Viridian Note 00029: The Interfund

From: Bruce Sterling <bruces {AT}>
Date: Mon, 14 Dec 1998 22:59:27 -0600 (CST)
Sender: owner-nettime-l {AT}

Key concepts:  art movements, Internet, reputation economics, arts grants, Europe, Interfund

Attention Conservation Notice:  It's not about Viridians.  It's about a group of European digital artists with a strange entrepreneurial scheme.  Writers' original language not English.  Written in postmodernese.  Of interest mostly to net.organizational specialists.  There's a manifesto tacked on at the end.
Entries in the Viridian "Fungal Typography" Contest:

(((Parenthetical comments by bruces {AT}

Source:  Syndicate list; Xchange list; nettime list; Rasa Smite <rasa {AT}> Diana McCarty <diana {AT}> Eric Kluitenberg <epk {AT}>

[Interfund] - Create Your Own Solutions

Interfund meeting  {AT}  Xchange Unlimited, Riga November 29,  1998.
During the Xchange Unlimited Baltic New Media Culture Festival in Riga, a meeting was held to discuss the creation of the Interfund. The participants were Diana McCarty, Rasa Smite, Manu Luksch, Pit Schultz, Eric Kluitenberg, and others.

 * What is the Interfund?

The Interfund does not actually exist yet.

(((Beta pre-release!  I love it already!)))

 The Interfund should be many things at the same time, a self funding project, a tool to create open spaces for sovereign experimentation in the digital networks.  Neither a network nor a community, it should be a means for collaboration and exchange.

(((Fabulous!  It sounds divine!)))

The Interfund was envisioned in Riga as a co-operative, decentralised, non-located, virtual but real, self-support structure for small and independent initiatives in the field of culture and digital media.

(((Sheer poetry!  I couldn't have said this better myself!)))

    What follows is a summary of the ideas that were discussed and the problems raised in connection with the possible shape of the Interfund.


First of all, the Interfund is an idea to create better ways to access funding and create funding possibilities of itself. The Interfund can also act as a redistributor of financial resources from the affluent enclaves to the impecunious. Funding and financing, however, is only one of the tools the Interfund will employ to achieve its aims.

(((Wait a minute -- you're giving away *free money* in your movement, and you expect this to be just *one* of your problems?)))

The Interfund should rather act as a "Resource Pool", shared by each of its members. These resources encompass a wide range of tools:

* knowledge & know-how * skills (a.o. translations in local languages) * software * open source development * access to servers, especially for streaming media in the net * reserving bandwidth and protocols (for example the  registration for web multicasting, domain names, etc.) * support in dealing with official structures;         = finding appropriate funding for projects         = visa requirements         = official letters of support, both in English and the local  language         = official invitations         = official endorsements; * access to surveys and information sources about activities in  the field of culture and digital media.

    One practical way in which actual funding might work is that the Interfund creates its own capital to give micro-funding to individual projects. The organiser can then claim that the project in question is supported financially by the Interfund (complete with a letter of acceptance by the "board" of the fund). Funding may be as little as US$ 10 for a project, but can help to create interest from official institutions and structures.

(((A really clever idea here.  They want to game the international art world by using a tiny amount of actual capital to create impressive, net-based, Interfund-conveyed, reputation capital.  "Hi, I'm from Riga and I was sent here by Interfund!  Look at this gold-plated, 256-color *Letter of Acceptance!*"  "Really?!  Wow!  Let me see what the conference can do for you in the way of picking up that hotel tab!")))

Moreover the actual amount of funding by the Interfund need  not be specified in all cases.

(((The tactic's even more effective when you boldly lie about  it!)))

The possibilities for acquiring donations (not sponsorship) to extend the financial basis of the Interfund will be an area of attention.

(((Boy, I bet it will!  Attention galore!  We call that stuff "accounting" here in the USA....  So, are you bold pirates taking Yankee funds?  The Pope-Emperor is totally down with your daring scheme!  <waving wallet> I got one of our goofy new 20- dollar bills for you, right here!)))

