Friday, April 22, 2016

Technology, Artists, Money

This excerpt is from my regular column, Culture & Kibbitz on March 23, 2016 at The Clyde Fitch Report. You can read the entire post, which more fully discusses long-term planning's importance, here.

The Crossroads of Technology and Arts
I was in Providence recently to attend the first annual Conference for Research on Choreographic Interfaces (CRCI), where I was lucky to meet with young artists who were discussing their practice and relevant issues in the most optimistic and excited tones. This fascinating meeting explored the intersection between technology and choreography — loosely defined in this case as anything involving gesture in the service of artistic communication.

The main takeaway from the conference is that technology continues to advance and insinuate itself pervasively into our daily lives, including in artistic practice. Thinking back on my interactions at the conference, I had the sense that these young practitioners view the world differently in at least three ways from those of my generation, born in the mid-20th century, and it is interesting to consider whether, with such a small sampling, there is anything representative to be learned about general trends from this group.

One shift that is noted and discussed at length elsewhere is that ours is a “gig” economy, in which mobility and transience will be hallmarks of one’s career. What was striking, however, is how comfortable the participants in the conference seemed to be with this shift. In my encounters with young technologists, both at the conference and elsewhere, I find people working simultaneously in multiple areas, seemingly transitioning back and forth fluidly and seamlessly, piecing together a living. The ease with which they shift extends beyond how they support themselves financially; it seems they have found ways to feed multiple parts of themselves and their needs, almost as if they have adopted multitasking as a basis for the structure of their lives.

Along with the fluidity of building a career in this way, or perhaps related to it, this group does not carry the negative assumptions about money and its connection to artistic practice that often pervades the traditional nonprofit world. These young artists feel strongly about their work and the “purity” of it, but have no antipathy to the involvement of money in their practice. Perhaps these artists are engaging in a sector that, like film or architecture, is really an industrial manufacturing process — one untroubled by reliance on capital and marketplace; they accept such forces at work, and in their work, very naturally.

Finally, for some in this group, research seemed to be the sine qua non — the very essence of what they were doing — rather than a vehicle to explore areas of interest. Their own curiosity was the “audience” for the work, not the outside viewer. In this sense, the work of these practitioners was akin to high-level mathematics or academic research, where posing and answering questions is the totality of the experience.
Looking ahead to next year’s conference, I know the organizers are already considering focusing more on the aesthetic and perhaps even the intellectual property issues raised in this year’s conference. It should be as rewarding and stimulating as this year’s conference and I intend to be there.

Read the entire fully developed post in Culture & Kibbitz at The Clyde Fitch Report here.

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