To Make a Public: An Anti-Profit Publication
An Anti-Profit Model
The online experience, and web publishing in particular, is a highly commercialized sphere. It breathes through clicks and gazes; it runs and feeds on ads. We decided that Temporary Art Review, as a predominantly online publication, should not ignore this space as it exists. We instead were determined to invert its ends, to circulate these clicks and gazes among our contributors as an experiment in mutualism – to see if we could exist as an anti-profit publication.
The model: Each article published on Temporary Art Review will be translated into ad credit and allocated to the author for a week, a month, or more, depending on the length and labor involved, the type of article and the regularity of the author’s contribution. The contributors can use the space to promote areas of interest, to spotlight a space they value, to barter or sell the ads, or to use it as a sphere of communication or protest. We are imagining the architecture of the site as a public space, articulated over time through its use. Our terrain is made explicit; we will navigate it together over the coming months and years.
We have pursued a conflicted line for this evolution, which we are defining as anti-profit. The term is baiting, but we intend it both as a form of protest and as a dialogue. We are working against our inherited methods of exchange. Our contributors and we as publishers may profit, but we are instilling a process that makes it irrelevant to the workings of the site. Rather than ignoring the mechanisms of publishing, particularly online publishing, we are refocusing the discussion of transparent exchange and the distribution of value across multiple modes.
Temporary has always discussed issues of artistic labor and compensation, inequities in the art world and where they intersect with inequities everywhere, the theory and actions of artist-led projects, and the ongoing experiments in form as artists attempt to contour means of acting in a conflicted landscape. As an artist-centered and artist-led publication, we feel it necessary that our own form, financial model and means of address further this conversation.
This model expresses several facts: one, that the site is and has always been based on unpaid labor (founders, editors and writers alike); second, that we are not interested in our making our editorial voice accountable to grantors, advertisers or other funders; lastly, that we feel that forms of mutualism are more interesting. The ads on the site express something of our contributors and partners beyond their ability to pay their bills on time. It is an uncultivated space, wild beyond what we need to understand or control.
A Tentative Theory, A Non-Site
This next phase of the site will also see us pushing our own inquiry forward, with intentional expansions of coverage, but, more importantly, a clearly articulated vision for the site as a meeting place of ideas and action. Through this redesign and refocus, we are striving for a different mode of communication online that allows for both an archive and a commons – a reference point for research and a gathering point for discussion. Between the archive and commons is a circulated space that accumulates over time as a public memory.
These changes will be seen in the consolidation and expansion of some of our coverage: our geographic focus will expand to include innovative projects and artist-led initiatives internationally; Reviews will open to a larger conversation about exhibitions, events, publications and any other format that prompts a critical response; and the BOOK CLUB will continue to experiment with ways to create an open platform for critical conversation online. Another new column will be Futures, a micro essay format that will invite diverse voices to address pressing issues in the arts. Responding to the etymology of “essay” as “attempts,” Futures will present speculations about emerging models, responses to ongoing crises and a catalogue of possible futures that together seek to focus our attention to the building of better platforms and collectively experimenting with possible forms.
This is perhaps the most significant pivot in our short history, but one we felt was a necessary evolution both in our own internal shifts of interests and in response to broader intersections in contemporary arts publishing, social and political movements and artist-centered practices. Since 2011, we have invested in the idea that the vanguards of art are unmoored from place – that the narratives of art centers as capitals of artistic expression is outmoded and that often the best ideas emerge on the periphery. That conversation has been made explicit as op-eds everywhere acknowledge that art centers are of course capitals of commerce, but are perhaps in turn equally toxic to creativity. Regional arts publications are seeing a renaissance and, increasingly, magazines, blogs and periodicals are embracing a more geographically inclusive viewpoint. Artists have fought to regain control over their own narrative and the contours of their careers; arts organizers have invested in unexpected cities, blocks and buildings; critics are called out for their allegiances, inconsistencies, and intellectual laziness. Artists continue to participate in, create and connect with social convulsions around the world, refracting their values and actions through more transparent lenses. Our time has been occupied and we expect more.
We feel now that it is important to move through this conversation to speak to a deeper truth: that to bracket off projects based primarily on their location does them a disservice. We wish instead to speak of what is happening in Cairo and Chicago, St. Louis and San Francisco, Los Angeles, Little Rock and London as part of the same conversation, centralizing the discussion around the projects and ideas themselves and refusing to privilege certain cities or geographies over others. Temporary will continue to create a space for discussion across disparate communities, respond to issues that artists and arts organizers are concerned about in the present moment, and attempt to understand how equitable exchange in the arts could be modeled, matured and embedded in our daily practices.
The public space of the site is an expression of underlying ideals and we are intent on continuing to experiment with our own form in order to push forward the discussion on artist-led action and the latent potential it carries to transform our art worlds, our institutions, our means of expression and ourselves. We would like to say something here of futures, of our occupied time, of our art and our worlds; we would like our publication to make other voices public, to make a public – to at least attempt.
– Sarrita Hunn and James McAnally, co-founders