01 July, 2012

Addressing the political and economically-driven mechanics of the United States of America in a contemporary art context

The USSSA is a national arts initiative—not just an exhibition.  After a long era of artists working within the parameters of mainstream values, economies, and institutions, the artists of USSSA are seeking to more directly and overtly influence political governance and social order.

Sticker available through the USSSA fundraising page, starting July 4th.

As a lifelong artist, I have been organizing the USSSA project as an experiment; it is a cycle of critique and alternative methods with the intent to revise our current political complex.

As a trained art therapist, I have seen wide disparities in how the value of art is split within our institutions (from museums and corporations to hospitals and non-profits) and bears a striking resemblance to a more publicized, national crisis.  Specifically, a split in economic and political values.

The following text outlines my theoretical basis for this revisionary project and introduces the first of many practical opportunities for our community of artists: a call to redesign the US flag!  As a dynamic and reflexive project, I hope that you will comment, share and contribute to this new era for the arts.

A premise for the USSSA.

Currently, the art world operates largely on the same dynamics that are underlying most other industries.  Artists compete with one another; we pay for superior training, we find a niche market (or specialization), we negotiate the commercial factors in our work including “supply and demand”, we build professional rapport, and (of course) we network in order to be featured in more prominent circles.

The professional artist follows the trends and factors of industry very similar to how these standards serve professionals in any other field; to maximize these standards and achieve personal success.  The problems with achieving “success” as an artist are two-fold:

    1)   A commercial artist—by definition—is employed in the service of someone or something, thus, limiting the creativity inherent to the concept and execution of the artist.

    2)   The second problem with “success”, essentially stems from a set of stereotypes that compromise an artist’s autonomy or character: artists are reduced to a typecasting of insanity, suffering, and isolation, only further dramatized should an artist ever achieve fame and fortune.  Public attention is funneled into these stereotypes, rather than the messages of the work.

The artists of our first exhibition play a key role in reversing the dynamics of an industrial complex.  The art world has a longstanding tradition of change, not just in updating the forms and media of art, but also in practice.  Certain practices within the USSSA model can be found elsewhere among art communities (and gratefully so!) but altogether in one single project, the USSSA is a comprehensive revision that may exist as a model for a healthier, more equitable, system for artists in the 21st century.

The following are some of the principles that inform my approach:

Artists do not compete for inclusion.  There are no open calls, fees, or applications to judge.  The most appropriate artists for any given project are assessed and selected through a research process that includes word-of-mouth referrals, literature, and online sources.  Quality is accounted for in becoming acquainted with an artist’s work and character.  A wide range of experience is encouraged.

Artists are given 100% creative license.  The artists become familiar with the work of others in the exhibition in order to achieve cohesion and accountability.

Redistributed commission structure.  Because artists curate the show as a collective, the “curator’s” portion of each work sold is divided equally among the remaining artists, in the additional hopes of subsidizing work that is not as commercially viable.

Services are paid in fair amounts.  Services rendered from printers, members of film crew, performers , etc. are paid by a generous negotiation process that requires both parties start with sharing any ideas, services and compensation that would result in the best possible product.  An anology here, serves well: imagine two people pouring water into one cup, it takes less time and more attention.

Community-based promotion.  Media technology is consistently assessed and updated to prioritize the most effective and least costly strategy.

Public engagements.  Private receptions are replaced with community engagements (seminars, workshops, and yes, even parties.)  Contemporary artists consider their role in a given community and self-regulate a balance of relevance and accessibility. 

Art institutions are not static, they may provide an alliance.  Museums, galleries and art professionals play a critical role in sustaining art and culture.  They’re authority within historical and theoretical structures may coordinate more diverse, organic, and nuanced realities with a broader context.

An inclusive and dynamic art community.  Art collectives and organizations are recognized as contributors.  Cross-representation is provided pro bono for the sake of promoting the arts as a cooperative industry.  Finally, USSSA exhibitions include projects that are designed to include as many artists as possible.

 . . . and this is where you come in.  As the USSSA goes public we need more artists to make themselves known.  Announcements for “community artists” will be made on this blog and it begins today with a very special announcement:

"Ideasign, USA" by m. ryan noble, watercolor on paper, 2012

We need you to redesign the US flag!

    ·      All contributions will be featured and credited in our October exhibition.

    ·      Contributions are requested in the format of .JPG files at no less than 300dpi.

    ·      A description of no more than 50 words may accompany your work, but it is not required.

    ·      All contributions must be received by August 15th, 2012.

    ·      Any produced works of flag revision will be considered for inclusion in the exhibition, in negotiating the terms of our space and resources.

    ·      All images and descriptions will be included in a proposal to US Congress this October, 2012, requesting that the US flag be revised for our contemporary era.  Much has changed since 1960 and our initiative will more fully represent these developments in a compelling collection of images.

    ·      Please write “redesign the US flag” in the subject header.

Email your contributions to:


Thank you,

m. ryan noble
USSSA, organizer

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