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True Riches

Nathan Budzinski

I was wondering what kind of reaction there would be when the ICA decided to shut their live art/new media department last October. Along with the closure, ICA director Ekow Eshun wrote an email explaining that the art form lacked "depth and cultural urgency" (if you can define what exactly the multimedia/interdisciplinary art form of live art & new media is). Is Eshun correct in saying that live and new media arts aren't relevant enough for the ICA to put its funding into, and that anyways it'll be covered by the ICA's other events and exhibitions? Who knows... But there are more delicate ways to put it.

If he had just closed the department with a tight lipped "sorry, no money" explanation or any other standard bureaucratic obfuscation, that would've still been upsetting for the live/performance/digital/inter-multi-etcetera-disciplinary artists losing out, but possibly any backlash against the institution and director may have dwindled away like, well, arts funding. In any case, Eshun was straightforward about his reasons and ended up angering a lot of people. Live artists/performance artists with a predilection towards public exhibition can be counted on to embrace direct action and self organisation with zeal, maybe even flourishing under duress... And so it's good to hear that True Riches, a project created by Rotozaza and Forced Entertainment is attempting to re-establish the live art and new media department without the ICA.

Looking through the programme, it's hard to tell where the events are actually going to take place and if there's been any collaboration between the now independent department and its former home; there's lectures scheduled to take place in the ICA bar, performances in the exhibition spaces and the unlikely flooding of the small cinema. It'll be interesting to follow True Riches through their year long programme and see if they're successful. If so, maybe Eshun has actually provided the cultural world with a brand new institutional model for the current economic situation: make people angry enough and they'll do it themselves. Or else it's simply a premonition of what's to come.