The Incubation Phase
Once the Megavote and the Karmic Engine funding time windows are closed, then the real fun begins. Each seed performance that made it past the funding threshold will emit a “bounty”, i.e a sum of money open for claims by artists through submitting artistic proposals for the creation of derivative artworks. Depending on the amount of money that will have been gathered by each seed, this could get pretty exciting.
We don’t yet know what a Digital Soul can do. One thing is for sure: this incubation phase will generate unexpected results. This is truly where the weirding of art & financial flows is set to take place. Consider the usual mode of funding in the arts. Normally, an indeterminate number of artists compete for a predetermined amount of money that is, at best, allocated through an anonymous jury of peers. Structurally, this means that every participating artist is pitted against one another, competing individually for a limited amount of resources. In such a system, the intelligence of the process is strangely siloed. There is, for obvious reasons, minimum communication between proponents; while the anonymous jury of peers’ rare panoptic vision provides an intangible yet consequent “advantage”. As appointed gatekeepers, they indeed benefit from a privileged insight on how the public art institution works, for better (they will know better what to write in their next proposal), and for worst (knowing how to write a successful grant proposal isn’t exactly making anyone a better artist).
We can do better.
The incubation phase initiated by the Sphere will be facilitated by dedicated channels on the Sphere Discord. It will allow the Sphere participants to practically and radically question the traditional modes of funding by facilitating collaborative dynamics between the proposing artists themselves; and also by potentially including other agents in the collective creative and deliberative process – here come the anarchivists formerly known as audience.
Another element that immediately comes to mind is the role that seed performers will play in the shaping of the derivative work lineage. How much power and influence do the initial seed performers will hold over future iterations inspired by their work? To be clear: the allocation of bounties is ultimately governed by the invested audience, not by the artists themselves. Yet, through the anarchival process and the performative contract attached to their work, artists can certainly condition the type of derivative work that can be produced in the wake of their seed performance, by inserting all sorts of prompts, semi-juridical clauses and other enabling constraints. What type of match-making between future artists and seed performers will take place during the incubation phase? And what qualitative role the invested audience now turned anarchivists might play in this process?
What is most valuable is also what is most vulnerable. This applies all the more so to the Sphere’s Live Art Network Derivative in the making. Its value, in the last instance, does not reside so much in the techno-promises of our web 3.0 digital infrastructure, or in the alleged impartiality of our formal voting mechanism, as in the effective games of collaboration that this whole emergent ecosystem is about to set in motion. If our main objective is indeed to redistribute the risks and opportunities of making art, this will only be possible if we create the propitious conditions for an ethos of speculative generosity to flourish and irrigate this emergent – and always fragile – ecology of artful funding practices.
For it is a hell of a way to run a code: to program that which will otherwise wither, to generate collective lived abstractions and loop them back into existence, to seed the memory of past endeavours into propositional fragments and the preliminary instructions for running them, all the while curating a metastable portfolio of social obligations and anarchic shares so as to making ourselves mutually – and joyfully – indebted.
"Feeling interdependence does not derive from knowledge. It is above all an act of “letting oneself be touched” and involves a form of gratitude that is neither subjective nor objective, since its truth lies in its generativity. If this feeling needs to be cultivated, it is because it is vulnerable. As humans, we know only too well that we may get dragged into ingratitude, entrenching ourselves against the feeling that we are who we are thanks to others. However derisory, interstitial, and fragile interdependence may seem, the task of the inquirer is to make it exist as part of a practical and political imagination, to be reactivated bit by bit and step by step." – Isabelle Stengers, We are divided)