[ipa] investigating crisis

Posted by Kristopher Swick on September 29, 2011
Sep 292011

contested space case study

[Quoted from previous project proposal]


Current Initiative: The Institute for Profitable Art, an art startup – residency at the CIC


We are happy to announce that we’ve secured our curatorial residency at the Cambridge Innovation Center! So on to the innovation!

Until the end of Summer 2011, our head curator, kswick, will be setting up shop at least once a week in the CIC’s “Co-Working Space,” a space where small start-ups can work in an office setting with minimal commitment of capital and time to establishing a permanent office; clients of this section of the CIC, also called C3, pay the lowest “rental” fee monthly but have access to all of the CIC’s resources, including the kitchen, dining area, conference rooms, common spaces, lounges, and even quick shower rooms.

As the ipa transitions into a commercial venture, we’ll be focusing and building the company and garnering profit; everything we do will be oriented towards making money (like any successful capitalist venture)! At the CIC we’ll have an excellent opportunity to experiment with installing projects for a commercial client with minimal consequences, since they won’t actually be paying us! To strengthen our organization, we’ll be able to learn the language of commerce from those who are innovating in that space and take notes on successful methods of garnering capital investment from third party entities. We’ll also learn about the dynamics of a proper and profitable relationship between client and company, and perhaps even recruit potential clients or collaborators from the ranks of the commercially innovative. And of course we’ll have a very comfortable workspace with all of the amenities we might need.

From the knowledge we gather, we’ll be able to innovate in the commercial art space and perhaps carve out a niche for the ipa as the most commercially competent arts organization!

Phases of the Residency:

We’ve divided our plan of action into phases that are centered on common key tasks of commercial ventures:

Phase #1: Advertising/Market Infiltration

First, we need to make sure that the CIC’s clients know about us! As of now, we are simply another one of the CIC’s C3 clients. But we’ve been tasked to interact with the CIC community to install a collection of work for their physical space. So we’re going to do an intervention in the form of stealthy guerilla marketing. Our first project for the CIC:

Art Objects – Art Objects is an investigation of what the common person is willing to certify as “art”; if they consider a piece as art, we also want to know what they think its worth in the currency of exchange closest to their hearts, money (as opposed to meaning, magnanimity, spiritual validation, etc.). And we want to know if we can get away with calling our advertising campaign art; we might even stumble upon a workable and conceptually strong fusion of advertising and art!

We will be creating unusable realistic three-dimensional sculptures that mimic mundane objects throughout the CIC and that bear stickers announcing “property of the ipa.” The pieces will be red-orange (to obey our promotional color scheme) cast plastic facsimiles created by thermo-forming sheet-plastic around mundane objects like fruit, silverware, coffee cups, etc.

These objects will then be placed amongst the objects they mimic so that the CIC’s clients will interact with them as they carry out their daily work routine. On our first day at the CIC, our curator explored the CIC and documented the space in a series of quick photographs and notes. The public poster designed for this project shows cartoon versions of these objects and their respective locations in the CIC.

The CIC client will hopefully discover these foreign objects placed in their workspace and question their purpose and origins: they might ponder the mundane objects they represent as interesting symbols of their work (and physical elements of their physical world) often taken for granted or they might wonder whether the pieces are a silly prank or meaningful works of art. But they will also develop an interest in the ipa, the organization that has imposed these foreign pieces into the fabric of their space.

At the end of their installation life, the pieces will be available for purchase. A catalogue featuring each piece will be published and made available once they have been installed; it will also be referenced in the project’s public posters. We’ll be interested to see whether the clients will certify the work as art and, if so, will they then have an interest in purchasing the pieces. We might also install a comments box in the common space where clients can leave notes on their responses to the intervention.

For reference, we’ll note that a precedent for this “subtle intervention” methodology is the work done by the Institute for Infinitely Small Things (http://www.ikatun.org/institute/infinitelysmallthings/), an organization that has a faux-legitimate face like the corporate ipa. Many of their projects, particularly The New American Dictionary, was developed and propagated as a sort of infiltration exercise to demonstrate a particular message. Art Objects will also call attention to mundane objects often taken for granted, often a goal of the Institute for Infinitely Small Things.

Phase #2: Market Research

From day one at the CIC, we’ve been gathering information about the space and its occupants. We will continue to observe and hopefully interview our fellow CIC clients. From the project proposal:

We’d like to know what kind of art they most appreciate and enjoy; we want to know what they’d pick to display in their workspace. In conversation with the clients, we’d also like to investigate whether art can be more than just decoration in the workplace; could it promote a healthy business community and even stimulate the commercial success of their ventures? Can they profit from the art they choose for their workplace? We’ll document the regular workday for our curator and the other clients of the CIC. We’ll also audiovisual records of any interviews and discussion we have with the clientele. Hopefully, we’ll be able to reformat and present this documentation within the CIC and beyond.

Phase #3: Experimental Project Production Phase

From the project proposal:

Informed by our interactions with the clientele and our research, we’ll then curate a selection of physical and digital works to be featured around the CIC (on the walls, in the halls and common spaces, projected in the conference rooms, on the IPads and screens mounted on the walls, etc.) To give a sense of the work we might feature, here are some ideas:

  • A 3-dimensional manifestation of the representational graphics and logos that the clients use to brand and promote their ventures. This could be CNC milled 3D versions of the logos, collages based on the coloration of these images, or assemblages of objects in the form of these images.
  • Architectural installations meant to envelop the viewer, such as wall-bound aluminum or plastic geometries and ceiling-hung sculptural work.
  • Compilations of audiovisual clips that document the CIC, featured on the existing set of audiovisual equipment (when not in use by the clientele) or projected onto the bare walls or floors of the CIC’s common spaces.
  • Kitschy prints or reinterpretations of the art that clients recommend.