I just returned from a trip to Vancouver, Canada where I presented my work and took part in some discussions at the Purple Thistle and the Contemporary Art Gallery’s Field House with Broken City Lab. Carmen Papalia and Kristin Lantz organized and took part in the events.
One of the participants who came and contributed to all of the presentations was Paige Gratland who I had met years before in Toronto. It’s always nice to reconnect with Canadian friends and to realize that there is so much to learn from them. The US and Canada are both very similar and totally different at the same time. CARFAC is a great example of the difference.
There were many engaging topics of discussion related to Art and Social Practice as part of the events. Paige had an idea that I found intriguing, which was to create a “style guide” for crediting collaborators and participants in art projects. She wants to make a book version, but I encouraged her to also create a website for the project so that more people could use it as a reference. It is similar to an idea I’ve wanted to see happen in the US for a long time, the creation of a website with a set of standard payment amounts for various activities that artists do, but for which there are no current regulations on and as a result, in many cases, unfair disparity occur. I think W.A.G.E may actually be pulling off some way of addressing that issue, so I’m curious to see how that goes. In the case of Paige’s idea, there are existing examples in other fields that would be interesting to draw on including film, music, and theater. In all of those practices there seem to be systems that regulate and normalize crediting, so that it is expected that in a performance’s printed program or at the end of a film everyone who contributed is noted for what they did.
It was suggested in one or our discussions that artists who don’t credit everyone who helped make a project possible are being unethical, but I don’t think that’s actually the case. Systemic conventions are instead largely the reason that people credit or don’t credit. In music, film, and performance there are forms and orthodoxies that make it convenient and standard to credit participants, in conventional studio/gallery art those standards don’t really exist, and since that is largely the model that social practice is coming out of there hasn’t been a convention transfer for crediting. One of the main reasons for not crediting in the case of studio/gallery work is that the commercial system wants to perpetuate the idea that artists work alone and function in romantic, individual genius ways. I think that idea and model should be addressed to reflect reality and signal to artists starting out that going it alone is not necessary unless that’s how they really want to operate. In socially engaged work, without direct commercial forces at play, it should be easier to create a new approach to crediting. Even though I’ve worked in collaborative and participatory ways for over twenty years I’m still sorting out some of these issues and can look back on past projects to see ways that I’ve neglected to credit everyone fairly. I’m now much more conscious than I was in the past, but I think that having a credit guide or guides like the one Paige is proposing would be very helpful for all artists going forward.