[En] THE PERIPHERIES OFFENSIVE – Sonance Nordic Expansion

The text below was published in the “Resonance Catalogue” produced 2008 by the late http://www.sonance.net network. NARP is sort of happening but it’s only based on my personal relations and the “TML” was “too late when it was born”. Today (2012) the need for such is replaced with social-medias.  All remaining plans to execute ideas formulated here, where shattered after the tragic passing of Simon “BINSH” Häfele the primus motor of Sonance.net.

The writer is a performance and community artist working in Finland and Estonia. When in Estonia, 2006, he met Simon Heafele at the Estonian Academy of Arts and was introduced to the Sonance.Artist.Network. Since the spring of 2007 we have been working hard with the aim of getting a system similar to the sonance artistic network up and running here in the Nordic area, specifically in the Baltic sea region and Finland. We have deep demand for a collaborative online system for independent artists, as the distances between cities and their artist communities are big due to sparse settlement. The density of population in Finland is 16 persons/km2, as against 99/km2 in Austria, and the distance between Rovaniemi (FI), the northernmost university city of the EU and Helsinki is as much as 831 km. This is part of the reason why local artist groups usually have only their personal friendships and the benevolence of the main galleries to rely on when they are setting up nation-wide or international shows.

The result of this is that productions are unevenly noticed as the capital area, due to the high density of art organisations which have control over information and so possesses the most influence in the press and general discussion. Our aim is to built an independent art production tool-kit which will flatten the differences that the unequal distribution of wealth and political capital have created. For this we are currently using the services of the sonance server in Vienna but are working towards the opportunity to build up our own local server to the Nordic region. This server will be closely linked with the sonance structures and will in time help sonances development as a cross-national collaboration tool. Ultimately the services created for the Nordic artists can be used on an international scale with the same ends, to provide tools for independent artists and communities regardless of their location or cultural and economical backgrounds.

We are currently setting up two structures which will enable independent artists to collaborate, with each other and with galleries, organisations, the media and local communities around the Nordic region. This development will hopefully enable artists to promote their work without the compromising influences of commercial service providers such as the Saatchis STUART online gallery, which because of the lack of alternatives has become somewhat popular with young artists in the north.

The first system, currently being built with the help of the sonance team, is the “Transparent Mail List” (TML). TML is a database of e-mail and other addresses of Artists, Galleries, Curators and the Press organised so that independent art producers will have tools to create their personal mailing-list in order to publish press-releases and announcements of events. The e-mail address data will be organised by regions -> cities and city areas -> individuals by profession, so that when producing an event or an exhibition in an unfamiliar location, an artist will have the same possibilities as locals do, and be able to send out press-releases and announcements to a selected audience of curators, fellow artist and members of the press. TML will also be used to inform members about competitions for public works and other institutional events on a local, national and Baltic area scale.

It is open to all but monitored to filter out unwelcome material. Typically information such as e-mail addresses are collected by galleries, organisations and by the press, and are kept firmly in their control. Not surprisingly in a sparsely settled country, most government-funded galleries, organisations and museums are located in the capital area. Often, these firmly established institutions have few if any ambitions to inform their subscribers about art event by outsiders. TML will also develop the channels of information between artists across the Baltic sea, another area where the press neglects to inform the public of art events. This situation is highlighted by the fact that even though Helsinki and Tallinn are the two closest capital cities in the world, being only 80 km apart, Finnish press and art audiences alike have trouble finding their way to openings and other events across the border.

Another arrangement under development is NARP (Not an Artist Residency Program) which will help independent artist communities to import and export intellectual capital. It is being developed for the needs of small artist communities which work at the borderline of government funding and have little if any possibilities to provide their community with outside know-how. Luckily, many young artists are more then willing to visit new cities and faraway places, to meet their peers, up to and including at their own expense. NARP aims to link communities with special needs such as programming, art management skills, carpentry, etc, with artists who have abilities in such areas. Once introduced, they can work out a solution together which will cover the travelling artist for some or all of their expenses (travel, accommodation, meals) in exchange for work-shops, lectures or other technical assistance.

NARP brings the aids of virtual networking tools to fleshy territories. It is a concept motivated by the argument that if an idea is not implemented socially it is worthless to spread it. NARP works such that the know-how of an individual in the program is directly utilised by the community providing for the artist. This way, the program both fortifies the communities and establishes solid “platform independent” social networks between individuals. In contrast, residency programs are typically provided for established artists merely as interesting locations within which to develop their own work. By working outside of the established channels of the large institutions, the program is a good platform for artists working on a grassroots level, critically and non-commercially. NARP is in a early stage and as such it is open for development. It remains to be seen which kind of interface it will have and how the program will be illustrated on a server.

Transparent-Mailing List and Not an Artist Residency Program work well together, as NARP sites and artists can be announced in the TML framework, and the artist benefiting from NARP within a community can also be introduced to TML services.We have presented some of the motivations behind why we want an independent artistic network in the Nordic region, why we believe it will fill a hole in the market for art and information, and some strategies and services we have developed for its launching. TML is at a near beta-stage and will be announced for full beta testing in early 2008. Our usage of networking tools will equip independent artists with alternative and more appropriate services then those provided by government or commercial interests. By this strategy, we intend to bypass the barriers facing the independent artist, constructed on the basis of location and wealth, and open up the field of art to be accessible to many more.

On behalf of sonance.north team.

Eero Yli-Vakkuri