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Alenka Pirman: Art Service

"It's a funny world we're living in,
On the Internet you can get everything!
A member of the Retirement Club Litija

We like to state that art is something exceptional, inconceivable, even sublime, transcendental or metaphysical, that it has a certain 'je ne sais quoi', something that can not be defined, which pervades it and us with it. And the more we extol it into the sky the harder it is for us to deal with the realisation that (for) every art somebody has to pay (be it 'povera' or not), i.e. it emerges in actual geo-political and cultural-economic situations. And if we operate in 'these circumstances' for numerous years it can occur that we become very disappointed. The production, distribution and 'consumption' of art are determined mainly by the mechanisms of the national cultural policy and the western art market. In the name of art we are prepared to attend to them, presumably we persist because of the certain 'je ne sais quoi' and slowly we start turning into professionals, sometimes even officials or at least activists who know what is best for our art.

Contemporary art of the last century can be found on the map of the appropriate institutions and professions, i.e. within the art system network, which sooner or later encompasses also the most insidious utopias. The development of this system is nicely illustrated by the cynical calculation of professor John Pick: in the year 2300 there will be more art administrators in the world than people! The nature of this system is twofold: it supports the production and distribution of art and at the same time it also constructs the production and distribution. A simple example: the financial support of the Ministry of Culture to a certain project can be grasped in a figure set in Tolars (from this amount the same state also deducts the income tax advance), and at the same time it gives also a symbolic value (there is no doubt that they are dealing with a high quality art project of national importance) and the receiver of the financial support obviously agrees with this!

And yet, the calculation of Mr. Pick must fill us with optimism. We can deduct that there are numerous institutions which employ even a greater number of experts, and their only purpose in this world is to help other institutions and experts to create art. Their criterions are obviously different, so there is no fear that one would not find somebody who agrees with him/her in this market. However, the key element is how to come across all the information as regards all these sources of financing, calls for proposals, competitions, offers for co-operation and educational programmes?

On the level of geo-politics we can often hear about the relation between the centre and the periphery or between the local and global, in the light of welfare privileged or unprivileged, unprotected social classes, and within an individual expert field about the division on the elite and 'the others'. For example the student status is privileged. It is serviced by numerous support organisations, institutions and initiatives which master or at least deal with numerous mechanisms (scholarships, calls for applications, sources of information, etc). At the same time, being educated at a suitable (art) institution already launches one into the before described co-ordinates. Then, all that is left is a 'long stroll through the institutions', favourably central, privileged and elite. There we will continue with our expert studies, gain information and business contacts and through years and experience be promoted.

What about freedom and autonomy which we so eagerly ascribe to art? Is an independent operation at all possible beyond the already predetermined?

It seems that such an utopia is cherished by SCCA, Institute for Contemporary Art - Ljubljana. In the times when the S in the abbreviation stood for 'Soros', SCCA was elite, privileged and central. Now this is an independent institution without a pre-determined purpose and sources of financing. It is not a coincidence that it had to change before it could develop an Internet tool which we named Artservise. Most of the homepages consist of the database which is updated with new information on a daily basis. It is divided into the sources of financing (Slovene and international, private and public capital), opportunities for co-operation and educational programmes. Today there are already over 500 entries in the database. The Art service sources are its users, partners and co-operators of SCCA - Ljubljana as well as numerous homepages and e-lists. Previously so carefully channelled information is now available 24 hours a day, free of charge, to all artists, theoreticians or administrators of contemporary art who operate with/in Slovenia. Artservis is also establishing a solidarity network of users who contribute to the dissemination of available information.

It may be true that in this 'funny world, everything can be found on the Internet', however, the Artservis workers advocate also the right of the individual, the right to not be able or not have the desire to use the computer, or maybe it is just not at hand. That is why we have developed an informal network of proxies, who ensure their users public access to the Internet and they also help and give advice how to make the best use of the Artservis. In Ljubljana one can therefore visit ZDSLU, CNVOS, Kolodvor - unit of the Oton Župancic library, Famul Stuart School of applicable arts and Škratova Citalnica on Metelkova, while in Maribor you can visit KID KIBLA in order to get acquainted with the Artservis.

This tool of course is not a deus ex machina, which would change the world of art. This world needs to be changed by yourself - in accordance to your view of the world. Perhaps, just perhaps, the Artservis will help you at this task. Good luck!

This is a slightly revised version of the text published in the newspaper Mimogrede No. 10. May 2002 (Kibla, Maribor).

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