On 20/Feb/14 16:21, Ian Clothier wrote:
Here's my rambling rant ... based in a wide range of experiences across Europe,
the US, and the Antipodes...
Forwarded below is a message from Damian Stewart. What
he talks about is one
facet of a bunch of issues for media practice.
Hasn't it always been about PR, promotion, and one's abilities with
self-re-presentation, especially text-spinning. And this quite independent from
the actual work being done. At least that's what I've observed with practices
across Europe, the US, and the antipodes. Of course, who you know remains a
factor as well.
If you can write convincingly, seductively, provocatively about what you do, or
can spin what you do as being something that ticks off a box in the
cultural-industry manager's funding application ('creative industries' pops
mind as being just one of those mind-numbingly stupid spin phrases) -- you are
set at least from the fiscal pov!
One alternative is to happen on, find, pay, or just plain be lucky to stumble on
someone else who will write about you and what you do.
A social system is structured to reward participants that augment the
survivability of the wider system, not the individual. This makes it necessarily
conservative, resistant to change, and risk averse. Somehow in all this, a text
is reassuring to the arbiters of culture: Reading the label next to the abstract
painting makes everything safe; being able to select which kind of artist you
actually are from a state-sanctioned list (What? You aren't a painter, an actor,
a sculptress, a musician, a dancer? What's a network media artist working on
sustainability and community gardening?)
There seldom seems to be much correlation between the intensity/quality of work
and the social rewards conferred to those who are spending the
life-time/life-energy necessary to bring work into being. A far more direct
correlation is between the socially relevant *representation* of work and funding.
And, okay, concerning a media-arts practice, this already assumes wide-scaled
acquiescence to an array of dominant techno-social protocols that deeply affect
the autonomy of your work in general ... First we had to learn ftp way back in
the late 80s, then html, then a variety of image, audio, and video codecs, then
php, and now the rigid white cubes of social media. That and trying to raise
funds to stay somewhere on the curve of technological innovation (or at least
slightly ahead of technical obsolescence)...
Having said all this, speaking as someone who has a tremendous documentary
archive of my own praxis, along with audio-video-text-images of many other
folk's projects, collaborative events, objects (off- and) on-line for the last
20 years. The personal cost in life-time and life-energy has been substantial --
both directly and indirectly (raising money to support the technical
maintenance of archive along with some level of public access to it) ...
As a non-citizen resident in Europe and the Antipodes over the years, I've not
had much access to public funding directly, though I've benefitted from said
funding on numerous occasions.
And recently, I ran a very successful Kickstarter (practically the only way of
raising cultural funding in the backwaters of the US West!). Representation
there is crucial, obviously. Although the majority of my funders were people who
knew my work over many years, many campaigns raise phenomenal chunks of funding
with populist representations. (Of course, not to mention the questionable
cultural value of many crowd-funded projects...). I know I could have probably
increased my take if I had the skills to be populist in my representations. It's
a bit like populism in politics -- that there is a seductive power in being the
object of wide social adulation and reward. In my mind, representing one's self
with this goal in mind (to be accepted as being a valuable contributor to a
pre-determined cultural trajectory decided by those arbiters), is ultimately
And in the end, it's a game, a distraction, a time-drain on the creative praxis,
this process of representation. The process of (self-)documentation steals one
away from the immediacy of lived-life, the recording device changes that which
is documented (the observer changes that which is observed). And yet many of us
persist in this strange activity...
enough for tonight...
Dr. John Hopkins, BSc, MFA, PhD
photographer, media artist, archivist