Annual Strategic Briefing

Future Art Ecosystems (FAE) is an annual strategic briefing launched in 2020 that provides concepts, references, language, and arguments that can be integrated into operational agendas for the construction of 21st century cultural infrastructure.

The first issue, Future Art Ecosystems: Art x Advanced Technologies (FAE1) was published on 9 July 2020. The second issue, Future Art Ecosystems: Art x Metaverse (FAE2) will be released on 6 July 2021. The launch event will be streamed via Serpentine’s Twitch on 13 July 2021 at 5pm BST. To receive a copy of the new report, details about the launch event and other updates, please sign up to our FAE newsletter.

FAE2: Art x Metaverse (July 2021)

The advent of the Metaverse—an always-online, persistent, spatial ‘second’ world and emerging internet megastructure—represents a fundamental shift in our notion of digital infrastructure and presence, requiring new technological and organisational vocabularies in order to understand its implications. In this context, FAE2 outlines what is required from 21st century cultural infrastructure in order to be able to shape the metaverse’s evolution and have a relevant presence within it. Contributors to FAE2 include CEO of UKIE, Dr Jo Twist OBE, Producer and Director of Unity Live Platforms, Andie Nordgren, Curator Lucy Sollitt, Gamer and Gaming Activist, Founder Blackgirlgamers, Jay-Ann Lopez, Co-founder of Brud, Trevor McFedries, Founders of Immersive Kind, Kadine James and Lucy Wheeler, Digital Director, Manchester International Festival, Gabrielle Jenks and many more.

FAE1: Art x Advanced Technologies (July 2020)

The inaugural issue of FAE focuses on the new infrastructures being built around artistic practices engaging with advanced technologies. The view presented here is based on the Serpentine’s experience and desire to share insights from working with artists including Hito Steyerl, James Bridle, Cécile B. Evans, Ian Cheng and Jakob Kudsk Steensen, ongoing conversations across broader networks, and insights derived from a series of interviews conducted with artists Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Holly Herndon, Rebecca Allen and Refik Anadol; Ece Tankal and Carmen Aguilar y Wedge of Hyphen-Labs; journalist and technologist Jonathan Ledgard; Julia Kaganskiy, founding director NEW Inc; Kenric McDowell from the Artists + Machine Intelligence programme at Google Research; Liz Rosenthal, Power to the Pixel; futurist Noah Raford; Rachel Armstrong, Professor of Experimental Architecture, Newcastle University; Takashi Kudo of teamLab.

The strategic briefing is organised into three chapters. Chapter 1, Art x Advanced Technologies, describes some of the core features of the artistic practices emerging in this domain. Chapter 2, Infrastructure for AxAT, documents particular types of infrastructure demanded by these practices, and cases in which various actors — including artists themselves — are now beginning to construct it. Chapter 3, Strategies for an Art-Industrial Revolution, documents potential ways in which nascent infrastructural plays may be integrated into much broader strategies that will have far-ranging impacts on the art industry.

Some of the open questions include:

  • What would a major public art institution look like without physical exhibition or performance spaces?
  • How can cultural institutions support the development of technologies that do not satisfy the contemporary funding conditions of the tech industry?
  • Is it possible that a large-scale initiative at the intersection of art and technologies could separate from the art world as currently understood and become autonomous, with its own funding mechanisms, institutions and discourse — a hard fork in the art world?

An analysis of the presented approaches suggests an urgent need for a long-term vision. On the one hand, this must necessarily be a shared vision, as the challenges and opportunities in play are systemic and extend beyond the interests of any one cultural institution, tech corporation, government agency or other individual actor in the sector. At the same time, the range of challenges also calls for a multipolar approach. To this extent, FAE: AxAT is a contribution to the process of building a variety of pathways for art to address and shape future technologies.

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