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Artists Demonstrate the Process of Innovation Everyday

Jaime Austin

While working on the 2010 01SJ Biennial I was involved in commissioning 46 new artworks, so I was able to witness firsthand the creativity, risk-taking, and innovation that come into play as an artist is realizing a new work.

Innovation is a process. It (whatever “it” is) always starts with an idea. The idea alone isn’t worth anything; it’s the action put into realizing that idea to make “it” a reality, something that can be viewed/experienced or bought/sold that matters.

It’s the belief that risking it all—money, prestige, reputation—on a particular idea will pay off in the end when “it” is achieved. Am I talking about the next new Silicon Valley based startup company? No, I’m talking about the next new contemporary artwork.

The process that an artist goes through to realize a new work, particularly large-scale or public works, isn’t so different from the process an entrepreneur goes through to start a business.

They must come up with an idea, convince others that their idea is a good one, secure funding, procure materials, manage a budget, negotiate with facility owners, and the list goes on. Of course my job as a curator is to help make the process as logistically smooth and conceptually stimulating as possible. However, the key steps in the process remain and inevitably artists must get creative in order to complete their project on time, on budget, and according to their vision.

To do this, artists are applying innovative thinking to support their work everyday. Here are two examples from the 2010 01SJ Biennial:

•    Artists Todd Chandler and Jeff Stark set out to build their large-scale multimedia installation, Empire Drive-in, out of used and salvaged materials. The wanted the indoor drive-in movie theater to incorporate cars that the audience could climb into for seating. Renting or buying used automobiles was going to be too costly, so they started talking directly to owners of local salvage yards and were able to “borrow” the cars, clean them up, use them as the central element of their installation, and then return them, free of charge.

•    Artists Scott Kildall and Victoria Scott received a commission to build a 13-foot tall Trojan Horse, titled Gift Horse, stuffed with paper-craft virus sculptures. Once they began the project they decided they wanted to make the sculpture out of sustainable materials that had a higher cost than originally planned. So they launched a campaign on Kickstarter to make up additional funds.

And there are many more examples out there. Artists are innovators by nature. I am constantly blown away by the way they create thought provoking work by putting existing tools to new uses that they were never originally imagined for. Perhaps business entrepreneurs could have something to learn.

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