Hi Jon and Richard,
I rarely intervene in this list although I follow it regularly. Here I would
like to say a few words concernnig the commissionning of new media works as
I did some while I was Curator of Media Arts at the National Gallery of
Canada in the 90s and while I was Executive director of the Langlois
foundation. Among artists I worked with was Bill Seaman who did a piece
called "Red Dice" with the NGC, and David Rokeby who did "Machine for Taking
Time: Boul St.-Laurent" for the Langlois foundation. In both cases, the
artist was in total control of the technical aspects, and if he had to
collaborate with a programmer, this person was fully recognize in the credit
of the piece. In both cases my role was that of a
There is different kind of commissions. In both of my cases I was involved
in dialogue with the artist and the commission was defined with them: the
what and the how of the production. With Seaman I proposed him to adapt
Malarmé's famous poem "Dice Thrown Never Abolish Chance" because I thought
his work, at the time in early to mid 90s, was somewhat inspired by it,
Seaman agreed. On top of the roles listed above, I also did work on
rewriting the English translation of the actual poem used in the piece. With
Rokeby, I really wanted him to do a version of a piece called "Macine for
taking time" that had been previously produced at Oakville Galleries in
Ontario, so we discussed the relevancy of doing it and finally Rokeby agreed
to do the piece that was destined to be installed in the Hall of the cinemas
at the Langlois foundation's building in Montreal.
Last point concerning power relations. Depending of your institutional
setting you may, as a curator, have more or less so called "power". I find
hard to discuss power relations in the abstract. Power is always exercized
in an institutional context. And of course being at the National Gallery of
Canada or the Langlois foundation is not the same as being in a small
artist-run center. But my attitude has always been to give freedom to the
artist in the first place as they know more and are the specialist in terms
of technology; but it also giving them responsability. The only aspect that
always gets in the way is financial ressources. But if you establish the
financial framework right off the bat, rarely it is a major problem after.
I hope this contributes somewhat to the discussion
----- Original Message -----
From: "Richard Rinehart" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, March 02, 2010 11:23 PM
Subject: Re: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Three questions about commissioning
> Thanks for starting off the discussion Jon, and to Beryl for inviting us
> and hosting it.
> I'm also looking forward to the reports from DOCAM later in the week, and
> I'm looking forward to hearing everyone's "surgery stories" - please send
> them regardless of what thread we're discussing; real- world case studies
> are a great way to transform theory into practice.
> Now to your provocative questions Jon.
> New media art certainly seems a natural for commissions since there is
> (or was) not such a large body of extant work to "shop" for. And new
> media production is naturally technical, involved, and labor intensive.
> Sometimes the curator or gallery/museum tech staff know as much or more
> about different aspects of the technology as the artist (not always, but
> sometimes). This means that close collaboration is necessary, and it also
> results in the dynamic you mention, where the collaborative boundary
> between curator and artist is blurred.
> On the one hand, this appears to be a good thing; breaking down the old
> curatorial model where the artist is asked politely to drop off their
> work at the loading dock and disappear until opening night (to paraphrase
> Robert Storr). If the curator is more involved in producing the work, the
> artist is conversely more involved in the installation and presentation
> of the work. But, as you also point out; there is a power differential
> here whether or not there is money at stake; the curator seems to have an
> unduly privileged position. This has made me a little uncomfortable in
> the past, but I'm curious about the experiences of others here. Is this
> simply the new mode or a troubling by-product of commissioning new media
> art projects?
> Now allow me to extend this question a little. I've also witnessed new
> media art commissions in which the artist hires a programmer (or Flash
> Developer, or other technical help) in part for labor (truly "work for
> hire") and in part for expertise. The programmer sometimes makes
> critical, fundamental, or creative decisions about the work that affect
> its ultimate look or behavior - and yet their input is often not credited
> in the work (at least not top billed as "artist"). I fully realize that
> artists cannot and should not be expected to know every technology or to
> produce every aspect of their work in order to be legitimate (painters
> don't make their own paints any more) and this makes new media inherently
> more collaborative. But does this create another layer in the situation
> described above with the curator and artist? Does it point out a flaw in
> current standards for documenting artwork; standards that favor naming
> one or two artist-geniuses rather than an entire crew? Film production
> (also technical and collaborative) still favors the genius-leader model
> of the director, but at least the documentation standards allow for an
> expanded recognition of roles in production. Worse, does this dynamic
> help to perpetuate the idea of the artist-celebrity who deals in the new
> art world commodity - the concept - without dirtying their hands or
> problematizing the field of production?
> More soon!
> Richard Rinehart
> Digital Media Director & Adjunct Curator
> Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive
> University of California, Berkeley
> 2625 Durant Ave.
> Berkeley, CA, 94720-2250
> On Mar 2, 2010, at 3:16 AM, Jon Ippolito wrote:
>> 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.