Thu 15 Jun 2023 11:35AM

Change the way we fund art

K Kris Public Seen by 73


Proposer (name, handle, etc.):

@shannon @kris

Proposer’s role

Shannon is an anthropologist and artist. Kris makes computer systems, and has contributed to the Borderland dreams platform.

The advice process

  • Advice Process ending date: Approximately three months after Kiez Burn 2023.

We aren’t interested in reaching a conclusion before the next event, we’re busy doing “art”, but the discussions have been so prevalent. It’s good to get something on paper while it’s fresh in everyone's memory.

Information gathered before posting

This proposal comes out of discussions recurring during the art granting process with dream leads, guides, artists, and proposal writers leading up to Kiez Burn 2023.

People/roles most affected by this proposal

Artists working to make Kiez Burn happen.

People/roles with the most knowledge and experience relevant to this proposal:

Mel, Juliana, Kathleen, Alex, Diarmaid, Bri, …

The proposal


The current system is copied from Borderland, using a platform developed by Borderland. It’s tweaked change it from a crowdfunding style system (a portion of every ticket is allocated to projects) to a proportional voting scheme (making the value of the ticket price opaque).

As far as we know, this is unique to Borderland and Kiez Burn.

The criticisms of this system are many, and we’re not particularly interested in detailing every single one here.

We will quickly list some major things we’d like to improve upon.

It’s a significant waste of time

For several years in a row, close to every project has received funding, rendering the crowd participation element moot.

The system asks for a lot of attention and time, not only for artists and guides, but for every ticket holder. Ticket holders are assigned responsibility for “reviewing” proposals using the rules set out by the art granting leads (and mostly copied from Borderland?), but engagement is low and most of the actual work is done by volunteer “dream guides”. The rules are not addressing the desirability of the art, just technicalities.

Alongside difficult to communicate, esoteric and technical process, this review period constitutes a significant stress to the whole organisation.

It’s not possible to hold it accountable

If it were the case that the system wasn’t a waste of time, that is, if there were significant curation happening through ranking proposals, there's no guarantee of a quality outcome.

The system is designed specifically to be unaccountable. It places the responsibility of the choices of what to fund on everyone, but nobody is given the tools to evaluate the artistic merit of a proposal, where a real curatorial need to emerge.

Voting does not, in our opinion, drive transformative, challenging, or interesting art. Instead, we’d be likely to see a haphazard selection, with large camps driving their well-known recurring projects.

The current ranking mechanism discourages voting for anything except “your” dreams, as every vote to anything else increases the risk of your own project gets pushed below the cut off. Borderland “solves” this problem by not doing ranking but direct granting of money. This ends up leading to several rounds of granting, as projects drop out by failing to reach their minimum.

To our knowledge, the current system has never actually been put to the test, since there’s been very little contention for grant money. That is, very few proposals come in under the cut-off. In that sense we have no evidence as to how it would perform if more ambitious projects come in, but in our opinion there’s no indication it would begin to look optimal.

It discourages ambitious projects

By fracturing responsibility and leaving most artists with only a volunteer “dream guide” as the interface to the organisation, no relationship is built between artists and the organisation. Dream guides are not empowered to solve artists problems, in turn the organisation isn’t able to maintain a year-over-year view into the artists’ practice.

This year, “dreamers” were told to reduce their budgets to “get everyone in”. There might have been a distinction made between art and “in camp” projects made there, but it seems indicative of a system striving to avoid having to make judgements on the value of works.

The proposal

We suggest taking up a more traditional art granting process. One great example is Burning Man's Honoraria Programme.

Soliciting Proposals

From the time a budget becomes clear for the event, up until a few months before the event, Kiez Burn will accept Letters of Intent.

Letters of Intent (LOI) are not dissimilar to the application submitted to the "Dreams platform", outlining the ideas, implementation details, site requirements, and a budget estimate.

Based on the LOI, Kiez Burn will invite artists to create funded art at the event. Most invitations are likely to be sent after the submissions details, but we suggest opening up to invite projects that are clearly suitable and high quality earlier.

