States and Markets
As a result of socio- economic shifts occasioned by neoliberalism and global- ization over the last twenty years, public funding for the arts has increasingly come
to mean competition among, and compromise for, artists who receive state support. Although a relatively new phenomena in North America and Europe, artists from China, Cuba, and former East Europe know firsthand the limitations of government sponsorship and the concessions made in exchange for cultural subsi- dies. This session will carry on the discussions initiated dur- ing the first night’s debate to consider, on both theoretical and practical terms, artist-run institutions entangled by art and state interests.
Written by Dana Howell, SFU Contemporary Arts student
Photo credits: Andrea Creamer
Tania Bruguera opened the session with a detailed discussion of her work for the Havana Biennale in relation to politics and political artworks. Bruguera lives both in New York and Cuba and calls herself an “initiator [who uses] art as a tool.” She mentioned that for her, it was an important political decision not to make work about Cuba outside of Cuba. Bruguera explained her work as a life monument that functions as much when it is activated and when it is not. She explained that her art production cost her the trust that she had gained with Cuban authorities.
Following Bruguera, Matei Bejenaru, a Romanian artist, spoke of his involvement with the Periferic Biennale. He explained that Periferic is about art that is produced in the place it is to be shown (Iasi, Romania). While Periferic supports all media, Bejenaru spoke specifically of performance, mentioning: “performance talks of the body, the body deals with trauma.” He also spoke of the difference between funding opportunities that existed at the Biennale’s beginnings and those in place today. Finally, Bejenaru mentioned that, in 2013, he will be working with streaming radio because of the affordability of the medium and the fact that “you don’t need to work with matter.”
Gregory Sholette opened his talk with the question: “What is really at stake?” He spoke on the politics and economy in art; museums as “economic engines”; his work as part of Group Material, REPOhistory, and Political Art Documentation/Distribution (PAD/D); how artists organize themselves now in contrast to how they did in the past; and finally, of his current work on a publication and website concerned with visibility and archival possibilities.
Corinn Gerber, the executive director of Art Metropole, an artist-run center and bookshop founded by General Idea, spoke of ArtMet and how the centre engages with archival structures. The project Art Metropole presented in Vancouver in the Fall, which is co-produced by Project Space, directly examines this idea as well as that of exchange and the “commerce currency.”
Pauline J. Yao is an art historian, curator and critic based out of Beijing, China. She is the co-founder of Arrow Factory, a small (15sq meters) informal storefront that is entirely self-funded and self-run. She showed slides and a video of some of the projects that Arrow Factory has produced. Yao says that Arrow Factory is a reaction to the “monumental art” produced in Beijing, which is market-oriented and pre-packaged for museum institutions. She emphasized that the non-gallery space is meant “to be light-hearted”.
SFU’s Community Engagement Coordinator Am Johal moderated the session and led the Q&A panel discussion following Yao’s talk. The panel discussion between the speakers focused mainly on the economics of running an institution and how funding is affected by the kind of institution at stake. Once the panel was opened up to the audience, a spirited Q&A followed.
Art Metropole and Passenger Books
Queens College, CUNY, and Institute for Wishful Thinking
Pauline J. Yao