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I’m feeling like a proposal labor in this last couple of days. That’s taking the majority of my waking moment right now. For future classes, development road map for the fabrication lab I’ve been put responsible for, research + other projects. They all have one common conclusion: grants.
The majority of proposals I’m doing is for grants from the university (range between ±7k-30k USD + honestly, their standard is not that high), but the book pictured above is a gift for my head editor in Karbon. In our calculation, with our full plan ahead, we can only sustain ourselves for another 6 months (by cross-funding some leftovers we secured from our previous grant to make a research-publication/book project). We desperately need to secure some more fundings in a very short time. I’m going away to Bandung, a city 3-hour away from Jakarta + going to spend most of my January there. We’re publishing the revived version of ourselves in February. We’re planning to go full steam ahead right after. Yes, we’re under a deadline. Your crossed fingers would be much appreciated.
Talking about grants + funding, though, I think it can be useful to post some of my thinking about the subject here to discuss it in RFAOH context.
As we all know, crisis in (global) funding for art + culture has created this existential crisis for this sector. How does art function in the bigger picture? Is it actually valuable? Where does this value lie? The list of questions go on, that are being brought up in order to defend the position of art + keep on securing the support (taking the forms of finance + acknowledgement, or finance as acknowledgement?) from the bigger system. This is totally a first-world problem. For us in Indonesia, we never had a big public-funded support system for art + culture that actually works anyway. Andres Serrano is a case we never had the privelege to experience. Ever.
It doesn’t say that we’re not facing any problem. First, it creates a condition where we are dependent heavily on foreign funds. Either from the first-world’s ‘cultural missions’ through their national institutions (Goethe-Institut, Centre Culturel Francais, the British Council, USAID, AUSAID, Erasmus Huis, etc.) or their private philantrophy scheme (Ford Foundation, Asian Cultural Council, Soros Foundation, etc.). The colonial model repeats itself naturally this way: we tailored our projects (therefore creating a body of precedents accumulated over the years) to meet these institutions criteria. Bandung’s ‘Creative City’ label can be considered as the latest manifestation of this development. I don’t need to argue how it’s unsustainable + destructive, as it’s not the time nor is it the place to do so, but unless we recognize + tackle this problem, we would never be able to be truly independent. That’s assuming that we want to make it as our common goal in the first place. Maybe we don’t.
But the most important thing: it doesn’t answer the bigger question we are actually still facing after all this time: where should we put art + culture in our own context? Those foreign fundings only gave us the alternatives when the bigger global condition is alright. It’s no longer the case. So what should we do? Should we sustain art + develop it towards becoming an industry—therefore strengthen the connection between artists, art schools, galleries, with its most vital stakeholder: the collectors? That seems like a plausible way out. Or should we fight the nature of art as a space where an alternative mode of thinking is possible, to counter the mainstream hegemony that actually is losing its power anyway? If the second condition is preferable, then how should we strive for it? Should we rely on our own public fundings (our government is getting better at ‘handing out’ money, without actually do any proper mapping to form + criticize their long term goal, if there’s even any—a model they learned from whom?), or should we as artists, creatives, + cultural workers (I’m aware of the connotation some of these words actually have, but excuse my limited vocabulary that I decided to keep on using them to regain their actual meaning back) create a model that actually for once works, for us, in our own contexts, facing our specific constraints + challenges?
For the questions above, I have picked my own answers + am putting a fight to make them happen. If it means I need to be a whore for the time being, toiling away creating fully massaged + tailored proposals that make me cringe in more times than once… As long as I still can make that much-fought-for finish line visible, so be it. I’m a schemer, + I’m still proud calling myself so.