Networking at Networked the Triangle Network Networking Conference.
It is quite easy to see how important the making and using of networks is to any artist. Art isn’t art without the communication and confirmation provided by a community of peers. Art is communication, made in isolation it fails to fulfill its objects.
The Triangle Network began, as carefully pointed out by Anthony Caro in his opening statement at the conference, before the notion of artists networks become explicit and publicly iterated. But the Triangle Network (or Triangle as it began) was the vanguard of that trend and as such could be considered responsible for the plethora of other networks whose representatives populated the conference floor.
A network is a social state, and in its proper and purest form must be without hierarchy, top down instigation or management and have a flexible if not totally lose financial structure. All these points and definitions were raised at the conference many times. What happens to a network when it becomes a charity, membership organisation, collective, business, or gains some other institutional structure? When a network becomes anything more than a lose association at what point does its function as a network disintegrate and its purpose become lost?
Unfortunately for the conference organisers there was much talking around these ideas but, as ever with large conference events, few conclusions or truly interrogatory discussions emerged. The best that could be brought away from the event – and this only from continuous mentions of the fact from the floor – was the following;
- Networks arise from a perceived need by a group of individuals.
- Networks lose their vitality when that organisation is taken away from members and ends up being controlled by an organising committee.
- The organisation and running of these networks tends to fall on one or two individuals within the network.
- Networks that remain in their original form continue inevitably to be poor.
- Where they don’t provide funds what they do provide is mutual support and peer contact.
- When the perceived need disappears the network may well disintegrate, but this is OK as the need has also gone.
- Artificial preservation of networks is therefore quite futile.
All this is very well but ignores one of the oddest attributes of the conference. Located within the Bloomberg conference space in central London it was taking place at the time when the occupy protests were in situ in the square directly outside the building. Where Bloomberg is as far away from a participatory Network as an organisation can be the Occupy movement seemed to embody, for the course of the weekend, a perfect example of a Network created on a non hierarchical footing at the point of a perceived need. It is understandable therefore that many conference delegates talked with great discomfort about their situation as creating a voice for the individuals that formed the networks they represented, and appeared to feel deeply out of place in their environment.
In the end few networks stood out as being of particular interest, those mostly being…. The Hub, ArtsAdmin (is it really a network?) Arts Rights Justice (again not really a network but uses them to great effect) Independent Curators International and WeFund.
But for the rest of the party the conference acted as an odd uber-networking event; organisations and representatives of small, localised networks from around the world networked with each other about the networks they were part of, further expanding their reach into the network. In amongst all this inter-communication what might be too easily lost is the purpose for which the networks began in the first place. To know there are other tiny groups of artists scattered around the world all battling the same demons is reassuring; yet the conversations in the Bloomberg space seemed too far abstracted from their day to day reality to achieve anything significant. More interesting is the blog, which continues before after and beyond the conference walls, now linked to from this page.