(...)  (((considerable pious Euro arts/culture jabber deleted)))

* Form:

Though the Interfund will not have a fixed physical location, it should become a real virtual organisation (it is not a simulation). For this purpose a letterhead and design for the Interfund will be developed, as well as a web-site, e-mail address, a logo.... and... (a local Latvian speciality) an official Interfund stamp.

(((Why not a *mascot?* We Viridians got a mascot!  And our own typography!  The *Latvian stamp,* though, we envy that more than we can say....)))

All graphical elements will be made down-loadable from the Interfund site for its members (PDF files). The Interfund will be run as a strictly virtual office (a decentralised centre). 
Possible legal forms and their implications for establishing the Interfund as an international state-less entity are currently investigated.  Should it become a registered society, a charity, a foundation, or yet something else?  (...)

By dealing with official structures, the Interfund is an attempt to prevent artists'-run and independent initiatives from becoming institutionalised themselves. It should act as an effective bureaucracy protection shield.

The emphasis of the Interfund will lie on horizontal co- operation, which is anti-hierarchical and fundamentally decentralised.  Nonetheless the question cannot be escaped who will take responsibility for making the structure work, co- ordinate activities, deal with requests, etc. (who is doing what?).

(((I know the answer, I know! <waving hand> Try theocratic feudalism!)))

This division of responsibilities should be worked out. The Interfund will have to be multi-nodal.

(((A lovely phrase, and an obvious recipe for instant nightmare.)))

To develop the Interfund as a democratic structure, a voting system will have to be considered, for instance when accepting individuals to the "board" of the Interfund. The membership of this board would then be temporary and rotating between members.

(((That sure sounds like instant bureaucracy to me, but what do I know -- I'm just a lonely absolute dictator.)))

The Interfund should always be open to new members.  However, every new member has to commit him- or her-self to contributing to the shared pool of resources in some way, by donating skills, knowledge, non-propriety software, financial means if possible, and a willingness to multilateral co- operation.

((("From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" -- but what is the *medium of exchange* between all these skill sets?  You're trying to set up a barter economy with no gold standard.)))

These issues of membership, representation and expertise have to be clarified.

(((Yes they do.  Obviously.  Good luck getting that done before 2075.)))

* Actions:
* Contacts will be established to other cultural activists in the new media scene, via networks such as Xchange, Syndicate, Rhizome, <nettime>, etc.
* In the local Nordic/Baltic context, where this initiative was  emerging cultural networks in the region (BIN, PCC, Nordic Arts  Council, etc.), and other parties who share similar or related  interests (a.o. the EFF).

(((This might actually work if you got some kindly Scandinavian government to give you some start-up money.  The Swedes, for instance == they're probably no better at closing arts councils than they are at closing nuclear power plants.)))

* For the Next 5 Minutes conference, March 12-14, in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, a meeting will be prepared to lay the foundation for the Interfund.

(((Another excellent reason to visit Holland before it vanishes underwater.  I certainly hope to hear more about Interfund;  despite my skepticism, I have the friendliest feelings about this idea, and would love to see it, somehow, against all odds, actually work.)))

Contact: Rasa Smite <rasa {AT}> Diana McCarty <diana {AT}> Eric Kluitenberg <epk {AT}>

(((And now for a good-old-fashioned Interfund arts manifesto:)))

 The Interfund initiators finally wish to make the following claims:

 * Work of artists and independent cultural initiatives in the field of digital media, including innovative technical experimentation, should be considered as valuable in and of itself. This work should not be supported solely if it fits within an established policy framework (like social innovation, employment, etc..).

(((Art pour l'art!  You betcha!  We Viridians want to see *science* and *engineering* work like that!)))

* Technology should be seen as an integral part of contemporary culture.

(((Couldn't agree with you more!)))

* The Interfund demands less politicisation of culture. What independent new media culture needs is support, not political rhetorics or questionable historical narratives.

(((Right on!  Let's start a committee to make sure art's not politicized, and to weed out all the historical narratives that are questionable!)))

* No competitions.


* Create your own solutions.

(((We'll do our best, and do let us know if you find any of your own!)))

Thank you very much for your attention.

        [*The Interfund*]      (under construction)