talk.kiezburn.org
Thu 15 Jun 2023 11:35AM

Change the way we fund art

K Kris Public Seen by 72

Proposer

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

Background

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!)

Decision

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

AK

Alex Kaos Sun 11 Feb 2024 1:53PM

*grabs popcorn* 🤓

S

Saskia Sat 10 Feb 2024 9:08AM

Oh boy, I got some things to say.

I was dreams realizer in 2019 and observed the distribution of funds in 2017 and 2018. I also observed the following changes.

Hold your horses, once I am at a keyboard, there’ll be a little essay to read. Not willing to type on the phone tho.

D

Diarmaid Fri 9 Feb 2024 2:12PM

I'm very curious about what the results of this are going to be. I like Discord as a platform, but feel like it is much more "chatty", by which I mean that people (maybe just me) are much more likely to send short 1 liner answers, whereas I think that Talk encourages longer, more thought out answers.

One thing is that Discord and the wiki are linked on the website, so anyone going to portal.kiezburn.org has the chance to go to our discord, or to our wiki, but there is no mention or link to talk. If the only problem that we have is the lack of engagement with talk, then methods to improve engagement might be a better way to go forward. For example, we could have a AP channel on discord, where users are not allowed to post, but all posts from Talk are automatically propagated, together with a link to the AP itself. This could mean that people could read about the proposal, and could easily go to the proposal, while possibly still keeping the benefit of having longer, more thought out posts inside the AP itself.

In the same vein, we currently have a single login for Kiezburn things, which is awesome. But talk is not included in that single login, which increases the burden on posting for people. I don't know how easy it would be to integrate our single sign on process with talk, but could be a good option to look into if the idea is to increase the engagement here.

Finally, I think that a big problem with talk is that it is hard to find things which have happened in the past - maybe your idea for the AP has already been considered (see for an example of this the link that Waldo gave to the AP about moving from talk to reddit, which I had never seen before). Having all of the different APs posted to the wiki (either during the AP, or after the AP) would help with this issue a lot.

Posted to the wrong AP

D

Diarmaid Fri 9 Feb 2024 1:41PM

One thing that I should note here is that there have only been 2 years where everything got funded. In 2021, there was a much smaller budget for dreams, and a lot of dreams did not get funded.

I also completely disagree with the idea that dreams is a shadow council - voting on the dreams platform is open to every person going to the burn, and is pretty transparent about what gets funded. I was not involved in the years where there was an arts council, but in 2021, when I first co-realised organising dreams, there was nobody there from previous years. The most experienced person doing dreams at that stage was Mel, who had been dream guide to a single dream! And as far as I could tell, this is because in 2019 there had been a lot of friction about the process, and everyone who had been involved at that stage had burned out (though of course this is anecdotal).

I can not see any way that you can have an arts council with as little bias as the dreams process. Algorithmic biases included, it is important to remember that people also have their own biases - and I know in 2021 the projects which I thought were the most exciting were not funded. We also took steps to ensure that the algorithmic biases were as small as possible - e.g. everyone who logs onto the platform gets shown a random list of dreams to remove first person bias.

There are lots of ways to improve on the current process - both by allowing earlier entries (though then ticket sales would need to be earlier) to improving the process that we have (we have not been using the cobudget/dreams in the method that it was designed to be used in the past 2 years). But I think that going back to an arts council, and completely removing the community decision making, is not a good step forward.

MG

Melinda Gonzalez Fri 29 Sep 2023 2:40PM

(TL:DR The 2023 Dream Guides are tentatively willing to try some experimental curation in 2024, parallel to voting. But for significant changes to take place, Dreams could really use a motivated and ideally experienced Realizer and some volunteers with experience and/or education in art curation)

I was co-Dreams Realizer in 2021, Realizer in 2022, and co-Realizer in 2023. I'm really happy to see such a constructive discussion. The Dream Guides are listening and discussing these issues in our meetings!

Yes, the way we have been doing things is not perfect. There is bias in the system and Cobudget does allow us, to a great extent, to avoid making decisions about art. This is intentional: the current Dream Guides do not have a lot of experience with burns, art, or art curation (although that is slowly changing).

We do not feel comfortable making judgements about what art is, what Kiez Burn needs, and how to "fairly" distribute the 30,000€ arts & dreams budget.

Also, it takes a LOT more energy and time to create and get used to a new system than to tweak and improve the old not-perfect-but-also-not-terrible system that we created and understand how to execute.

It's actually not true that "The criticisms of this system are many." Kris has been the loudest and most persistent critic. I also find their criticisms confusing. For example, how is this team "a shadow council" while simultaneously "forcing the community to make all the decisions?"

We have so far been able to prevent most problems that arose in past years by making small changes. Some examples: 1) We simplified and shortened the Dreamer Manual and we decide on/clarify/ refine the guidelines and processes every year. 2) When "maximum and minimum budgets" resulted in mostly minimally-funded dreams and under-funded artists, we changed to a priority voting system. 3) New Dream Guides found their role too complex, so we made a new volunteer role (dreams comms). 4) There is now a way to keep track of high-value purchases and keep them in the community.

From the start of 2023, I tried to find someone to take over the leadership of Dreams. Nobody showed any lasting enthusiasm. In the end, Dreams was run non-hierarchically (and, yes, somewhat chaotically) by a core group of lovely people with busy lives, most of whom were also making dreams and/or being camp realizers. We didn't deviate much from Dreams in 2022 but we also did not burn out or burn bridges.

If "How We Fund Dreams" is to change significantly, Dreams will need an experienced and motivated Realizer. I do like the idea of this person being voted for, but if we struggle to find anyone at all to do it, finding a group of people to choose from seems like a pipe dream.

So if we only have the same decision-fatigued and risk-averse team of volunteers again, plus some new guides, I think it's more realistic for us to just make small changes and fix some issues (for example, how to pre-fund artists who have no money and how to confirm funding for bigger art projects sooner).

We did discuss testing the "curation" idea with a smaller group (parallel to using Cobudget to vote on the bulk of the Dreams). This could, for example, mean:

A) An early round of bigger art projects, or

B) A later-stage secondary round of funding for latecomers and/or dreamers who want to request more funding.

J

Jessie Mon 3 Jul 2023 9:19PM

I like the system and the dreams platform. I don't understand the idea of a commission. I wanna vote for a dream. I'm getting excited when the platform opens and I can read all the wonderful proposals. Yes, there's no guarantee of a quality outcome. But this also means a Kiezburn for me. In no way perfect, sometimes shitty but I feel like I can propose whatever I dream and I also have the ability to vote. "Quality" is also a point of view. I personally value and love the art at Kiezburn just at it is and wouldn't like to change the way how we fund it. 🌞

P

Purzel Sat 1 Jul 2023 10:48PM

Seems to me that this thread stopped beeing constructive, I'll read up on this ASAP but close the thread for now to present further escalation.

C

Cris Fri 23 Jun 2023 11:13AM

@Kris never!!!

K

Kris Fri 23 Jun 2023 10:50AM

@Cris You can have LoLs when you agree to the CoC

C

Cris Wed 21 Jun 2023 11:03AM

Could we please change Letters of Intent (LOI) to Letters of Liability/Loyalty/LoL's ?

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