Submitted by: Rob Knijn
Author: Rob Knijn, Alice Máselníková
Credits & Copyright: Photo: Katherina Heil, text and survey Rob Knijn and Alice Máselníková
A short summary on the experimental survey that was done on the 2nd July, in The Hague on the occasion of Back to Normal, an internationally curated project with all in all 17 artist-run spaces involved and 23 artists from around the world.
The goal of the survey is to chart whether there is the need for self-reflection in the artist-run world, is it a significant factor in your organizations, can you improve on it? Even, do you think it’s necessary?
We at Artist-Run Network Europe are thinking: is there enough self-awareness in the sector? There are many very active and enthusiastic artists and curators working in this sector, a lot is being produced, shown in exhibitions, online. It seems like a never-ending stream of pretty concrete and seemingly logical and often exciting outcomes. Art, workshops, talks, residencies, background evenings, you name it, it is being produced. But do we every once in a while take a step back to reflect? Or is the moment that another funding deadline approaches the only moment to think about things that are ahead, and is this how you shape your spaces future?
We think that self-reflection in artist-run spaces can be beneficial for growth.
Self-reflection means that you are looking for patterns, values, convictions. It can enhance the resistance of the organization, and it can raise self-awareness. It offers you a better view on what you want, it shapes and sharpens your ambitions. We think that this can be done without giving up on the spontaneity and energy that very often comes with artist-run spaces.
Twenty-five art organisers from the artist-run world were participating in the survey, here are some conclusions:
Sixty percent of the organisations interviewed are without hierarchy, the others are with some form of hierarchy.
Most participants think that their individual organisations are doing well, and there is consensus in the fact that their artist-run spaces’ proposition is unique. Their program fills a void in the contemporary art worlds landscape.
There is also agreement on the idea that organisations are flexible and can adapt when circumstances change. Just as the continuation of the organisation, that is being taken care of by a majority of the participants. Most participants think that in their organisations people are in the right positions, and that they are effective, motivated and enthusiastic. Forty percent think that they can be more critical towards each other.
That’s the good news, now on to some more problematic answers: Only fifty percent of the organisations (or to be exact, organisers representing artist-run spaces) think that they have their ambitions charted, the other fifty percent don’t.
And almost half of the respondents think that not everybody agrees with these ambitions, which can be problematic, once the ambitions are turned into policy and subsequently are being executed. Only sixty percent think that there is a clear and consistent vision, this also goes for strategy and how strategy and vision is translated into plans and actions.
To be expected was that most people think that getting enough funding is a major challenge. More surprising is that nearly forty percent think that they do not have what it takes within their organisations to get sufficient funding.
The final question in our survey was whether the participants think that their organisation is self-reflecting enough. Forty percent are neutral in their answer, disagree or strongly disagree. One could argue that the other sixty percent thinks that they are self-reflecting enough, and you would be right. But, connected with the low scores on vision, ambitions (or the lack thereof), the division where one needs unity when it comes to these important issues for any organisation, makes the overall impression of the artist-run organisation often like a card house more than a solid contemporary structure. In these mostly micro-organisations, it is a challenge to make time for reflection, to sit down, halt and look at what you have achieved and what you can improve on. Next to organising that is, programming, getting funding in, exhibiting, the inevitable social media, everything on very scarce or no wages at all. But we think it is beneficiary for all organisations to do periodically.
As for the experimental survey itself: we need to look at the questions again, tweak where respondents thought the questions and or answers were unclear, and also look at what specific information we need more of. Direct the questions and answers towards that, before we put out the survey on a wider scale, preferably a digital survey that we can send to our worldwide network.