Some time back I posted something about The Fine Art Adoption Network (FAAN), Adam Simon's online commission for Art in General. I promised my readers an interview; well here it is at last (conversation conducted over the course of the spring & summer, by email):
NEWSgrist: hi Adam,
I'm about to head off to work, where, wonderfully, I found a copy of the Mauss [The Gift] in my library's stacks. I will read some during quiet moments today and get back to you about it, maybe... In the meantime, tell me how you came to think of FAAN as a concise "project" (at your leisure of course) -- or how you started to think about giving and exchange vis-à-vis our habits here in the hub of art world commerce?
Adam Simon: I've always split my focus between my studio work, which is mostly painting, and projects which deal with how art is disseminated. From what I can tell, you seem to have a similar split focus. The Fine Art Adoption Network (FAAN) refers directly back to Four Walls, the exhibition space/artists forum which Michele Araujo and I started in 1984 and I later co-directed with Mike Ballou. Both FAAN and Four Walls were propelled by a certain degree of frustration. With Four Walls it was frustration at the lack of live sites for dialogue between artists, particularly ones that were also exhibition sites. With FAAN it was my realization that a surplus of good art somehow coexists with a scarcity of people owning art. I also had to remove a couple of large, early paintings from my mother's house in Boston because she was moving and I didn't want to store or destroy them. That was the immediate impetus. By the way, thanks for referring me to Paul Chan's audio project. I like the way it resists definition as either a service or an artwork. I think of FAAN that way except that, as an artwork, FAAN is extremely collaborative. At this point it is being shaped by a lot of people.
Yes, I'm beginning to feel it taking off, or taking shape... Today I had my first actual handing-off of a painting to a fellow named Eben who is a writer and teaches English at CUNY. He is the first of 6 adopters, and actually first emailed me from AiG during the opening. He later came to the fair use conference and said hullo after my panel. Today he came up to the Met where I work, we got sandwiches and sat in the park and talked for maybe an hour and a half. Then I got him a button to go see the Kara Walker show / extravaganza (speaking of things shaped by many people!). I'm feeling very "high" -- one has the power to shape a "transaction" differently once money and market values are taken out of the equation. There seems to be a fast-track to genuine discussion... somehow, several layers of the usual bullshit vanish from the moment the adopters open themselves up in their letters; that is what they seem to do, and maybe what it takes; that is the intimate level at which the exchange is taking place...
I remember Eben from the opening. He was interesting. I remember he said that he wanted contemporary art for his students to be around. After I said that to you yesterday about FAAN being shaped by a lot of people, I saw that you had used your homepage to invite comments from artists and adopters on what they think FAAN is all about. As far as I know, yours is the first instance of a FAAN homepage being used for something other than the artists' images and related text. I like it. At some point, during all my promotional claims about how FAAN would be this or accomplish that I realized that no one, including me, had any idea what would actually occur.
Eben is lovely; he gave me a short story he'd written after we finished lunch. :-) Funny, your webmaster (John Weir) emailed me right after I posted that "hey FAAN people" thing – he said he thought it a nice way around the lack (so far) of an interface for such an interaction and wanted to know if there was anything else I might need (!) - I told him I had given away my last artwork for adoption that day and my homepage seemed so sad and bare!
I guess also it's an almost unconscious impulse for me to do something like that... all those years yammering on list-serves and, more recently, blogs; I assume that online communication must go in both directions. In any case, it occurs to me that FAAN has only just begun -- it could keep going and going, and morph and develop into -- who knows what?!
Well, it's definitely going to get bigger. I guess it's natural to fear that something will be lost as that happens. I'm hoping that the idea is simple enough so that the flavor will last. Maybe it is possible to instill a different model in the minds of the general public. Artists are thought of by many as hucksters and overnight success stories. If the public has to reconcile that idea with multiple acts of random generosity, well, that might be significant.
Sorry to leave this conversation for a few days -- things have been hectic! I managed to squeeze in a lovely 45min beer at my studio with my second adopter, a shy, scholarly looking architect gent. I also squeaked into an opening Saturday where Carrie Yamaoka has a piece, where I happened to be introduced to your brother!
It seems to me that people pine after new models, even if they get confused. I love "multiple acts of random generosity." Okay, dashing off again. More soon. I think FAAN could grow into a giant and longstanding many-armed giant... Joy