On 19 August, the Facebook AiR (Artists in Residence) program has opened its first public group show at The Lab, a trendy artspace in Mission district, San Francisco. Group Hang presents works by emerging and established artists who have participated to the art residency the tech company launched 5 years ago.
What’s FB AiR?
In 2012, Facebook started the AiR program, an artist residency that takes place in its corporate sites.
First of all, what is a residency? Generally, artists collaborate with organizations to achieve particular pedagogic goals. Terms and time are defined with a contract. Their work must serve to raise awareness and to initiate the public to artistic expression. Meanwhile, organizations support total production fees.
Facebook explains the program as « an initiative out of Facebook’s Analog Research Laboratory, an in-house analog design/print studio that was created by Facebook designers who wanted a place where they could step away from their screens and get back to their roots as physical makers. » Since its creation, AiR has supported more than fifty artists and spread the site-specific art project initiative through its international campuses. Facebook employees are encouraged to interact with artists and to take part in these projects. By stimulating creativity and bringing new visions, art benefits to the company brand image, work environment and employees productivity.
« The program brings in a diverse range of artists to work on campus alongside employees as a means to energize, inspire, and challenge the community. We value the contagious nature of creative production and the connection made when witnessing a work in progress. Bringing in relevant art projects to the campus reinforces our ideal work environment and encourages original thinking. » states the FB page presentation.
More videos on the AiR Program Facebook page.
Since the exponential growth of the tech industry in the Bay, San Francisco has transformed itself. From the city of countercultures, it has become one of the world most expensive areas. The rent rate is increasing and spaces are less available. Result: artists have moved to Los Angeles. The city has warmly welcomed them and easily taken the lead of the Californian scene. According to Artsy, L.A. is up to 7 at the Most Influential Art World Cities rank : « (…) the city’s recent mass-influx of artists that has perhaps drawn the most fervent art-world attention.» Even if SF has a strong cultural identity, pricing issues have mostly locked its artistic development.
Facebook has money, artists need money. Facebook needs creative ressources, artists foster creativity. You get the equation. Facebook AiR program might be one of the most encouraging and ambitious projects to boost art by helping and promoting local artists. The support of the tech industry in art production is crucial for San Francisco aura. And every local would love the art roots back. Group Hang might be a first decisive step, especially if art industry people decide to work alongside the social network ambition.
Art & Tech: end of a cold war?
The Art world has long been isolated from the tech world. Art dealers were only looking forward to selling works to new collectors without trying to open new doors.
With the Facebook residence program, it might be the beginning of a creative collaboration between two worlds, each full of specific codes, at the same time very different and very similar. It seems FB has understood and embraced the inner relation between art production and tech: idea, error, thinking, experience, visibility, interaction, and sometimes algorithms though.
At a diner, I was asked if I thought San Francisco people are really thinking forward. Proudly French, I said no. But now that I have experienced the city, interacted with locals and plenty of people here, I would say yes. I doubt the art world will show enthusiasm towards FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) entrance in its zone, but I truly think only the Bay Area could be the starting point of this convergence. A place where all is about intercultural communication and interaction, with no real rejection of technologies, a great artistic background, obviously money, with a strong concern for smart city, education and open-mindedness which art should be about.
Hey, hi art world. Here comes an updating scene.
Facebook @artistinresidence / Instagram @fbairprogram