segunda-feira, 28 de dezembro de 2015

Keynote on creativity

Stone walls defining a property [demo], Arouca, Portugal
Photo: CkS

Beyond 'The Tragedy of the Commons'

Creativity is a derivative of différance. Not all creative stuff is useful. For an invention or artwork to become a game-changer or a masterpiece many ingredients are needed, apart from time, space and opportunity.

We are witnessing the end of a 'price revolution' [David Hackett Fischer]. Growth and welfare states will be gone soon. We will have to restart our civilization all over again.

Hopefully the new era will not be as selfish as the Victorian Revolution. Complexity and global collaboration are the next drives.

Robert Axelrod,
The Evolution of Cooperation
New York: Basic Books, 1984.

“Under what conditions will cooperation emerge in a world of egoists without central authority? This question has intrigued people for a long time. We all know that people are not angels, and that they tend to look after themselves and their own first. Yet we also know that cooperation does occur and that our civilization is based upon it.”

Mark J. Stern and Susan C. Seifert
“The arts, civic engagement, and the ‘tragedy of the commons’”
University of Pennsylvania, June 2008

Small - budget cultural organizations are embedded in an arts scene that has become increasingly marketized over the past two decades. Artistic occupations are now clearly part of the “winner - take - all” economy described by Frank and Cook, in which a few stars gain a disproportionate share of the compensation. Indeed, during the last decade, only professional athletes have had a less equal distribution of earnings than artists’ occupations. Public and philanthropic funders who used to see their task as compensating for the difficulty that smaller, socially conscious groups had in generating earnings, now often use fiscal rectitude and earned income as filters for identifying worthy and unworthy groups. Small cultural groups face increasing isolation and competition.


There is a risk that a similar process could happen in the field of civic engagement and the arts. Let’s use one concrete example. Several years ago we were asked by a local cultural group to undertake a community impact study. Sure enough, we were able to demonstrate a correlation between this group’s activity and a set of positive social outcomes. If we had stopped there, we would have made the group very happy. Unfortunately, as social scientists, we felt called upon to “control” for a relevant variable — in this case, other cultural groups’ activity in these areas. When we did so, the individual effect disappeared. It wasn’t that this group made no contribution, far from it. But the social impact was a collective result of all of these organizations’ work. Suppose we hadn’t felt called upon to control for the effect of other groups. As we’ve said, the individual group would have been happy. They might have broadcasted the results. Other groups would commission community impact statements. Founders at the start would be thrilled that they could identify the groups that “really” were making a difference, but over time, they might start to wonder why all of these groups keep claiming the same social impact. Like much of the economic impact literature, we would breed a cynicism that this was another case of “lying with statistics.”


We’re in no position to guess what form of collective organization would make sense for smaller arts groups and artists. We do know, however, that if we persist in trying to exploit the commons rather than figure out how to exercise social control over it, the small arts sector is likely to follow in the footsteps of those English farmers who, when the commons was played out, had no choice but to find another line of work.

Full text here

Garrett Hardin,
“The Tragedy of the Commons” Science #13,
December 1968

The rebuttal to the invisible hand in population control is to be found in a scenario first sketched in a little-known Pamphlet in 1833 by a mathematical amateur named William Forster Lloyd (1794-1852). We may well call it "the tragedy of the commons," using the word "tragedy" as the philosopher Whitehead used it: "The essence of dramatic tragedy is not unhappiness. It resides in the solemnity of the remorseless working of things." He then goes on to say, "This inevitableness of destiny can only be illustrated in terms of human life by incidents which in fact involve unhappiness. For it is only by them that the futility of escape can be made evident in the drama."

The tragedy of the commons develops in this way. Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. Such an arrangement may work reasonably satisfactorily for centuries because tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of both man and beast well below the carrying capacity of the land. Finally, however, comes the day of reckoning, that is, the day when the long-desired goal of social stability becomes a reality. At this point, the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy.

As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, "What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?" This utility has one negative and one positive component.

1. The positive component is a function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly + 1.

2. The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision­making herdsman is only a fraction of - 1.

Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another.... But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit -- in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.

Original full text here

Originally posted 2014 September 26

sábado, 19 de dezembro de 2015

Once upon a time in 2007

Why does Portuguese art always suffers a decade delay?

First Symposium Co-habitation and Dialog between the arts and the sciences 
21st July 2007 - Programme 
9.30 Opening - Alexandre Quintanilha 
Here, a number of experiences about the relations between institutions and the exhibition of artworks and projects with a very strong scientific and technologic content in a contemporary art context will be discussed and presented. The open debate aims to discuss strategies to promote the border between these areas of our culture and knowledge, specially at the level of the improved commitment from the institutional partners. 
10.00 Belina Quirke (Dublin - Ireland)
10.30 Jurij Krpan (Liubliana - Slovenia)
11.00 coffee breaks
11.30 Alberto Figuero e Elvira Dyangani (Sevilla – Spain)
12.00 António Franco (Badajoz – Spain) 
12.30 Round Table
Moderador: Marta de Menezes (Ectopia)
Paulo Cunha e Silva (Independent Curator);
Alexandre Quintanilha (IBMC);
António Cerveira Pinto (Independent Curator *);
Derek Hales (Huddersfield-UK); 
* António Cerveira Pinto is an artist, writer and concept designer who has been exploring new creative strategies since the 70s. He was part of the direction of the National Gallery of Modern Art, in Portugal (1979-81), participated in the Paris Biennial in 82, in 83 he organized a huge exhibition in Lisbon called After Modernism, participated in the exhibition Processos, cultura y nuevas tecnologias at the museum Reina Sofia in Madrid, in 94 formed a school for advanced art practices named Aula do Risco, ran the Quadrum Gallery and integrated some art & technology projects at EXPO98.