Wednesday, November 29, 2017

171128 The big disillusion 

 Margaret Prescott and eight partners are starting Phant, a social network. Margaret is concerned about human issues, seen from the perspective of sociologist and artist who studies art as therapy. Her rationale is as follows:
Humans want real connection and engagement — it’s good for us! — and thanks to the Internet and social media, we’re connecting more than ever. However, research links higher rates of time spent online with increased levels of unhappiness and loneliness. Isolation has become a health crisis—resulting in physical, mental, and emotional problems including shorter life expectancy, depression, and increased levels of stress (via the New York Times). It seems that, while technology has provided us with greater access to other people, for many, it has hurt our ability to form and foster deep bonds with others.”
Why do I hesitate to give the minimum of $5 to her IndieGoGo funding drive? Even though I like her idea, even the fact that she is working and a B-corp business model, there’s something wrong with her premise. It’s basically that she claims Phant, which is designed to help overcome loneliness and isolation, it has the same inherent technology that causes loneliness and isolation.
That is, physical reality.
Phant, like Facebook and other digital, online systems, is no substitute for face-to-face, physical engagement with people, processes and things.
Why? Because it’s easier. Physical contact is frightening in a world of uncertainty where the illusion of probability has taken over peoples’ brains and minds. From the chemistry of our brain functions to our intellectual reasoning, the path is toward isolation or grouping into shared clustering and power in numbers.
I would venture to say that one of the major dehumanizing forces at work in the world today is the disconnection brought about by the illusion of calculation based on probability, when it is an uncertain world that we really live from day to day.
Like the illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional plane—an invention dating from the 1400’s and Leonardo Da Vinci’s time, today the notion that people feel connected by tapping and sweeping their fingers across a touch-screen is false. It comes from a chemical produced in a part of our brain which spreads to our thinking and rational actions. Not all parts of the human brain (and to some degree in other vertebrates) are impressed by this tiny center, this source of hope, love, anticipation and fulfillment. I think it may be traced to the nucleus accumbens—a coffee-bean shaped pair (one for each hemisphere).
Like psychological nuclear integrative fantasy (NIF), the obsessive and overriding desire to act at a distance, to live in a detached, imaginary world of virtual reality instead of the hard, physical reality is cultivated and encouraged by digital technologies such as social networks and virtual reality experiences.
We make a Facebook page. We buy a VR headset. We lust after virtual and/or augmented reality. I speak (or rather, I write) from experience. I am tapping my keyboard at my desk, it is 7:00 in the morning, I want to teach the world about the joys of printmaking and it appears I must join the mainstream (as Margaret and her associates appear to want to do).
In a keystroke I see today’s article about amazon’s new roll-out of Sumerian, tempting me with the words, I can “begin building immersive, interactive scenes for popular hardware and software (including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, HoloLens, iOS, and Google Daydream).”
Add to this a Halfwood Etching Press and we’re good to go with a social, artistic and technical network as old as technology itself with printmaking. I have called my proposal, Proximates—a global network of press-users who register their prints by date and location and thus make a virtual print-pal.
We wish we could be rich both in spirt and cash, and having seen billionaires get their wish to do this without hard, physical labor, sweat, tears and pain. As human beings equally endowed, our nuclear accumbens makes this dreaming so.
Other parts of our brain, both left and right hemispheres, obediently take up the task to make our dreams come true and to achieve this without getting dirty or tired. I want to order Sumerian, and choose a platform to go with my etching press. Would I then be happy?
Not unless it includes physical reality—such as working with people right around my neighborhood, like Ethan Lind and Ed Raub, Tom Kughler and of course my daughers, wife, sons-in-law and granddaughter.
Initially I was interested in Cyrus’ Despres’—Margaret Prescott’s husband’s—description of her project. I thought he described it as a story-building platform where people compared notes of a shared process. As he spoke, I thought of my project—an autobiography—and the shared experiences that might make my writing project a success. To think it would be read by the hundreds of people who brought me to the point in my life history and pathway to my goal (NPCI), I secretly wondered if Phant might be a tool to help me.
This project of Margaret’s, or so I thought, I must learn more about. I learned that Margaret is seeking funding, and she was attending some of the same Techstar workshops at the same time that I was. I learned later she is a consultant, therapist, studied at Antioch and is artistic.
However, when I read the premise of Phant—that people will be less lonely and their feelings of disconnectedness if they shared pictures of their dinner plate, vacation or a sunset with one another, I thought Phant looked identical to Facebook. Yet, I believe the so-called “social media” have the opposite effect of bringing people closer and connected.
The evidence is in the current position of the USA in its relations to many other nations in the world—some of which view our country as the worst and most dangerous on Earth. It is the disconnect between what we say we believe in—racial equity comes to mind after my time with Ed Raub yesterday—that is killing us and ruining the future of Earth’s human life sustainability.

The US has more prisons than universities, yet the founders of this nation said only an educated population can sustain its ideals. It will be for another country to realize the dream of a better world. My plan is combine reality—hands-on printmaking on real presses and virtual presses which lead to face-to-face interaction no matter how uncertain the results may be.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

