Last week at NEW INC, members gathered around for a lunchtime dojo hosted by artist Miriam Simun, the first in a six-part series called “SELL-OUT,” a group inquiry into the challenges artists face in choosing to follow an entrepreneurial path. The session began with a panel featuring fellow NEW INC members Adam Harvey and Hello Velocity, as well as local artist Greg Ketant (AKA Mega), all of whom highlighted breakthrough moments in their careers, when their art positioned them in front of new audiences and markets.
Miriam initiated the discussion by posing some key questions to the group about the blurry relationship between art and business. “What if we treat malls as museums and view Black Friday Shoppers as Collectors?” she asked.
The participating artists shared some examples of creative experiments that put their ideas in front of new audiences and markets. Simun described her multi-sensory art project, Ghost Food, which provokes people to imagine a world where their favorite foods have become extinct as a result of climate change.
Hello Velocity shared their tongue-in-cheek Celebrity Twitter campaign entitled BiteLabs, which rallied people to the cause of “telling the world that (they) want to #EatCelebrityMeat.” The wacky concept strategically allowed them to reach new audiences and increase exposure in a valuable way.
Adam Harvey talked about his project Privacy Gift Shop, an online marketplace where one can purchase an anti-drone Burqa for $2,500, among other counter-surveillance products. Harvey highlighted the relationship between taking ideas that appear to be aggressive--such as privacy, surveillance, and security--and breaking them down by making items for sale. Harvey commented that “putting something up for sale makes people feel safe,” due to the ability of the capitalist platform of the e-commerce shop offering a kind of social relief surrounding difficult-to-talk-about topics.
Mega concluded the presentations by sharing his personal philosophy of merging his artistic exploration of metaphysics with studying the ins-and-outs of corporate practice and tech start-ups. This influenced his decision to move away from functioning as a “sole practitioner” towards setting up a structured corporation, under which he can generate and sustain multiple ideas simultaneously in a systematic way.
The presentation sparked candid dialogue among the group, who shared similar personal experiences and boldly discussed topics such as the trade-off between monetizing artistic practice versus gaining exposure through eccentric creativity. The audience posed critical questions: How do we define and actualize personal metrics of success? What is the value of studying business structures and applying those strategies to art practice? The group brainstormed alternative revenue sources independent of art dealers and discussed sustainable practices for marketing their art digitally.
The community forum provided a space for establishing a support system and honing strategic solutions for innovative and independent career paths, but the conversation and inquiry into these matters has only just begun. SELL OUT will continue as monthly group discussion led by Miriam Simun at NEW INC. If you would like to participate in the conversation, submit reading material or questions for discussion, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.