Current artists: Amon Azizov, Wei Chen, Qiao Fu, Gao Min, Guo Kun Sheug, Artashes Karslian, Ji Yin Jin, Li Qun, Lin Ruo, Dean Lu, Ren Jien-Guo, Jorge Rivera, Sharif Sadiq, Peter Walsh, Xiang Yue Chuan, Dario Zapata, Zhuang Xuemin

Organized by Peter Walsh, Ongoing.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Non-Monetary Exchange, Part Two

What about behind the scenes?

How do the documentary photos that you see on this blog get taken? What about the video or the brochure that was created?

Again, barter is the modus operandi when intangibles like art are being created in social spaces that are invisible to cash economies. A good example is the hours of superb digital video that Emmy-award winning filmmakers Kathy Brew and Roberto Guerra shot on the first day of the Portrait Exchange. Although they were incredibly busy, Kathy and Roberto agreed to shoot for a variety of reasons including their own interest in the project and its focus on art-making in an unexpected place, and also, friendship – I’ve known them for years. Still, we also made a deal for a pair of portraits drawn by me, a deal which is as yet unredeemed (One of the intriguing aspects of barter economies is that the barter tends to slow down the pace of economic interactions between individuals, which is generally considered a negative. Yet my debt to Kathy and Roberto has drawn out our exchange to many months, in some ways magnifying our connections by ensuring that I contact them again down the road. This burden to reconnect hangs in the air like a thread between us until the barter is completed. I’m bound to their generosity. Economic exchange of this kind is not like anonymously buying a cup of coffee, or even, quite frankly, like hiring someone to do a one day video shoot.).

In the case of the Central Park Portrait Exchange, another issue of importance is the development of new internet driven barter tools. I’ve relied heavily on an artist/barter website called OurGoods, founded by a group of artists and designers including Jen Abrams, Louise Ma, Carl Tashian, Rich Watts, and Caroline Woolard, describes itself as “a community of cultural producers matching "needs" to offered "haves".” I would describe it as being like a barter Ebay for artists, except that barter economies are fundamentally more complex than cash-driven economies in terms of person-to-person interactions and are more capable of bringing people together in relationships that may play out over years.

By using the OurGoods site I’ve received the photographic skills of four different artists, help on the ground during the portrait exchanges, Mandarin translation services and the design of a brochure to hand out onsite in Central Park! In exchange I’ve provided many bags of organic fruits and vegetables and a variety of as yet unfulfilled promises such as studio visits and grant-writing advice. I find it gratifying that the barter system that OurGoods uses rhymes so well with the goals of the Portrait Exchange.

Still, in the end, my own donated labor is the prime animating force of the project.

Friday, November 12, 2010

How does an art project like the Central Park Portrait Exchange come into being?

Mostly through non-monetary exchange.

What’s that?

Trades, favors, apples for oranges, my labor given for your labor.

For example, each artist – professionals like Wei Chen, Dario Zapata or Artashes Karslian who regularly work in Central Park – has contributed a drawing and sat for another, but no money has changed hands (at least not yet). What do they get out of the deal and what do I, Peter Walsh, as organizer of the Portrait Exchange get out of this “non-monetary exchange”?

Well first, as the project organizer I have temporary physical possession of the drawings, which I hope to be able to exhibit down the road as a group exhibition. Maybe the work will be sold. Or not. At some point, if the drawings are not sold, the physical portrait exchange will be completed. I will receive all the drawings of myself and each artist will receive the portrait that I drew of them.

As the exchange organizer I get the added value of helping to create a group artwork which, outside of its considerable value as a meaningful artwork, has the potential to provide me with other opportunities in the art world and theoretically helps to build my career.

For the artists working in Central Park who have chosen to participate in the exchange, there’s been a savvy calculation that doing so will result in publicity and other intangibles that may help in their fight against New York City’s new rules restricting their ability to work in the park. That gambit has already paid off in articles such as journalist Leslie Koch's article "Artists sue Mayor Bloomberg, NYC Parks Department over new regulations", ongoing blog posts on this site and even in courtroom testimony on their behalf.

On September 13, 2010 I testified in New York State court to the veracity of video footage that I had shot because I’ve been working regularly on the exchange in Central Park. That video, which showed artists being forced by the city to run a footrace every morning in order to work, is part of a body of evidence that has kept in place a Temporary Restraining Order against the city’s new rules – and has given several months’ relief for the artists from the new regulations. How much of that is connected to the portrait exchange is one of those difficult to measure “intangibles,” but the gain is real and has kept work and money coming the artists’ way.

So far, the gamble of participating in the Central Park Portrait Exchange appears to be paying off for everyone.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cold Weather

Cold weather has arrived.

A Temporary Restraining Order is in effect against the City of New York.

The courts are pondering a Preliminary Injunction against the new New York City Park Rules that drastically reduce the ability of many artists to work and show their work in the parks.

Stay tuned for a mid-project evaluation and commentary on the Central Park Portrait Exchange.