Entering an agreement

Once accepted, artists will enter a contract with Kiez Burn where Kiez Burn commissions the artwork. A contract will make it clear what expectations exist between Kiez Burn and the artist.

The contract will need to stipulate, among other things:

  • What happens on non-delivery (e.g. repayment, full or partial refunding of costs)

  • Who owns the resulting work. Where does profits go when it's sold on?

  • Who owns reusable components like expensive electronics

  • Who's responsible for disposing of the artwork responsible in the end

  • Liability during build, strike, event, and so on

We believe a contract will make life easier for all participants. It would enable us to solve many problems for artists, for instance, we can pay money up front to artists who aren't able to essentially loan out money to Kiez Burn e.V. for months.

Refining and doing the work

Kiez Burn will have volunteers liaising with artists and help out with knowledge sharing, and help make available resources at the event (e.g. power, volunteers), and outside the event (e.g. finding space in Berlin, people who've done similar things).

We should expect perhaps monthly check-ins on progress from artists, and generally try and manage expectations and keep things on track.

During the event


After the event


How would the proposal be implemented

Prework to complete the implementation of this is to:

  • Rewrite the criteria to fit the new system (e.g. what is "art", in camps or outside)

  • Figure out the financial process and contractual agreements

  • Create new documentation for the new process

Who would implement this proposal

In order of preference:

  1. The board picks someone to lead

  2. The GA picks someone to lead

  3. Someone competent steps up and leads

  4. The authors of this proposal does it

Lead would need to assemble a team of volunteers.

When would this proposal be implemented

Before next Kiez Burn.

What would be the cost (time, money, effort, etc.) of this proposal

It'll cost less of people's time overall.

What are the advantages of this proposal (relative to the current situation and/or counter-proposals)

  • It is more democratic as it's accountable to the membership

  • It encourages ambitious art

  • It builds relationships

  • It retains competence and knowledge

What are the disadvantages of this proposal (relative to the current situation and/or counter-proposals)

  • Someone is given power and influence

  • Possible loss of visibility for projects due to the lack of push towards the platform

  • Loss of synergy with Borderland

  • Committees can get entrenched and power and process hungry (and so can computer systems!)


After Kiez Burn 2023.

When a decision was reached, write on top of the thread:

A decision has been made

  • Who made the decision: Your name

  • When was the decision made: Date

  • Decision Summary: Short version of what you have decided


Kitt Mon 19 Jun 2023 7:38PM

So I've been a dreamguide for a couple of years, been to burns in 3 different countries. Every single burn funds art differently, and it reflects different communities. TL;DR read the bolded bits.

I am not on the board, and there seems to be a tension between the board and its wants/intentions and what actually happens, and it comes up every year. As do comments from people who are not intimately familiar with our dream manual. Despite my frustrations, I like that we're adjusting each year and forming our own identity.

One issue is the over funding of the expected art budget this year. A good (in some ways) problem to have. But this year it created a lot of crosstalk and work.

A big issue came (for me) when the board handed down money that put us in excess of the budgets of all projects. I feel like there's a disconnect between the board's (potential) intentions and what happened -- why was there extra money given to dreams? Was it assumed that more money = more art? Because if someone had taken a cursory look at the spreadsheet, they would have seen that while we already had split art and dreams into two different categories, art was underbudget and dreams were overbudget (so would use the rest of the art budget.) We already have a lack of art projects proposed for kiez burn, and a higher/unlimited budget limit for art projects. (as Alex says above, this has gotten better and attracted more art.)

To put this more clearly, kiezburn already funds art with priority, it is dreams where it is more competitive.

Secondly, I wonder if as a burn we are starting to move from the building camp infrastructure stage into having camp infrastructure stage. As in, several camps have been funded for bigger and better structures, things that will come back year after year... is this something we still want to fund? Case by case or at a capped limit year to year? I love how dreams have funded camps to create identity and build, and I think personally it's nice to still be funding this, even when a large tent might not be 'art' unto itself.