171123 Dream a big dream 

Joke: Question: “Which is closer, the moon or Florida?”
Answer: “Duh? Can you see Florida?”
From the top of Queen Ann hill in Seattle can be seen the high-rising towers in Bellevue. Nearer, where I live, the Uptown neighborhood, we have no towers. They are not allowed, partly because much of Uptown is in the flight path of an airport. Pontoon planes land in Lake Union.
My name is Bill Ritchie, and I am an artist. Artists typically neither live in nor do they like towering buildings. Yet when artists are attracted to city living, as in New York, for example, they accept the conditions that they need patrons. Innovative artists, in particular, need one patron for every one-hundred people in their viewing locale because innovative artists do not make consumer goods.
Much of what is called art is a form of a consumer good—something attractive to the eye and mind of the consumer. An ugly thing, like a stuffed goat with a tire around its middle, is not a consumer good. It’s suitable for the one-percent who see more in this weird combination than meets the eye.
Image result for rauschenberg goat
Monogram, combine by Robert Rauschenberg
However, in a city like New York, it’s a perfect thing for that one-percent and only one-percent is needed to not only house the object and keep it safe, but also provide a living for the artist and his heirs. Chris Rauschenberg may not need his father’s estate (he’s a successful artist in his own right), but Robert Rauschenberg’s legacy is a help.
That is, while Monogram was made in New York, the Museum of Modern Art declined the offer of it by its purchaser, so this signature piece of American art history is in Sweden at the Moderna Muséet, Stockholm. Stockholm is farther away than Bellevue. It’s farther than Florida, too. Fortunately, thanks to the Internet, I can “experience” the elements of this artwork with a few keystrokes. I can read about it. I can use it to illustrate my Big Dream and how it relates to a yet-unbuilt Northwest Print Center Incubators.
Rauschenberg and the New York school of art of the 1950’s produced more than consumer goods. Of the thousands of artists at work who produced immediately likeable and beautiful objects of art, crafts and design in those days, few are remembered for their art because the handful of artists who turned a corner in the art world those days were thinkers besides makers of consumer goods.
I was born just in time and in the right conditions to learn the lessons of the New York artists—in addition to the artists who were working at the same time in the Pacific Northwest. Here we had our Northwest School of Painting—Mark Tobey and the others. In the years I shaped my art philosophy I had to give up being any kind of artist of influence and taste-making because of the fog of war.

Either teach or be part of the Vietnam conflict. Summing up, it made all the difference in the way I view the Bellevue high-rise projects I am learning about today.

Monday, November 13, 2017

171113 How shares in Emeralda differ 

The image is my painting, Voyage of the Emeralda, Emeralda being the name of a mythical ship to which I am applying the name of a platform for investing in the Northwest Print Center Incubators.

In the past five years some companies have started up to sell shares in art collections. People enter with small amounts--$13 in one instance—to be part owners of artworks. Another, starting up with over a million dollars in seed capital, calls itself a platform for art investing where people with $10,000 or more can be part owners of entire collections, or blocks, of artworks.
These artworks are purchased with the pool of money thus committed and kept in storage. The premise is that the art will grow in price, so investors can hope for up to 10% growth of their investment. Not only is the profit an incentive, but it’s fun because of the collectible and cultural value of the art objects.
Over the course of several days I read a number of stories and propositions, and the assumption is always the same—big sums of money and the promise of positive ROI and the assurance of the artistic, cultural value of the objects grounded in expert opinion and big data.
My platform for investing in arts and culture takes a different point of view. Profit remains a motive, but a holistic view of art-making and community makes my platform different. To begin with, there is one unique, one-artist collection to invest in: Mine. Thus far, with my wife and daughter’s help we have a database of about 1,500 pieces of artworks spanning a variety of media in different sizes, shapes and descriptions.
My position in the community has made this possible, as I have retained my life’s work instead of selling these objects over my fifty years. However, it’s true I sold some of my art, and I have another database of over 400 people, corporations and institutions who bought it and, for all I know (and hope) still have it.
My mother taught me not to brag. In her memoir she derided people who “amaze themselves” with their own inventions. That may be one reason I still own what I made—a hoarder of amazing things, one might say. I am shy about this as I remember and honor my dear mother’s words.
Still, there is something to be said for things I achieved and the ways in which I have touched peoples’ lives. For example, because I was not compelled to sell off my work to make a living during my most creative years (I had a secure teaching job) I still have much of my art. There is something valuable in this which now, thanks to modern technology, can be mined to start the Northwest Print Center Incubators. It's mine to mine!
In my drive to think outside the box during those halcyon years at the 'Dub, I was involved with projects which, at first, were not considered art nor anything like art. Now, in the instance of video art tapes, they are. They may not be what consumers consider art as yet, but to historians they are something to consider in the context of art history. Thus, I have the largest privately-held video collection of locally-made videos.
This has brought me to a privileged position of having a diverse art collection which I estimate to have a valuation of half a million dollars or more. In today's industry, a half-million is not enough to bring about my great ambition—the Northwest Print Center Incubators—but it’s a start. It gives me hope, every day, that it will be seed capital to get to the bottom rung of the ladder toward construction.
Shares in other, similar investment pitches (Arthena comes to mind) give investors a piece of an art collection which is assumed will grow, and these investment schemes offer perks, besides, such as privileged interviews and exclusive online, insider viewpoints. These are good indicators to show me how to structure a plan for investing in the NPCI.
My plan is not to appeal to consumers—for it is a consumer model upon which Arthena is based: on monetary profits only, but as an investment in the Seattle community or, expanding on this, the creative economy via the experience economy. Art is experience, in my opinion, not only the owning or looking at an artwork. The “work” of art means the action of art, the experience of art and that which can be communicated in today’s global communication and interrelated cultural exchange. Most importantly, it can be part of educational experiences.
My art collection, which consists of thousands of bits and pieces of Northwest printmaking art history stored in our family art gallery and storage area of our condo, reflects the kind of global thinking I was privileged to indulge in during my 19 years as a mollycoddled art professor at the UW. It was my work. I did it for pay.
Now, notwithstanding my family’s rights to this legacy as an income stream, too, I want to give back to my neighborhood, the Uptown Arts and Culture Coalition, a physical building for artists, crafts people and designers’ housing which is sustained in part by cash streams I exploited within my domain-of-expertise—printmaking and other media arts, education and entertainment.