INDEX OF ARTISTS
INDEX OF PROJECTS
PROJECTS BY CATEGORY
INDEX OF IMAGES
SEE THE HEADQUARTERS
LINKS TO FREE CULTURE
ABOUT SAL RANDOLPH
SOME NOTES ON THE ORIGINS OF FREE MANIFESTA
Giving it away, not giving it away, is there any difference.
Giving it away, not giving it away. Gertrude Stein
The meaning of money lies in the fact that it will be given
away. Georg Simmel
All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient
and venerable prejudices, are swept away, all new-formed ones become
antiquated before they can ossify, all that is solid melts into air.
Karl Marx (on money in its latest incarnation)
It is essential to the nature of money for the objects into
which wealth or value is condensed to be practically useless. . .This
theorum is equally true for modern money (gold) and for archaic money
(dogs teeth). Norman O. Brown
To be useless and unprofitable is one of the characteristics
of works of genius Arthur Shopenhauer
This useless thing we expect civilization to value is beauty.
FREE MANIFESTA had its origins in an earlier project, the FREE BIENNIAL,
which took place in New York during the month of April 2002. Both came
out of a series of works I've been doing over the past few years involving
a study of money systems in the art context (the effects of buying and
selling, giving and taking, wanting, having, not having).
The FREE BIENNIAL was an experiment in creating a gift economy in a fairly
large group of people, to see how this might function and to see whether
an economy of this kind could create an event and a context for art which
has enough vitality and scale to hold its place alongside what is most
likely the most vigorous luxury art market in human history.
I found that it is indeed possible for a single individual, acting outside
of any institution and working largely alone, with about two months of
full time labor and enough money to throw a party and print some stickers
and flyers, to create a frame for an astonishing amount of artistic activity.
By the end of the project over 300 artists had contributed their work
to the FREE BIENNIAL.
I was also curious to see what it would be like to work with artists in
a way that did not edit or filter their work according to my tastes and
preferences. The FREE BIENNIAL was free both in the sense that no money
changed hands and in the sense that any artist could enter. I was fairly
sure that an unedited show would be more alive and interesting than anything
curated could be, but I actually expected a great deal of the work in
the FREE BIENNIAL to be "bad", and to be personally challenging
to me in that way.
In fact, I was surprised to discover that overall level of the work was
very high. It seemed that artists selected themselves for the show, based
on something like curatorial criteria -- affinity with the ideas &
participants, a desire to work in a different kind of context, an interest
in freedom and experimentation. But this self-selection produced a different
kind of result from ordinary curatorship -- I was continually surprised
by what was happening. No part of the experience was predictable.
As the FREE BIENNIAL developed, I began to wonder how it would be to take
this uncurated space inside of an institution. The more I worked with
this live and complex array of artists and projects, the more controlled
traditional art spaces seemed. From this point of view, commercial and
institutional spaces are almost identical in their desire to control the
viewing context. The fear of "bad art" felt by museums and galleries
began to seem a bit hysterical (and in that way, of course, interesting).
The idea of selecting or curating based on "excellence" seemed
suddenly narrow. What was being left out? What weren't we seeing? The
hush of museums and galleries began to seem like a silencing.
When Christoph Büchel's invitation appeared in my email box, it seemed
like an answer to these thoughts. It was irresistible. I could take this
wild, uncurated biennial into a real, carefully organized biennial, and
see what happened.
WHEN MONEY IS FREE
I purchased my place in Manifesta 4 as the high bidder in Christoph Büchels
ebay auction, which he called Invite Yourself. I took him
up on his suggestion. It felt a little like a magic trick.
Ordinarily, things that confer social prestige must be received (or not
received) as a kind of gift. One is awarded something, or invited somewhere;
it is a passive mode. An artist's place in a big show is a gift of the
curators. The artist is not the chooser here no amount of desire
can force the gift. In the marketplace, however, you can have whatever
you want as long as you have the money. You do not have to persuade or
impress someone in order to be allowed to buy.
Büchel, by auctioning off his participation rights, in this way also
freed them. Participation, or belonging, was no longer tied to the traditional
structures of power. We like to think of gifts as free, but in this case
it might be argued that money is freer.
FREE MANIFESTA creates an unedited and uncurated space within the larger
context of Manifesta 4, a space where any artist who wishes can participate.
It transforms Büchels Invite Yourself into Everyone
As an artwork, FREE MANIFESTA is an idea structure, a kind of social architecture.
What interests me is how these social architectures are given life by
the consensus, the gift, of their participants. An alternate economy is
created, based around this gift, which joins both the artists and those
who experience the artwork in a new relationship.
But it is important not to over-romanticize the idea of the gift. Gifts
may be financially free, but they are part of a system of mutual obligation
and social hierarchy. The marketplace offers something more promiscuous
and libidinal, an exchange based on desire. As we move between the interlocking
systems of the money economy and the gift economy we find ourselves exchanging
and re-exchanging one kind of freedom for another.
Sal Randolph, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 25 May, 2002
NOTES ON THE FREE BIENNIAL
A BRIEF HISTORY
LINKS TO FREE CULTURE
ABOUT SAL RANDOLPH