02.23.2016 · Ideas
How do we re-envision the nonprofit art space in an age of professionalization and precarity? We have proposed a new manifesto for the role of the nonprofit in the present as a platform of care.
How do we re-envision the nonprofit art space in an age of professionalization and precarity? What are the reasons for our form? Over the past year or so, we have written various drafts of this manifesto for The Luminary as an internal working document attempting to articulate the kind of organization we are, or want to be, as well as the role of the nonprofit in the arts more broadly. We have shared this initial statement, which we consider a work in progress, but also the clearest explanation of why and how we operate as a nonprofit arts space.
Manifesto for an art organization we can live in and with
I. To critique by building. We must build conscious alternatives to the world as we experience it: sustainable structures that support artists, support ourselves, and model a world we want to see embodied more broadly. An idea is not enough. The structure of our critique must also be a place to live.
II. To embody and enact structures that are sustainable, just, conceptual and diverse in idea, manifestation and act. Many things exist, exhaustingly, so we must propose new forms, as well as adopt and extend old forms that work. There must be an aesthetic and ethical, ideological and material justification to continue. The forms of organization must advance alongside artistic practice, manifesting in as many iterations as art itself as a collaborator and co-conspirator rather than a passive container of inherited ideas.
III. To support artists and organizers in their arc as individuals and practitioners and create a place for many people. Not all will be ‘in-common’ but will create common ground for those involved to flourish. Our organizations must be survivable for founders and organizers, seeing the institution as a collective of individuals with diverse needs and concerns. In an age of precarity, anxiety and over-labor, we must care well in the ways we can.
IV. To hold money as a tool to be used and a horizon to be overcome. The methods of accessing money should be ethical and the uses of money should be to grow the whole structure, to support the needs of artists and of the public, and to care for the individuals within it. As a nonprofit, this articulates a fundamental aspect of the form: for money to be a tool for public good, to take care of those individuals and ideas our society does not. To echo the attempts of for-profits through accumulation, competition, and over-professionalization is to empty the form of its force. It is to fail every level of what we mean when we say the public, who have enough businesses as-is, but too few forms of care.
V. To view art as a start, not the end. Forms of care, shapes of living and platforms of meaning are the end. Art emerges in this arc. Art has no other life than this: to course through communities as a charged object altering our attempts at communicating meaning, one to another, one to many, many to a multitude, a multitude to one.
VI. To understand our place in complex politics, ecologies and communities within and beyond art. The precarity within art does not exempt us from engagement and existence within un-abstracted communities, as neighbors, as citizens, as advocates. We are no longer naive about our role in processes of gentrification, capitalization, and spectacle. Artists may often be both perpetrator and victim, yet we must actively oppose these new social roles.
VII. To consider the intersectional implications of our actions in the Anthropocene, in America, in an evolving present. Injustice has no place within an institution. The new institution, as with the new artist, protests.
VIII. To age well, to sustain or end well. An organization is also a kind of organism and it must not simply last, but live. As it ages, it must either retain an essential vitality through evolution of concept or form or it must end appropriately, supporting others still in its fall.
IX. To create a continuity of history. We aren’t operating to sustain ourselves in a perpetual present: we inherit complex histories, we are a home for a time, and we propose alternate futures. We do not always need to live into the futures we propose: this is the after-life of the institution, embedded in its present.
For more context, read the original publication on Temporary Art Review.