Ideas Digital Forum 2018: Sylvie Gilbert

Ideas Digital Forum 2018: Sylvie Gilbert


– I want to introduce Sylvie Gilbert, who I’ve had the pleasure
of knowing for a long time, and has been an executive
director, a curator, and for the last five years
with the Canada Council, and is the head of the
Digital Strategy Fund. And it is that money, it’s the funds from the Digital Strategy
Fund that has allowed for us to have this symposium today. So, a big thank you to the Canada Council and please welcome Sylvie Gilbert. (audience applauding) – Thank you, thank you, I’m really happy to be here, but I’m happier to see that the fund allow these conversation to happen and to bring artists that
talk about their practice with media, and then people
that are leading galleries and trying to understand
what would be the connection between those two world
and how do we engage in a digital world, as we call it. So I’ll give you quickly
some background information to understand where
this fund is coming from because I think it, position it, and you’ll understand its relationship with the other programs
of the Canada Council, which is often the thing that people need to understand first. There was, at a moment in time, we were informed that we will probably, we were going to probably
have the appropriation, financial support to the Canada Council, that our budget would be doubled. It would’ve been easy for
the Canada Council to say, okay we’re putting all
the money in the program that we have now, but instead
what we’ve decided to do is to rethink, or try
to use some of the money that was coming our way and
see how we can build funds that would be strategic, that
would help the entire sector. So it comes from this
idea of, instead of just irrigating the existing
grants, or the existing system that we have in place, to try to innovate and see how we can support the community or the sector in a different way. Council, as you know, has
been in place since 1957, the program that we have
and the way the structure of the funding has been
for the last, since 50s, has been very closed to the
modernist idea of discipline, university, the avant garde. So we are looking at ways
of reorganizing those ideas because the world has changed and we’re not in the modernist, colonial, or post-colonial, or
colonial time anymore. So we’re looking at those larger
issues that the community, that everybody in the community, in the sector, are struggling with. So the fund came from this idea
of giving strategic support. So what we do, we commissioned
a literature review to understand how the sector
was understanding digital. It was a very important
review because it helped us understand other strategy
that had been commissioned or put in place around the world. And what we found, the findings
of this in three sentences is the fact that mostly digital strategies have been in place to support businesses, to support practices
that have been disrupted, like records, like movies, like taxis. So they were mostly
there to support people that had had disruption in their activity. Very few strategic initiative had been, or strategic fund had been
given to the art sector. We were able to found
example, mostly in Europe, Australia, and we had
report from those fund and what we’ve learned from that, because it had been in place in the last, probably five years before
we started doing the work, was that the art sector was very, didn’t have literacy. What it means is that the sector
did not really understand, or did not really came to understand how the digital world was working. There was no relationship
with the digital world because these sectors
had not been disrupted from the technology. It was mostly a practice by the artist, it was not the practice from any larger or small organization. What we’ve also learned from that was that we needed to look at how people were using digital within the community. So we did a survey. What we’ve learned from the survey was that mostly organization think, when they think digital,
they think marketing, they think website, they think Facebook, they think, and that’s it. Artists think of tools to create. Very few people were engaged in the idea of a digital environment
and how digital has affected the people they’re in
conversation daily with. So it was very important for
us to be able to be strategic and do an intervention to allow
that discussion to happen. So the fund, we did a summit. We brought together 300
people from the country. We did a summit and we
had different experience, we had digital expert
and we had the community and we did different
workshops to talk about data, to talk about Symantec
web, to talk about inter, or appealability, what does that mean? To talk about design thinking, all the buzz word and the
methodology that have been used in recent year to understand how to engage with that digital world. It was a fascinating moment
for us to understand. In the meantime, we
were preparing the fund. And the design of the fund. And where we decided, based
on the literature review, the survey, and the finding
or the discussion we had during the summit, we also had a committee that worked with us to help us develop the fund and the summit. We identified three buckets,
three area of support. So, digital, literacy, and
intelligence, as we call it, was one of them. We wanted to support the
community to understand, figure it out, give them
money so that they can organize themself and understand. We wanted the art sector to
be aware of what it means, to really understand what’s at stake, what are the issue, what are the obstacle, where are the opportunity. What’s wrong, what’s right, what does it mean for
them as an organization? What does it mean for them
as people in this sector? And we identified also the
relationship with citizen, how we need to reimagine,
rethink, reshape, reinvent, re whatever re we need to say. How important it is to interact
and engage with citizens in a way that’s very different now because we have, as our
colleague mentioned this morning, different way of behaving, different, as we know, the society has changed. So how do we do that as arts organization? How do we engage with people? And the other bucket of funding
is once you become literate and you understand how
the digital world works, you start developing different types of engagement with citizen. How will this affect
and how with this change the way your organization is structured? So we’re supporting understanding,
trying to do things, and then changing the
models that you have. So it’s a fund that’s a bit, my colleagues say it’s too complicated. Some people don’t see any
advantage to this fund. But as we speak and as we understand and as we present the
fund, more and more people understand why it’s there. It’s got a systemic
approach to the sector. We’re not looking to
support specific practice, specific groups of people. We’re there to really get
the sector to give them money to have the time to learn,
to try, to think, to fail, to really engage with that
idea of a digital society. What it means for the art sector to live, to be in a digital society. How is this affecting the
work that you do as an artist? Not when you create but
