That has pretty much laid out the landscape of current practice, in terms of the necessary
negotiations around funding. I'm thinking most practitioners can find themselves
somewhere in what you have written. And it is very good to have that Kickstarter
experience as part of the mix, congrats on that it was quite an effort, yes?
It's quite true that there has been for some time now, a reliance on text and words
for audiences in visual and fine arts. One aspect that marks the electronic arts sector,
is the use of Open Call, and online forms to register submissions. These are used a little
in visual arts (Puke Ariki's Taranaki "Home Work" show for which
applications just closed, is an example) but online submission is endemic it seems to me,
to electronic arts.
Obviously I'm not wanting to argue this is an exclusive property, but I think it does
point to something that is part of the culture of electronic arts practice. There is a
kind of openness to events and practice. There are some relatively open and wide shows in
the visual arts, such as the upcoming "Tools of the Trade" in Gisborne
, but much happens curatorially behind the scenes in the visual
arts. Whereas most events in electronic arts are open call plus invite to submit.
There was an attempt made by Edward Shanken at Art Basel 2011 to bring the discourses of
relational aesthetics and electronic arts together - a panel with Peter Weibel and Nicola
On the face of it this seemed like the most likely area of interconnection between the
two. However bringing these discourses together didn't work, in part because there was
a clash of cultures and frameworks for understanding projects and this gulf appeared too
far to bridge. In particular there was no agreement on the foundation
principles/assumptions that might facilitate a discussion.
Currently around ISEA's advisory committee and board there is much discussion about
the values and culture of the ISEA audience, as various strategies for ongoing funding are
evaluated. One potential for example is to make online access to papers subscriber based,
but this is unlikely to occur (though may, who knows) because many people within
ISEA's network do all that extra work in terms of projects and papers as a way of
giving to the community. So giving to the community is a primary motivation, rather than
career or financial advantage.
So what does the use of Open Call point to? What are the values of the culture of the
electronic arts sector here?
It would be interesting to receive some input on this topic.
From: ada_list-bounces(a)list.waikato.ac.nz on behalf of John Hopkins
Sent: Fri 2/28/2014 2:43 PM
Subject: Re: [Ada_list] The problematics of practice currently
Seems the first time I sent this it didn't make it...
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
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