Thirdly, I'd love to see a reflection not only of community feedback and change but looking at what other burns do and don't fund. Nowhere funds 100% of transport and costs up to 5k, and building materials but nothing within camp bounds. Burning Nest only funds transport on case-by-case and never funds pre-built durable items such as tents or domes, (and what counts as 'pre-built?) Burning Man Netherlands has 'art jump,' a transport-only fund to bring international art. Maybe there's something different for us, maybe it depends on next years' site. There are so many possibilities.

What isn't working now is:

-How much work there is for dream guides because-->

-...How many dream guides I know of who just tune out of communications OR who overburden themselves and burn out.

-Cobudget as a platform to vote for art -- it is confusing and not fit for purpose, but does give a nice place to see and comment on some art before then burn.

There are definitely things that could be reassessed/made clearer

-The annual debate of 'can we fund a sound stage or not and why/why not.'

-The annual debate of 'can we fund a prebuilt structure, is this okay, why/why not.'

Though maybe I'm too deep in the sauce of it now, and I'm repeating myself.

One thing I love about burns is it empowers artists/makers who may not be the best at writing applications, dealing with capitalism or 'default world' worries. We are always going to have weird issues pop up last minute, but it would be nice to perhaps have a few people who can make quick and easy calls.

ETA - There's a lot in here that might be my misunderstanding and misjudgement, and I hope it's clear that I'm not pointing any fingers just looking for new solutions :)


Kitt Sat 1 Jul 2023 9:34PM

@Kris With love, please interrogate what it means to call someone 'abusive' out in a non-anonymous forum where we are trying to cocreate in person. We're going to be in the same field in a handful of weeks and assuming insincere or malicious intent (or both) is really not good vibes. I would say this to anyone, but truly, this is not a reddit thread and shouldn't be treated as such, not everyone has the same resilience and most of the time these kinds of conversations go much better in person. xxoo


Kris Sat 1 Jul 2023 6:20PM

Whatever the intention, I'm done taking CJ's advice. There's been no valuable input here, and it's surely a joy that advice processes work this way.


Kitt Sat 1 Jul 2023 6:15PM

@Kris I think there is a deep misunderstanding happening, and I don't think CJ is trying to get his 'way' in any fashion.


Kris Sat 1 Jul 2023 6:13PM

You've constructed a straw man either by misunderstanding me, or intentionally wanting to drain the conversation so that we land on keeping the same solution as every year, making it so you get your way. This is abusive and unconstructive use of everyone's time regardless.


Kitt Sat 1 Jul 2023 6:11PM

@Krisvalid and glad to know this, for better or worse this is a diverse community of people with different cultural contexts and for some people, that phrase will be 'the old nickname for the board, ' (and lots of people hated the way the phrase became used) so I'm glad it's been stated somewhere that it should never have been used in the first place.


CJ Yetman Sat 1 Jul 2023 6:03PM

@Kris I want individuals that are interested to have a voice in the matter, plain and simple. You can post as many Wikipedia links, quote political terms you seem to think you understand better than anyone else, and make snide off topic comments (also classic troll behavior) as much as you want, but it doesn’t change.


Kris Sat 1 Jul 2023 5:35PM

@B r i Offence? I'm not trying to school you here. However, I'm not going to spend an afternoon writing an article explaining this point further than I've done in the proposal unless it furthers the ability to make a decision. I post here in good faith, and just demanding I explain myself without contributing towards the goal of an advice process borders on the abusive (This is a classic trolling technique to drive the conversation off track, where we now are). Hoping we're just misunderstanding each other here.

I was parroting CJ in that comment by using that expression, I'm not interested in discussing its definition. What I meant is clearly stated in the next comment without using the expression. If you'd like to comment on that, I'm all eyes.


B r i Sat 1 Jul 2023 5:08PM

thanks for that, I know enough about algorithm bias, it's close to being an old school problem.

I would still like to know how dreams is a shadow council and makes shitty decisions before I actually take offence by this.


Kris Sat 1 Jul 2023 4:56PM

@Kitt "Shadow council" is a play on a still very much alive antisemitic right wing conspiracy theory, and it stopped being funny a few years ago IMO.

I'd love to have more dream guides and artists piping up here.

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