Robert Atkins on Thu, 12 Mar 1998 23:28:19 +0100 (MET)

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Re: <nettime> funding for the arts etc.

This thread has (oddly) pushed more Nettimers' buttons than any since the
peculiar "debate" about feminism last fall. Most of the posts about Ada'web
and corporate funding for the arts seem primarily (only?) to reveal
information about the posters,  rather than the issues at hand. Time to be
a little more self-critical and detached, perhaps? To fight that e-list
tendency to lash out first and think later?

What follows are a few specific responses to Robert Adrian's post which
does not fall into the above categories. (Yes, it must be the exception to
the rule.)

>The art market
>gold-rush of the 80s is over and the belief that the
>arts can be supported by Reagan/Thatcher style
>trickle-down methods is easliy as inappropriate to
>the present situation as a call to the 60s barricades.
Appropriateness is usually only understood retrospectively. In the US,
there would have been no Civil Rights activists, no anti-Viet-war
demonstrators and no ACT-UPpers if appropriateness were the guide. No one
ever really believed that trickle-down would support the arts anyway, did
they? I always thought it was just a rhetorical justification for keeping
pinko-artists off the dole.

>The problem for many of the critics of Adaweb was
>that it often seemed to be trying to create a virtual
>80s SoHo on the web - BIG art from BIG names in the
>BIG apple - a recentralisation of the dispersed web
>environment on lower Manhatten. It was a good effort
>but it didn't to do the trick either - the boardroom
>moguls were unimpressed and pulled the plug.
I believe over time that many critics were won over by what seemed to me
AW's serious commitments to pioneering, non-superstar artists like Julia
Scher or John Simon. (Or at least I was.) The idea that the boardroom
moguls made a qualitative judgement about AW apart from its connection to
the bottom line--ie marketing and promotion--seems naive to me. AOL, after
all, recently buried "Art" in its new channels-like guide to the drivel it
calls content.

>The lessons?
>1. Importing traditional art heroes into the network
>environment is interesting but not viable in the long
>run, at least not in terms of corporate support
Once again you conflate qualitative, curatorial matters and the bottom-line
thinking of marketing execs. In fact, "art heroes" are the only sort of
artists most corporations are interested in.

>2. Public funding agencies and culture ministries have
>an obligation to distribute funds to arts projects and
>artists. Corporations have an obligation to provide
>their shareholders with a profit. Just as the internet
>itself was entirely developed by public funding -
>unimpeded by "bottom-line" inhibitions - the creation
>of an environment supportive of creative uses of the
>network will have to come about by similar - but not
>neccessarily indentical - means.
>Any other expectation can only be naive.
Do you mean that the Defense Department is going to start funding art on
the net? Now *there's* an idea.

Robert Atkins

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