Running a book (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.
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 performance that runs an experiment in artworld sustainability mechanisms while critiquing its own medium by aiming to only invest in equities that help build ethical city futures.
The artwork’s 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 experimental funding model at the same time.
The ethos of the portfolio of stocks comprising this artist’s book is a form of ‘impact investing’ – stock allocation that aims to have a positive impact on society through investment decisions. This portfolio will during 2020 broadly invest in future cities by focusing on stocks and shares, listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, that are oriented towards sectors changing the urban fabric for the better. These may include green technology, 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.
Such impact is carried forward in the use to which proceeds are put. The portfolio, capitalised by the artist with their own funds, will be run on a long-term, income-generating strategy. Any proceeds will fund temporary art interventions in public space, manifested through guerilla gallery, a nomadic platform that enables artistic projects in offspaces. These projects will be considered chapters in the artist’s book that are then published in public space and online. This artist’s book turns equity into ephemeral end results that resist financial and other kinds of capture. In so doing it reverses prevailing instrumentalisation and supports experimental work.
The idea for Running a Book emerged from my PhD research, which proposes an ecological value model for a more resilient artworld ecosystem. This brings different notions of collectivity, or commoning, together from the world of collecting (structural thinking) and the world of the studio (artistic thinking) to build more resilient alternatives. “Contemporary art can offer new structures for apprehending reality while the structures in which art moves can offer mechanisms, even new mediums, for artworld resilience,” it stated (Gurney, 2019: 246).
The portfolio is fully capitalised and investments will be made during 2020. As the book progresses, asset allocation updates and related information about the process will be published on this website, as well as guerilla gallery’s blog and @guerillaza: #lodestarlab #runningabook #artistsbooks #guerillagallery #sustainability #newfundingmodels #impactinvesting
Note: Due to Coronavirus pandemic, the artist’s book is primarily invested in cash holdings and is making gradual equity allocation decisions. The first stock exchange trade was carried out in September 2020.