ornately decorated red and black work styled after the engraving art on stocks and bonds, may suit the interior design of a vampire, or a dedicated goth.
"I don't really believe in souls," Watson said, "but I tried my best to write the fine print so that if they're real, this sale is binding."
That fine print says that Watson "commits this certificate to record on faith that any fair-minded extramaterial being will interpret this certificate as valid within any framework relevant to that being’s understanding of reality." That excerpt is from the fourth out of six fine-print clauses.
The certificate functions as a real, though high-risk, investment: if Watson succeeds as an artist, a limited-edition print of one of their early works will rise in value. Eliminating the burden of student debt would also make it easier for Watson to pursue that career, which means that buying shares is a step towards protecting the investment they represent.
Somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of graduates leave college with student debt, with an average total close to $40 thousand.
Watson is near that average, largely thanks to substantial need-based aid from Hampshire College. "Between that and a few significant scholarships, I was very fortunate that I only have to take federal loans." Hampshire is focused on meeting the financial need of its students: On average, the college is meeting 93 percent of student financial need. Average student debt of Hampshire grads is equal to or lower than the debt of graduates of many state public universities.
"Still, on an extended repayment plan, I'm looking at paying twice my debt over 25 years." That's depending on a steady income, which is hard to maintain as a working artist.
The piece, formally titled "Human Soul Exchange," is one of several works in Watson's senior project, "Memetic Engines of Anticapitalism." These artworks -- also including a fictional political party and an alternate reality game -- illustrate strategies for leftist artists to approach capitalist power structures.
Shares in Watson's soul are currently available for purchase at www.txwatson.com/my-soul.
Updated 2018-02-09 with more accurate data on Hampshire College's financial aid programs.
Updated 2018-04-22 because the previously referenced gallery show has passed.