Rate of Exchange

Posted on May 1, 2011 by


Field Theory was dreamed up by a group of artists with varying interests and practices.

It is fair to say that all of us are interested in different ways in which to engage people in experiences of meaning. If that sounds a bit vague it is because the actual parameters of the work that we have carried out is so broad and does not follow a simple and easily definable pattern. If one was to look at what we have created separately in the past year, (beyond the Field Theory funding model) it would look something like this;

researching an underwater choral work about coral
– undergoing a year long investigation into what it takes to be an expert
– directing an 11 artist collaborative project which yielded 40 new works in 3 weeks
– creating a socially engaged project with the City of Melbourne to enliven/activate an area of the CBD for a transient local community
– creating an interactive tug-of-war on a train

And that’s just a couple of the projects.

SO with such a wide variety of interests what is it that has brought us together to create Field Theory?

Field Theory is an alternative funding model, an attempt to try to enable the type of projects that we are interested in to continue and thrive. It came about through a filtering of discussion around how to fund a project like Jason Maling’s three year The Vorticist. Funding bodies are not set up for an ongoing or iterative project like this and we are not artists who can claim triennial funding or the like.

So we created a model that uses crowdfunding. This has precedents in organisations like pozible in Australia, friendfund in Germany and The Awesome Foundation and Kickstarter which came from the US.

The main differences to those projects are that we maintain curatorial control over the artists that are selected to be funded. The reason for this is that we want to engage in a more personal or intimate exchange with the community that are supporting the projects.

Each supported artist is asked (in return for the $5000 that they will receive for their project) that they will send one gift to every Field Theory member (The Field Theory organisers assist with the sending of the gift). This then cements the economy of exchange that will be built up over the period of the membership.

TO our surprise (delight and consternation) there were some very enthusiastic Field Theory members who once they had given their $100 to the cause then also wanted to come and be in every work and support in other ways. Part of our theory was that there was a crowd of people out there who were eager to take part in some activities that were art related and we were correct, however we were not ready for the response and this presented a challenge to us.

If we are to throw open the doors to people having a stake in a work then how far does this go? In films when there are large funders or backers for a project there is some influence these fat cats will have. What about the thin cats of live art funding? What is the rate of exchange for Field Theory?

I guess this is something we will continue to investigate as we move forward into our second year.
We are a few weeks away from completing the final Field Theory project for its first year. Very soon after that we will put the call out for the next years members. Please stay tuned to the Field Theory website over the next month.


Martyn Coutts is a
Field Theory organiser.

Posted in: Happenings