Lifetime Token Payments As Next Form of Arts Funding?

There has been an ongoing conversation in the visual arts world about the issue of an artist selling a work for $250, having it sell for $2500 five years later and then $25,000 five years after that due to the hype that has built up around their work, but the artist not benefiting from any of that.  The only thing that was added to the work to make it worth so much more than at the time of creation was a lot of hype and speculative manipulation to make it so.

There have been a number of ideas floated about ways to provide an artist a royalty of some sort every time a work is resold, but that depends on the work beings sold publicly and a lot of good will on the part of the sellers to remit the proper amount to the artist or their estate.

Or at least that is true for physical works of art. The was an article in Art Newspaper that discussed the use of non-fungible tokens (NFT) which accompany digital works as they are traded among different owners. Each time the work changes hands, the artist receives a royalty. Currently this process, including the payment, is all based in cryptocurrency technology—a medium whose value and stability fluctuates to far greater extremes than the art market. A royalty of $50 today could be worth 50 cents tomorrow and $5,000 next month.

There is a somewhat more complete explanation on this site, along with some art based examples (i.e. William Shatner digital collectibles will earn the erstwhile Star Trek captain royalties for years to come.)

While the technology and payment vehicles need further development to make them easier to use on a broader scale, I envisioned something like this being a way for performing artists and organizations to monetize digital content they create in the future.

I suspect the tools to do so will be widely available  and easy to use once big players in the entertainment industry like Disney realize the potential revenue stream available from issuing limited edition releases of content. Unlike the copy blocking encoding that made legitimately purchased recordings and games incompatible with DVD players and computers, companies will want this content passed around a lot if it means they can collect a royalty or create a profile of the people who are using and trading it.

If it works well for digital content, I am sure someone will figure out a corresponding method to apply to physical and live works.

This may put the same tools in the hands of artists and others in the creative industry and shift the dynamics of how we do business and interact with participants/consumers.

More Reminders About Importance of Libraries

I was reading a story about the earthquake that hit Christchurch, NZ ten years ago today which damaged large parts of the city. According to the article there was a significant effort by the local government which collected more than 100,000 ideas from over 10,000 people about how Christchurch should be rebuilt, but those plans and ideas were discarded by the national government of the time. The basic theme of the article is that much of the development which has occurred in the last 10 years hasn’t revitalized Christchurch.

The one place where local input was included in the plan generated by the national government was Tūranga, a library and community space which looks pretty dang awesome. Not only are there cafes and play areas, but there is a lot of focus on indigenous Maori culture and art as well as a digital wall depicting Christchurch’s features, history and stories. It is easy to see why the facility is well-regarded by residents.

Before I took a deeper look at the library in Christchurch, I was immediately reminded of the State Library of Queensland in Australia which Nina Simon had spoken about in a TED talk about 4 years ago. I summarized her story in a blog post at the time.

…State Library of Queensland which built a gorgeous new white building and then invited aboriginal elders in to help them design an indigenous knowledge center. The elders noted that for them, knowledge wasn’t shared through books, but rather through music, dance and storytelling in a setting that wasn’t so sterile looking, most importantly around a fire. The librarians, true to their intent renovated a space for music, dance and storytelling and infused it with color. And they built a firepit (away from the flammable archives, of course).

Part of the reason I checked out the floor plan of the library in Christchurch is because I wanted to see if they had included anything like a fire pit at their library. It doesn’t appear that there is, but there are plenty of other facilities and equipment for sharing ideas and stories.

By the way, if you want to see pictures of the fire pit area in Queensland, they are on the library’s webpage. Scroll down to “Story Circle” heading. It almost doesn’t look like it is outside, but I found some YouTube videos of events and while it is nicely enclosed there is definitely a lot fresh air flow through the space.

The lesson here may be not to give libraries short shrift in the economizing that may come now or as we emerge from Covid restrictions because they are important community spaces.

One specifically arts related thing I wanted to note was the significant role the article said it played in helping people transition post-earthquake in Christchurch:

If you don’t live in New Zealand and you read about Christchurch in those years, most likely it was about the creative, guerrilla projects that popped up in the immediate aftermath of the quakes. Temporary site activations—Gap Fillers—brought life back to the empty gravel lots with music, performance, art, and community participation. These were almost spontaneous events, a community responding to challenging times however it could. They represented the best of the city, and inspired residents and visitors to believe that the new Christchurch that grew from the rubble of the old could be eclectic, engaging, and exciting.


Some Questions To Help You Enjoy The Show

Nod to Dan Pink who linked to a study conducted among German university students which found that when students were provided a question to consider while learning material or were asked to create their own test questions on the material, they were better able to retain knowledge versus those who were asked to review their notes. The small sample size in the study requires that more detailed research is required.

But the weakness of the study doesn’t have much bearing on my post because it was only the starting point from which my brain made some wild leaps.

In considering how this might be applied in an arts and culture situation I recalled that many organizations already put out study guides which include questions to consider as you watch a performance. I know there is similar content in program books for shows.

And I pretty much ignore all of it. Maybe it is out of ego, thinking I can come to my own conclusions regarding what I am about to see or not wanting someone else to shape my perceptions.

Overall I suspect many other people might ignore/not see those questions as well. I likewise suspect that people might enjoy and understand unfamiliar content if they had some questions to consider bouncing around their head.

I started wondering if having questions posted on lobby monitors or on signs posted in restrooms or other strategic places might be the answer. Just one question or prompt to a screen or page in big font to catch the eye. There might be multiple questions peppered throughout the spaces, but no more than 3-4 in total. They should be focused on helping people understand and enjoy the show in a broad general sense rather than trying to focus on academic minutiae (i.e. “What do you think the color brown signifies?” )

Anyone have any thoughts about it? There has been conversation that a post-Covid world would eliminate printed program materials in favor of display screen/projected/virtual delivery so this somewhat dovetails with that as a potential practice.

What Does Your Typeface Sound Like?

An appreciative nod to Thomas Cott for calling attention to San Francisco Symphony’s adoption of dynamic typeface as part of an effort to shift perceptions about the organization.  You are definitely going to have check out the article to get a sense of how dynamic typefaces differ from static ones. Until you see it, the following description may confuse you.

…an elongated serif typeface that, like music, shifts based on mood, context, and medium. The modernized brand is more friendly and accessible, widening the tent by targeting not just younger audiences, but an array of music aficionados, whether classical fans or not.

The team gave it a contemporary behavior, so “it can react, stretch, and skew and bend in reaction to sound.” Letters in the same word might be incrementally shortened or attenuated, so the logo, which reads “SF SYMPHONY,” arcs from left to right like a crescendo. Some words lean forcefully to the right for emphasis, like a pianist playing forte.

The full project information is on the website of their design agency, Collins. They have created a tool that will allow you to play with the typeface using your own audio input to see how it works.  Essentially, you can play music and then freeze the type at the point that seems the best visual reflection.

Obviously it leads me to wonder if this type of typeface manipulation might become more widespread in the near future. To some extent it makes design a little more difficult and requiring good judgment.  The best representation of a feeling via typeface may not work visually with images, nor may it be the most legible option for the full range of uses – what works on a billboard may not read well in smaller print format.

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