Thanks, Beryl, for inviting Rick Rinehart and me as guests for this month! Later this week I'll be reporting from the DOCAM conference in Montreal, where we'll unveil the third-generation Variable Media Questionnaire developed by John Bell, and where I expect to learn of other exciting developments culminating from the research that Alain Depocas and the Langlois Foundation have nurtured over the past five years. And I'm looking forward to hearing reports from other correspondents on Friday's BALTIC conference.
Rick and I have the distinction, or perhaps more accurately infamy, of having played both roles of artist and curator in various commissions. As a double agent, I see the process as a bit messier than might be visible from the outside. To see if I'm not alone, I'd like to lob some questions at all of you artists, curators, and others who have been, or will soon be, involved in the commission of a variable media work:
1. The process of commissioning offers more give-and-take between artist and curator than just buying work out of a gallery, which is tantamount to shopping at a store for art. But the traditional artistic commission still divides responsibilities according to a consumerist model, this time based on freelance labor: the curator defines the job and hires the artist; the artist makes the work; and, depending on the terms of the agreement, either the artist or the curator inherits the work, along with the sole responsibility to maintain it. I'm interested to know whether the experiences of people on this list have echoed or disrupted this clear division of roles. How involved are curators in the production of the work? How involved are artists in its documentation and preservation? And how subversive can an artwork be if it is "work for hire"?
2. The word "commission" comes from the etymological root "to entrust," which in medieval Latin became "put into custody." So, from those who've been involved in commissions on this list, I want to know who trusted whom with what, and whether that trust was honored or betrayed. Who got custody of the "child" of this unnatural union between artist and curator? Of the hardware? Of the source code? If the work was created collaboratively, how were the rights and credit apportioned? What did you keep, and what did you let go? Who made out better in the end?
3. How, if at all, did the variability inherent in technological and process-based artwork complicate or enrich your commission? I'm especially interested in any problems you encountered--with an institution, an artist, or a technology--and whether the solution you hit upon was satisfactory.
Still Water--what networks need to thrive.