[spectre] theoretical models of - the media art center of 21C

rene beekman r at raakvlak.net
Sun Sep 11 15:57:31 CEST 2005

ok, at this point i'll fork this discussion into several sub-topics to 
keep discussions clear.
on september 5th i raised a fairly straightforward issue, namely that 
any discussion regarding a model of a "media-art centre of the 21st 
century" needs to include market and funding models. it was my 
impression that those topics were strangely missing in the whole 
discussion up to that point and the result was that a purely blue-sky 
model was taking shape which seemed to depend for a large part on 
assumptions regarding market, funding and sustainability.
after a couple of days of silence on the list, discussion seems to be 
picking up again.
so far, responses have however never addressed the issues i raised head 
on but did raise a number of (interesting in different ways) related 
so in order to keep sub- and side-issues from blurring the subject i 
decided to split the discussion and have changed the subject lines 

From: Simon Biggs
> I agree that there often seems to be an aversion in the artworld to
> recognising that we all have to deal with economic realities. No 
> matter what
> thus it is only reasonable that those requesting funding are able to
> justify, to those people, why they should be assisted.

i agree, openness and accountability are key and subversion is not an 
option when living on other people's money.
but... in our little thought experiment of devising "the new media art 
centre of the 21st century" so far the centre has been one that lives 
in either a world where funding is not needed or where funding is 
automatically provided (presumably by the government of by some 
benevolent donor - there has been no sign of the centre even having an 
__intention to raise some of the required funding itself). in any case, 
the assumed funding source has had no impact what so ever on what this 
centre was and how it would function. in the real world of course, such 
a place does not exist, so why not take our little theoretical 
experiment a step further and see if we can come up with a model where 
we will not have to live on public funding or even sponsorship?
would such a model be possible?
what would it look like?
if it is impossible, then why so and how can that be changed?
the easy way out of this is to say that this would totally depend on 
local situation and that local variation is too big to come up with a 
one-size-fit-all solution. but since this is just a theoretical 
experiment, we can create the kind of local circumstances that would be 
needed to support such a centre. the less those theoretical 
circumstances match real world ones, the less practical the model is 
and the less any implementation of such a model is likely to succeed.
looking at it in that way, a centre that is supported fully by 
government funding is becoming a more and more impractical model in 
most places in the world today.

the big problem is that even more than the aversion to deal with 
economic realities, it seems the art world - or at least our little 
corner of it - stubbornly refuses to even engage in a theoretical 
discussion of such possible alternative models.

> As for the open source concept: I support this fully, although the 
> manner in
> which it is sometimes proposed can actually be destructive to 
> creativity and
> the sharing of resources. I think it can be accepted that open-source 
> is
> only a (possibly larger) part of the picture, not the whole thing.
> Proprietary systems will be with us for a long time, for many reasons;
> economic co-dependence, security, profit-motive research in the private
> sector, to name a few.
> A recent debate in the UK has concerned academic research publications 
> and
> journals.

there is a few things here that i would like to separate.
first of all academic publications; like a lot of open-source 
programming, academic research, at least the vast majority of it, 
actually __produces something that is recognized by non-peers/general 
audience as valuable. they might not understand it fully, but at least 
they recognize there is a sufficiently high likelihood of it being of 
enough value and that they too at some point will benefit from that 
value to validate funding.
i don't dare say the same thing about the vast majority of government 
funded art that is produced. somehow we seem to have failed miserably 
at making non-peers/general audience feel that way about our art.
it is no secret that we score extremely low on the "general public 
appreciation" scale - in fact so low that it is at the very least 
extremely hard to justify a model similar to the one you describe for 
research publications in the uk.

scientists have realized that as producers of a good, they have a power 
to leverage. so instead of thinking that they are depending on 
publication in scientific journals, they have more or less turned the 
tables by making the product of their work - the research papers - in 
raw format available for free to anyone. on the one hand does this give 
them leverage to justify their government funding (transparency of 
public spending and free availability of the resulting products ), at 
the same time will it force the journals into a more valuable position; 
namely that of peer-review publisher and keeper-of-high-standarts.
what goods do artists produce that could be leveraged in a similar way?

now to go back to open-source programming in the media-art world;
since making the source code of a software product available for free 
to all has become an accepted way of justifying public funding (see 
above about the scientific journals) many media-art centres have 
focussed on the production of open-source software as a way to generate 
funding. many of the projects generated this way seem to have artistic 
use "tagged on" almost as an afterthought, quite often in the form of a 
limited series of residencies or something similar.

it's obvious that open-source software for artists does have its place 
and that releasing source-code of a publicly funded project as a way of 
making the product of publicly funded activities available is a viable 
strategy - though i do see them as two fundamentally different things.
what i questioning was the validity of open-source software production 
as a model for media-arts centres in the what that it has been used in 
recent years.

which brings us back to my questions about a model for a media art 
centre that does not take public funding as the default assumed source 
of support.


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