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Dara Birnbaum
«The Rio Experience: Video´s New Architecture Meets Corporate Sponsorship»


[...] Development of Some Possible Conclusions

An imbalance occurs when an independent artist engages in a complex set of interactions with a large commercial corporation. This opposition should not be taken for granted. lt is well reflected here by the complex set of contractual negotiations that made blatantly apparent differing definitions of wants, needs, and desires. The artist, if unrepresented by an organization with sufficient resources and muscle to match that of the corporation, truly remains an independent. The artist is thus isolated and without financial resources, legal advice, aesthetic or contractual advocacy. The result of this dilemma was that the «Rio Videowall» remained in a gray area, unable to receive the benefits afforded to a noncommercial art endeavor, while at the same time, unable to attract the kind of financing appropriate to most commercial undertakings. The original budget for the project had been defined in relationship to «Art,» but it was unable to gain the benefits of lower «artists' rates» once the producer, representing the nonprofit arts sector, dropped out. Lacking nonprofit arts representation, the costs became those of a commercial undertaking with the result that the price for services such as post-production escalated far beyond the original estimates. In-kind services and the hopes of donated equipment also disappeared. Unfortunately, mechanisms were not immediately in place to deal with the financial problems created by an art project let loose in the commercial sector.

As an artist still involved in the final stages of resolving a complex marriage between video art and real estate/ commercial development, a central question still remains to be answered: Can commercial money and sponsorship give to the artist involved with video—a culturally loaded and complex form, given its contemporary historical context and its immediate cultural and industrial usages—the ability to create independent and critically responsive statements that work and function differently in terms of their goals from the limitations imposed on them by commercial ventures alone?

The nature of the video medium itself, and the contexts it has become known in and developed through, have clearly informed the working process throughout this project. In addition to the problematic nature of a project with this broad a base, and the complex level of a collaboration needed from the various sectors involved, this project also points to the place where work of this kind can be most successful. lt delineates what the possibilities of that success are and focuses attention on an area into which video, because of its broad base, has the potential to move. lt is exactly its placement within divergent interests and applications that initiated the Rio project and motivated the artist to become involved in a situation where the possibilities of production, in terms of costs and in terms of placement within a different kind of space (not television, not exhibition space, but a placement that could call on video's applications in these spaces), were available.
Because of the high costs of production, particularly if one chooses to address or employ the Most current visual language and technology of video, such projects would be virtually impossible without sponsorship of this kind. lt is also impossible to carry out projects of this scale without the creation of an extensive team which can handle the various phases of this type of production (the video disc, the wall, the interactive capacities, and the wall's relation and integration into the architecture of the plaza). In itself this produces a challenge to any singular definition within the arts of the artist. All of the roles must be seen very clearly as to how they interrelate and how none of them can exist within an isolated context.
However, it should be noted that the need still exists for such collaborations to include a fuller understanding of the needs, both creatively and financially, of the artist. Specifically, this implies an understanding of the position of an independent artist/producer and calls for the need of producers in the arts who are skilled and invested in the carrying through of the artwork; such a producer was, unfortunately, left out of the above mentioned chain of roles. With adequate representation a project such as this will be able to be more easily realized, rather than put into a situation where the «art» interests and the «commercial» interests become locked into an opposition that does not promote or foster the realization of increasingly interesting work.

Source: Doug Hall, Sally Jo Fifer (ed.), Illuminating Video. An Esssential Guide to Video Art, New York 1990, S. 202–203