Iım with you Jon. The early days of the net were intriguing for artists as
either you embraced the idea that you had little control over how your work
would appear at the other end or you were destined to be frustrated. These
days, with high-band connections and better reception equipment, we have got
use to having control over how our work looks. In the process something has
been lost.

Interesting to hear about the 15% figure put aside by the Guggenheim for
variable media maintenance. I would argue that is not enough and 30% would
be a more realistic figure. This is what organisations and corporations
budget for equipment maintenance, usually through depreciation against tax,
and it seems a reasonable figure for artworks as well. It is the figure I
have always worked with when a permanent work has been commissioned and
produced. Sadly, although this figure ends up in the contract it is often
not observed in practice.

I wish to clarify my earlier discussion with Marcia Tanner. I am not against
artists selling their work. Most of my professional life I have been an
independent artist and the sort of academic post I have now has not been
typical. I have moved in and out of academia, mainly for artistic reasons (I
enjoy working in the multi-disciplinary research environments such
environments facilitate) rather than about my survival (my income dropped
when I last moved from being a fulltime artist to academia and I still see
my main job as being an artist). However, the European context is very
different to the USA. Here it is possible for an artist to live off
commissions from non-profit based organisations and that encourages a
certain model of production and consumption that needs not be predicated on
selling something that can then be sold on again. That is, the artist can
sell an experience rather than an artefact. They can sell it once or put it
on the road and sell it several times over. This model is closer to how
theatre or live music works and in some ways is inherently socialist. The
artist usually works with a producer who puts together the clients
(galleries, museums, festivals, public sites, etc) and negotiates the fees,
often in advance of a work being produced. State funding functions to
support this in that once you have a viable programme of events lined up
then the Arts Council or relevant public funder will then stump up the
production funds. Thus the work is publicly subsidised at various levels as
most of the clients are publicly funded as well. The main financial risk for
the artist is usually at the prototyping stage, creating something
compelling enough to set all these wheels in motion. That is often an
investment of time and infrastructure rather than materials. Usually this
means that when things reach the production stage the main creative bit is
over for the artist and they are focused on practicalities ­ although they
are probably working on their next prototype at the same time.

Or at least that use to be the model.

Public funding for the arts in the UK has taken a big hit in the last decade
and will do so even more in the next. Many artists, myself included, moved
over into academia in that decade because the money that dried up from the
Arts Councils started to flow from the Research Councils. This is well
documented. To access that research and production resource you need to have
a permanent academic post. In that respect the logic underpinning decisions
I (and many other artists, at least in the UK) made is about changes in the
economics of experimental creative practice. One assumes this system will
change again. You need to be adaptable, just like your work.

Perhaps what we need is not a variable media fund but a variable artist



Simon Biggs

[log in to unmask]  [log in to unmask]  Skype: simonbiggsuk
Research Professor  edinburgh college of art
Creative Interdisciplinary Research into CoLlaborative Environments
Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice

From: Jon Ippolito <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To: Jon Ippolito <[log in to unmask]>
Date: Wed, 17 Mar 2010 02:55:37 -0400
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: [NEW-MEDIA-CURATING] Models of variable media acquisition

An artist all too willing to sacrifice the historical and aesthetic
specificity of particular equipment might strike a conservator as a sellout,
and sometimes rightly so. Maybe the variable media paradigm has reinforced
this reprehensible behavior. But I have to say, as an artist active on the
Internet in the 1990s, my work never *had* a particular medium. My
collaborators and I knew our Web sites would be seen in Netscape and
Internet Explorer, on screens small and large, in millions of colors or only
256, over T1 lines and over 2400 baud modems. (I'm guessing Simon Bigg's
with me on this one.)

3. For the budget of its 2002 online art commissions (Mark Napier's net.flag
and John Simon's Unfolding Object), the Guggenheim took 15 percent and put
it in a variable media endowment. The interest from that endowment over time
was supposed to build up and supply a fund to pay programmers to re-create
(say) net.flag in a post-Java version, or to update the flags it referred to
to match the geopolitical realities of the year 2050. As far as I could
tell, this practice *hasn't* survived well--but I still think there's a
strong case to be made for it.



Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered in Scotland, number SC009201