Running a book (2020, ongoing) is an artist’s book that uses stocks and shares as its medium. Its chapters will manifest as artistic interventions in public space, enabled by future interest earnings. The artwork therefore doubles as an experimental funding mechanism for public art, specified below.
Artist’s books are a genre of artwork that use the form or concept of a book as inspiration: Printed Matter has more on this. Running a book is a durational artwork that runs an experiment in artworld sustainability mechanisms. It also critiques its own medium by aiming to filter its investments toward equities that help build ethical city futures. Any problems or dilemmas encountered in the process are part of the work.
The title plays on the phrase ‘running a book’ - financial jargon for managing a portfolio of investments, or issuing new equity. In this case, the artist is running the book, and the book is an artwork and a funding mechanism. The portfolio is a form of ‘impact investing’ – stock allocation that aims to have a positive impact on society through investment decisions. This portfolio, or book, will broadly invest in future cities by focusing on selected stocks and shares, listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, that are oriented towards sectors changing the urban fabric for the better. For example: technology funds, green and blue bonds, sustainable infrastructure, climate change mitigation, mobile payments, blockchain advances, and other kinds of forward-thinking innovations like ethically screened exchange-traded funds.
The portfolio, fully capitalised by the artist in early 2020, will be run on a long-term, income-generating strategy. Any proceeds will enable (temporary) art interventions in public space, manifested through guerilla gallery, a nomadic platform that biennially facilitates artistic projects in ‘offspaces’. These projects will be considered chapters in the artist’s book, published in public space and online. In effect, this artist’s book turns equity to ephemeral ends that resist capture and subvert instrumentalisation. The first artwork funded from this porfolio was realised in October 2021 when Sandile Radebe was commissioned to paint a mural for the inauguration of The Shed, a temporary art project in a garden shed turned microgallery. The mural took inspiration from google mapping of the neighbourhood to spell out in block lettering the name of this tiny space for big ideas.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the artist’s book is making gradual equity allocation decisions and is currently about 50% invested. The first trade was carried out in September 2020 to purchase technology shares on the Nasdaq index via an exchange traded fund. This was shortly followed by an equal investment into emerging markets via an ESG (environment, social and governance) focused fund, and then a green infrastructure company focused upon wind and solar energy. Click on portfolio breakdowns below to view. A side experimental investment in blockchain technology is also running. Asset allocation updates and related information about the process will be updated here, as and when, and on guerilla gallery. This is an ongoing durational artwork.