Curated by Gerardo Chávez-Maza
December 7, 2020 – January 15, 2021
Fundraising done both through traditional, online crowdfunding platforms as well as informal crowdfunding through social media have emerged as attractive alternatives for different reasons during the novel Coronavirus pandemic. Due to the effectiveness of the dissemination of these campaigns and the need to reflect upon new channels for distribution and circulation of contemporary art, a system of virtual exhibition is put into place without generating a new digital body, but formulated from one that already exists. In this manner, it would be possible to transfer and participate in the dynamics of discovery and movement already provided. Invading or infiltrating a pre-configured landscape for crowdfunding or micro-patronage (such as indiegogo.com), ALWAYS A DREAMER, but TESTING THE WATERS aims to play in fiction and ambiguity, under and in relation to the possibilities of these unique features.
The motivation for this project lies in transferring mechanisms of paid labour to the procedural field. A field of action that validates thought, ideas development and hypothesis as a fundamental body in artistic practice, therefore inseparable from its economy. ALWAYS A DREAMER, but TESTING THE WATERS seeks to identify how these types of experiences are capitalized within and outside the “commodities” of the legitimacy of art in order to question consumption, approach, exchange, understanding habits and remuneration possibilities.
Commonly, artists, art collectives and non-profit organizations have total funding responsibilities while developing artistic projects. I started to reflect around agencies of remuneration and the possibilities of an economic appraisal of artistic labour, partly informed from a post by @ladronladronladron, in which this problematic is visible with a sharply and direct: “my art is not my hobby beibi (baby)… it’s my faquin (fuckin’) job”. I believe that, while thinking on the demands of a non-regularized sector, such as in the arts, it is a responsibility to propose scenarios that, in some way or another, claim a remunerative intention in the circulation of projects. This is both a virtual exhibition and a campaign that focuses on giving visibility to a possible dynamic of communal collaboration.
Even as a paradox, once again the artists will generate the resources to request economic viability for an imagined project. The crowdfunding video acquires the properties of an artwork in itself, but circulates to some extent “unprotected” from a ratification system while facing questioning around its veracity—something that is not so unusual considering the art world subtleties. In this case, what is sketched may be impossible to carry out, perhaps viable only under extraordinary conditions, or with no intention of embodiment whatsoever or something that could only exist hypothetically playing on its own vagueness, improbability or extravagance. To the same extent, the presented projects are not precisely regular campaigns though, in the contrary, they have developed conceptually under this umbrella of action—in exercise.
ALWAYS A DREAMER, but TESTING THE WATERS is formulated under the pretext of expanding relational and response potential faced by art projects in the virtual field, through and from organic propagation—usually unrestrained—as if it were an online campaign looking for financing. Making use of a common expression: testing the waters—metaphorically like touching the water in the pool with the tip of the foot to verify if it is cold or warm enough to decide to get in—which at the same time is recognizable within crowdfunding terminology as a phenomenon of tentative approach, testifies how processes and project intentions are often very vulnerable and don’t get to materialize. In this particular case, they access a horizon of existence of imprecise reception that reverberates at different levels of proximity in networks and digital communities. It is an embrace of encouragement to find out if something will pay off even before doing it. Turning precariousness into empowerment is now the responsibility of a communal action.
This way, the extension of active and passive participation emerges. A collective element is at stake. From Indiegogo to Instagram, both recognize and engage with a commitment to “help”. The first one refers to an effective donation (direct economic involvement) while the last one develops a bond by sharing it. In both cases, cooperation is a policy in action. Sharing is commitment. The viewer is involved as an essential subject in the realization and/or success of the project and therefore of its circulation capacity.
It has been a challenge to transgress such an established format in order to find new discursive alternatives. But, in fact, they echo certain extensions and manifestations proper of exhibition making and the art world per se. Almost all of the campaigns have the possibility of “receiving” perks or benefits at the moment of donating, as a kind of exchange or incentive tool. Under the motto “if your dream is to become an art collector or to own an artwork from an amazing artist, start here. Donate more than $30 and receive X”, a in-house commercial extension appears.
Everything collected will be divided equally among the agents involved in the project in order to question the concept of shared ownership. Sharing resources is also a way of subverting that apparent democratic albeit individual quota present in and through the crowdfunding realm and in dynamics of production of capital.
Finally, I want to thank the artists that participate in this first exercise: Guendalina Cerruti, Dew Kim, Emilio Bianchic, Jared Marks & Mara Ploscaru, Viviana Balcázar and Samuel Nicolle.
—Texto y curaduría por Gerardo Chávez-Maza