The Living Catalogue: Exploring what artistic freedom means in a digital future

Over the last few weeks, I have had the pleasure of contributing to some particularly interesting future casting work under the banner The Living Catalogue, led by two of the organizations I admire the most, Bespoke Agency and the art policy think tank a/nordi/c. My contributions include helping collect ‘signals’ relating to digital infrastructures (more on that below), writing up reflective pieces on the future of such digital technology as it relates to certain themes, and speaking about it in public events in Denmark and abroad.

Using a methodology called ‘signal scouting,’ developed by Bespoke, the idea in The Living Catalogue is to collect and analyze ‘signals’ (see below); the two organizations work together to create a grand project called ‘The Living Catalogue.’ It is an ever-growing collection of the signals they see taking shape in the arts, culture, and creative fields. 

A group of hand-picked signal scouts collects the signals: a group of artists, researchers, and cultural practitioners from the Nordic Region, South Africa, Israel, and USA - including me - who capture and document the signs of change as they arise around them. Signals are concrete examples of what is emerging within the field we are exploring. A signal can be based on an observation, an experience, a reflection, a project, or event: Anything that points to new ways of thinking and acting in their field. The signals are meant to jointly uncover patterns that give us hints from the future, hints that are not visible if you look at each signal individually.

To spot such patterns, signals are gathered in a piece of signal analysis software developed by Bespoke, which runs the data through an AI algorithm to find structures and predictions invisible to the naked eye.

See the full list of Signal Scouts here.

The catalog is both an engine of ongoing knowledge production at a/nordi/c and an open invitation to practitioners, institutions, and everyone in between to become part of our exploratory dialogue about the future we wish to see for arts and culture in our society.

The first theme is ‘artistic freedom,’ a grand exploration of what creative freedom means in the 2020s, especially as we are rapidly digitizing society on all fronts, including arts and culture. 

Check out The Living Catalogue in full.

You can read each of the 116 collected signals via the link above and the insight articles (reflections) from select practitioners. These insights describe how growing market logistics on cultural policy limits the artistic freedom for many, how power dynamics are shifting within the digital infrastructure, and last but not least, how artistic freedom can create room for reflection. The middle one is mine, and you can jump to that directly here: Power Dynamics Are Shifting as We Move Into Web3.

The purpose of the study has been to create a more multidimensional understanding of the concept of artistic freedom and to become wiser about the changing premises for artistic freedom in both the Nordic region and globally.

The work has also been presented publicly in a series of events. I had the pleasure of speaking in a couple of them including a/nordi/c’s panel on artistic freedom on the main stage of Kulturmødet in Mors, Denmark, in August 2022, as well as at a symposium on artistic freedom in Helsinki in November 2022.

As the last stage, the work with the catalog forms the basis for a book publication, which will be published later in the autumn - on my publishing platform Ctrl+Alt+Delete Books.

Stay in the loop of a/nordi/c’s work here - and the same for Bespoke here (which, by the way, has since been acquired by Manyone).

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