States and Markets
Barriers to content, the desire to share information, a lack of economic means, a belief in free culture, and a critical awareness of the social costs incurred by profit-driven cultural development all have compelled artists and their institutions to interrogate existing economic and business activities to invent creative and impromptu means of presenting and sharing contemporary art and discourse outside conventional for-fee channels. Cognizant of market opportunities and pitfalls, artist-run initiatives have generated vehicles for circumnavigating the heavily regulated “culture industries” while simultaneously appropriating the language and methods of commercial entrepreneurship. This section of the convention examines the organizational modes and methods employed—from out-sourced labour practices to underground publishing and creative commons and copyleft activity—to inform strategies, logistical and financial, that make institutions by artists.
Written by Christina Andreola, SFU Contemporary Arts student
Session Six, States and Markets, commenced on a chilly Saturday morning at 10am. The moderator, Jordan Strom, alluded to the audience’s enthusiasm as he thanked the crowd for its early morning attendance.
The first speaker, Jeff Derksen, a Canadian poet and SFU professor, spoke of the post-market crash euphoria, neoliberalism, and the precarity of the relationship existing between cultural production and the market. During his presentation, Derksen read poetry, including some of his own writing as well Aaron Vidaver’s The Market Prefers, thus infusing emotion and affect in a discussion of state-determined spaces for art.
Following, Sean Dockray spoke of a data centre located in Sweden, which services Facebook. Dockray discussed the data centre, its conception, the reasons for its location on Swedish grounds, and its effect on the surrounding landscape. He concluded his talk by looking into the future, linking the development of data banks and the advancement of technology to artist-run centres and examining their effects on cultural production.
Andrea Francke and Eva Weinmayr then spoke of The Piracy Project, which is based out of the United Kingdom. This Project was conceived as a knowledge-exchange platform and involves the compilation of pirated books as well as their online distribution. As an example, they showed a pirated book from Peru, where a large amount of pirated books are produced, and compared it to a legally purchased copy of the same book. Francke mentioned that the project does not present a specific stance on piracy, but is rather the outcome of research on the subject, a topic the speakers claimed to be fascinated by. Finally, Francke distributed photocopied pages of pirated books. The reverse side of these prints asked the audience to participate to the project by contributing a copied page from their favourite book.
Gabriel Menotti then spoke of his experience working with free culture in Brazil. Menotti discussed state funding and patronage, warning against artists becoming bureaucrats and businessmen. He spoke of the project Estudio Livre (translating as Free Studio), which was developed as a means of encouraging the creation and distribution of free media. Interestingly, the project was funded both through private sponsorship and governmental subsidies.
The session’s fifth and final speaker, Dirk Fleishmann, presented his recent project titled mycarboncredits: a 17,000sq/f forest in the Philippines that Fleishmann has reforested to offset carbon footprints. The artist takes annual photographs of the forest and places the digital photograph files on a disk for archival purposes. As a criticism of the carbon credit market, Fleishmann then sells the disks containing the photographs, as well as photographs of the engraved digital files on the disk. For 10 Euros, buyers can purchase the peace of mind of having contributed to the offset of carbon footprints.
Following the presentations, all six speakers took to the stage and participated in a question and answer period. Notably, a copyright lawyer commented on the presentations!
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