A little over nine years ago, on December 1, 2003, I launched Culturebot.org at Performance Space 122 under the leadership and guidance of Mark Russell. Without his support, Culturebot would never have come into existence and we’re ever grateful. Even more so that he’s still willing to lend us hand. As we launch our first-ever fundraising campaign we reached out to some friends to help spread the word and share some thoughts about why they value what we do. Here’s what Mark said:
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Looking back, it is amazing how much we’ve stuck to our mission and how much we’ve grown. This is what I wrote in that very first post:
…. like most the things at P.S. 122, Culturebot is an experiment.
For 25 years P.S. 122 has provided a place for artists of all kinds, in all disciplines, to express themselves. It’s been a place for audiences to expand their horizons and it’s been a place that explores and redefines the boundaries of culture. It’s an eclectic, vital, dynamic place that is willing to present work that defies definition, that presents high art in an accessible way, that has served as “the petri dish of downtown culture”. P.S. 122 has, for myself and many others, been the catalyst for enormous creativity. So I decided to build a place like that online.
It is our hope that Culturebot will defy definition. Part group blog, part arts journal, part gossip column – we want to be a resource for all the members of the live arts community, artists and audience alike. And we want to change the way people talk about the art they see. That’s a big goal, but here at P.S. 122, that’s what we do.
And, like P.S. 122, Culturebot is as much yours as it is ours. We hope you’ll get involved – and there are several ways to do that.
And while things have changed a lot since then mostly we’ve just gotten better at doing what we do. I’m proud of Culturebot, this ongoing experiment in collaborative creation, and all the people who’ve helped make it possible over the years. We are, against all odds, changing the way people talk about the art they see, supporting the artists who make the work and providing a platform for all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds and experiences to come together – to explore, learn, grow, investigate, interrogate and create change.
In the past year we’ve articulated a framework for criticism in the 21st Century, and we’ve published dozens of provocative essays on hot button issues from performance in the visual art world to the politics of cultural production in theater to art in the age of digital production and distribution. We are leading the thinking and the conversation, bringing it onto the web where it is available for everyone to read, share, discuss and respond.
Let’s face it – the arts in America are in crisis. Large, conservative, unsustainable institutions consume a disproportionate amount of resources while artists and smaller organizations struggle just to get by. The big guys try and tighten the reins and reinforce the power structure not only through exerting influence on the funding landscape but by delegitimizing the voices of the people that make the arts in America possible. The entrenched forces of Big Corporate Culture resist the rise of the citizen critic: the passionate, informed, educated “amateur” who is in the trenches daily, advocating for the art and fostering meaningful conversations beyond “thumbs-up/thumbs-down” reviews. In other words: YOU.
THE CITIZEN CRITIC PROJECT is a new initiative that involves public conversations, collaborative performances, and embedded criticism – all integrated with and shared on Culturebot’s website. We are creating a platform to bring artists, audiences and citizen critics together – in real life and on the web – to provoke conversation, encourage dialogue, and engage new audiences.
Since Culturebot launched 9 years ago, we have been a completely volunteer effort with no outside funding. We have interviewed hundreds of artists and art workers, and covered just as many performances, events and scenes, often giving emerging artists their first coverage. We’ve broken news stories, sparked controversy, built knowledge and awareness while bringing people together. Now we’re expanding, ready to build a way to share knowledge and resources, fostering national – even international – conversations about the issues that are important to our community. We are using the wisdom of the crowd to devise new models for collaboration and cultural production, putting the power to control the conversation back into artists’ hands.
THE CITIZEN CRITIC PROJECT will kick off with Culturebot’s “Everyone’s A Critic” performance event on March 7, 2013 at On The Boards in Seattle, will continue at The Fusebox Festival in Austin, Texas in April, 2013 and unfold throughout the next year with a new year-long project being developed with The Invisible Dog in Brooklyn called CCCP (The Culturebot Congress of Contemporary Performance) and will include public convenings, performances and new, special writing initiatives.
THE CITIZEN CRITIC PROJECT is not just a single project: it is a launching pad for Culturebot’s future. Your support is not just about getting us to Seattle for “Everyone’s A Critic”, it is about helping Culturebot grow to develop the practices, tools and technology to continue serving artists, audiences, citizen critics and the performing arts ecology at large.
More importantly, this isn’t just about art or criticism – this is about life, politics and culture writ large. This is about changing the world, enabling people to have real dialogue about important issues, about exploring the intersection of criticism, spectatorship and citizenship to bring people together to make a difference in their communities, the country and the world.
The world is changing and now is the time to come together and redesign the operating system for the arts. Whatever way you join us, through financial support, volunteering or networking, we are grateful. Together we will make this happen.