Tiffany Funk, Ph.D. (ABD)
Adjunct Professor Department of Interdisciplinary Arts, Columbia College Chicago
Chaz Evans, Tyler Stefanich, and Gregory Sholette
Zanny Begg and Oliver Ressler, Filippo Berta, Gabriele Brombin with Santa Ragione, Cardboard Computer, Libia Castro and Ólafur Ólafsson, Matthias Dörfelt, flo6x8, Melanie Gilligan, James Goggin, Jan Peter Hammer, Gottfried Haider, Arnie Jorgenson/Stoic, Jürg Lehni, Sherry Millner and Ernie Larsen, Karl Nawrot, Jaromír Plachý and Amanita Design, Jonathan Puckey/Studio Moniker, Casey Reas, David Reinfurt, Dread Scott, Jesse Tise/Teknopants
What are alternative economies within the context of New Media? How can new media artists create adaptive economies within, or as alternatives to, established economies? The three presenters in this session offered examples of alternative economies that creatively explore strategies for identifying and building new economic orders.
Chaz Evans, Director of Exhibitions and Programs of the Chicago-based Video Game Art Gallery (VGA Gallery, http://www.videogameartgallery.com) presented a model of how gaming can fit into the landscape of alternative economics. VGA Gallery generates financial support for gaming artists by selling fine art prints adapted from their games. By harnessing an economic subculture within the traditional art market, VGA Gallery aims to increase cultural appreciation and education about video games as artform through exhibition, study, and sale.
Tyler Stefanich, co-founder and current member of Work-Room (www.work-room.org), a collective of makers offering their talents for trade to people and organizations in the Midwest and beyond. He explained how do-it-yourself tech communities are uniquely prepared to participate in a trade-based economy built upon skill-sharing and work exchange. Stefanich described the growing popularity of both virtual communities with open source software such as Paper.js, Open Processing, Cinder, and Drawing Circuits, as well as physical meeting spaces like the School for Poetic Computation or the Free Art and Technology Lab.
Gregory Sholette described the curatorial ethos behind his and Oliver Ressler’s traveling exhibition It’s the Political Economy Stupid, then showed excerpts of participating artists’ videos that critique the current capitalist crisis. The videos helped to illustrate the larger conversation regarding whether the public can productively engage with the nearly insurmountable problems that stem from neoliberal capitalist ideologies. The title of the exhibition, from James Carville’s catch phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid,” represents how neoliberal capitalism has ultimately caused the world’s governments to all but completely abandon the task of securing for the majority, instead opting to encourage corporate profiteering. The exhibition catalogue, It’s the Political Economy, Stupid: The Global Financial Crisis in Art and Theory (2013), is available from 2013 Pluto Press UK (http://www.plutobooks.com).
The session began and ended with free gameplay and open conversation between participants and attendees. The games featured were those allied with VGA Gallery, including Mirror Moon EP, by Gabriele Brombin with Santa Ragione (http://www.santaragione.com), Kentucky Route Zero, by Jake Elliott, Tamas Kemenczy, and Ben Babbit, aka Cardboard Computer (http://cardboardcomputer.com/), Samurai Gunn, by Beau Blyth, aka Teknopants (http://teknopants.com/), Botanicula, by Jaromír Plachý and Amanita Design (http://amanita-design.net/), and Sword and Sworcery, by Superbrothers (http://www.superbrothershq.com/).