[-empyre-] Models and Perspectives for Media Centers and Net Art organizations

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Mon Aug 25 10:37:26 EST 2008

Hello Sarah,

Glad to have the chance to discuss with you on Empyre.

 >At Eyebeam I am learning what it means to curate within the
 >context of a new media lab... or three labs to be more specific:
 >the research and development Open Lab, the Production lab,
 >and the Education lab. While I am tasked with concrete
 >curatorial outcomes on the Eyebeam side of the research
 >partnership, on the CRUMB side I am tasked with transfering
 >knowledge as to what it means to be curating new media
 >art in or from a lab rather than in the more traditional gallery

It sounds like an interesting project you are involved in and an awful 
lot of work. So, what does it mean to curate (new) media art from a lab? 
Is it about finding ways in producing a workable model in which you can 
somehow create an exhibition, or something similar to be seen and 
experienced in other environments?


Thank you for having me this month -- CRUMB and Empyre have been meaning 
to join forces on a topic for some time now and it is nice that CRUMB's 
current research partner, Eyebeam, where I am currently based as their 
curatorial fellow, has been the catalyst. Sorry I am late in posting an 
introduction, but this is just to keep in the game as I read the posts 
so far...

For those who don't know me so well, or indeed know CRUMB, I am a 
curator and post-doctoral research fellow, at the University of 
Sunderland, and from there curate exhibitions and projects in 
partnership with other venues, much in a way that a freelance or 
independent curator would, but with the gracious backing of my research 
position (itself an interesting model of funding). CRUMB (a research 
unit at the University of Sunderland) was founded in 2000 by myself and 
Beryl Graham, for curators grappling with new media to talk to each 
other and learn from the experiences of others. We host an emailing list 
(800+ international members), also with topics of the month, and a 
website, with interviews, documentation and transcriptions of seminars, 
conferences and workshops we have organised, and the like. Beryl 
recently returned from ISEA 08 in Singapore where CRUMB hosted 'Blissful 
Dialogues' which brought together new media practitioners with those 
from the field of visual art to discuss common strategies for presenting 
My curatorial practice is very collaborative, mostly because I am often 
'on-loan' or 'embedded' in an organisation which is not my own, in order 
to realise a project. For instance, I have co-curated exhibitions on 
behalf of the Banff New Media Institute at the Walter Phillips Gallery 
in Canada, with curators who were both staff and guest curatorial 
fellows there, on thematic concerns or archive-based initiatives; I have 
co-curated exhibitions in smaller 'media-specific' venues, such as the 
Edith Russ Haus in Germany, which in addition to having an exhibition 
programme also supports artists through stipends and residencies; I have 
co-curated exhibitions for festival situations, such as AV 08 in 
Newcastle, which have then gone on to tour, beyond the life of the 
festival, to other partner venues; I have commissioned work for 
mainstream visual arts venues, with and without collections, where my 
project has often been the point of first contact for that institution 
to the world of new media art.

At Eyebeam I am learning what it means to curate within the context of a 
new media lab... or three labs to be more specific: the research and 
development Open Lab, the Production lab, and the Education lab. While I 
am tasked with concrete curatorial outcomes on the Eyebeam side of the 
research partnership, on the CRUMB side I am tasked with transfering 
knowledge as to what it means to be curating new media art in or from a 
lab rather than in the more traditional gallery context.

Given this varied experience, of the topic that Empyre hopes to cover 
this month, I think I can speak most intelligently on "how local 
scenarios alters the dynamics of institutionalization, according to the 
predominance of more public oriented models (public grants, government 
support) or, on the other hand, more private oriented ones (sponsorship)"

The example I always like to bring up though, which is a sideways one 
from my day-to-day new media art related work, is that of the Star and 
Shadow cinema in Newcastle, of which I am a volunteer/sometime 
programmer. The Star and Shadow was hand-built, by volunteers, with 
donated and recycled materials, in a warehouse building with five years 
left on its 100 year lease. All the programming takes place on a wiki at 
at monthly consensus-based meetings (where sometimes proxies attend in 
place of a remote programmer to explain and discuss the proposed 
programme). The programme is varied - new media artists such as Cory 
Arcangel have performed there alongside the best Hindu films you've ever 
seen screened with live soundtrack. Sometimes the audience is 3, 
sometimes 73, sometimes 203. The venue has an exhibition space, a bar 
and gig-space, a meeting space and 'lab' in addition to its 80 seat 
beautiful cinema (with all forms of projection except HD digital). Money 
made from gigs/event rentals and the bar goes to cover necessities like 
heating and electricity, but no one is paid to be there or work there. 
The Star and Shadow functions much like a co-op, but slightly more 
anarchic -- we are always asked if we have a 'volunteer coordinator' but 
we don't, which frustrates a lot of the agencies which seek to place 
volunteers in organisations but want someone to be 'managing' them. We 
also occasionally risk losing relationships with film distributors who 
get annoyed that every time they phone the office someone different 
answers, and every time the courier drops off or picks up a film, 
someone different is at the door. Not having a paid office manager or 
organiser (or print-traffic coordinator) seems to be the most radical 
aspect of our daily workings. At one point the expression "Star and 
Shadow" was shorthand, in funding circles in the north of England, for a 
'blue sky' idea that might never come to pass, but it has now become 
shorthand for an idea whose economics are outside the box, off the 
chart, somehow other to the norm of public funding, and that could be a 
good thing.

I look forward to discussing more, in relation to what I am learning 
here at Eyebeam also, as I continue to read the introduction and notes 
from others on the list.


 > I will stop for now because there are other things that I wish to 
discuss in more detail, such as sustainability, ecology, collaboration, 
claiming the cultural interface and more...I will also get back to some 
of the other questions that Marcus has asked me later. And I also want 
to respond to other contributions so far :-)
empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

More information about the empyre mailing list