when you sell your work or when you engage with your association, when you work with other artists. How the digital world, or the environment, digital environment is
affecting the way you work, as artists, as collective,
and as organization. So this is in a nutshell
what the fund does. We’ve had one competition. I’m talking about the three buckets. We call them component, so
we have a literacy component that is there to support all kinds of, the symposium today was funded
by the literacy component, where you bring people to learn. People can use the literacy
to even look at something very specific they don’t understand. They don’t understand
what Symantec web means, it’s fine, you can apply to
the fund to bring people, to bring expert, to meet
with your colleagues to develop the skill that
you need to really understand how the web works today
if that’s something that is of interest to you. You can even, if you don’t
even understand that, you can even have a meeting,
or you could bring people to discuss what does it mean
to live in a digital society. So you can, we’re not orienting
how to come to the fund, we’re just providing those very loose idea because we want a community,
we want the solution or the interrogation,
or we want the sector to really be thinking about that. We don’t wanna tell them,
oh, here’s money for you to develop your web or to upgrade your web so that it’s a Symantec web, or here’s money for you to tag your work. We don’t wanna do that
because we want the community to decide that this is the
most important thing for them, and if we invent a program,
or if we set up a program that’s very specific to
artists tagging their work, what we’ll have is artists
tagging their work. And we will not create an environment where people can decide to tag their work and do other things. So it’s a very open-ended bucket of access to research, thinking, doing things,
failing, practicing, rethinking how you engage with citizen, how you behave in a digital society. We have done a lot of
work in the last year since the last competition. We’ve provided different
tools to the community. We have a blog post online where people, it’s almost like digital 101 where we explain why we
ask people to collaborate because we want people to network, to try to come together with a colleague so that they could form networks. We want people to also use
accessible, open source, to be able to share the
information that they have, that they collect, to share their data. We want people, most
organizations don’t even know they produce data. It’s mind boggling. People don’t know who they
are in a digital world, they have no idea. Some organizations do but
small organization don’t know, they don’t want to engage with that because they’re busy doing other things. Where am I going with this? The idea is that we are
providing that support for people to do that work. We’re giving a lot of money
because we know it’s expensive. It costs money to engage with digital. It costs a lot of money to hire people if you need to code things, if you need to invent a new algorithm, it’s okay, we’ll help you do that. The dream is that an artist would invent, or would write an algorithm that would be non-biased, inclusive, it would be amazing to try to work with an algorithm that could do that for the art sector. The important thing in the
fund is that it’s money for the art community to develop the tools they feel they need to
be able to be digital. We’re really, really
putting a lot of emphasis on collaboration, we
want people to partner. And we’re trying to guide community and organization and
collective and artists not to compete between each
other, but to work together. If two organization have the same issue, we will call them and say
you’re working on the same idea, work together. So, we’re trying to connect
people as much as we can. Sometimes we give money to two groups even though they’re doing the same things because we just wanna see
how different it will be because they have different partner. But it’s really an experimental fund for the community to do
the work they need to do to get up to speed. What else can I tell you that
could be of interest to you? Yes, the money that we give is, we give large amount funding. We also give up to 85%
of the cost of a project that you want to do because
we know that organization, if we give just a little bit of money and people have to bring
to the table a lot of money to be able to do this
project, they won’t do it. They don’t have the staff,
they don’t want the money, it’s not the priority
in a lot of organization to deal or to engage
with the digital society. So by giving large sum of money we feel that people will be
attracted by the money. And it’s a way for us to
also encourage that work because we feel it is also very important. We had 275 application last
year, we funded 45 projects. What we receive was, there
were very interesting project, we funded the best project. Other projects, people were
still figuring out the fund so we had a lot of
requests of people wanting, I’ll give you an example,
I’ll take a museum example. Somebody who wants to do a catalog online. The committee would say, ah, it’s digital, but it’s not in a digital mindset. You don’t take a catalog
and put it online, you reimagine how you’re
gonna be publishing and what publishing means, and it means in a digital environment. So those are the questions,
that’s why we’re giving money to organizations, so they
can ask those questions and they can take the time to
really come and develop them. I was listening to the artists just now, and I’m thinking, we always talk about, we encouraged organization
to work with digital expert, but now I’m (laughing), it’s obvious to me that artists have been working, digital artists have been
working with those issues for a long, long, long, long, long time. There’s an incredible wealth of knowledge that could be interesting
for organization or museums to tap in, given the insight and the fabulous richness of the ideas around what is
data, how you can use data. Artists use data as material, but a relationship between
an artist and a gallery to rethink how gallery can use their data to really engage with citizen, that would be an amazing
project for the fund. That would not be, it’s not an art work, it’s not something that a gallery, it’s not programing for the gallery, but it’s thinking, an engagement that is completely different
than what we’ve done before. We could’ve called this
fund the innovation fund, but those projects are,
innovation fund is, nobody knows what it means. So it’s really interesting to make sure that the projects that you would present to the fund are strategic. We’re supporting people to
develop strategic understanding of what digital is. We think of digital
literacy in the same way we think of media literacy. So, we have to know what
it is so we can be engaged and critical about it
and really respond to it with the mindset that we
have in the art world. There’s a competition
closing on October 31st, if you have not applied, check it out. There’s three officers that I work with that will be able to give you
all the information you need. And this year what we’ve done, based on our experience of last year, we’ve set up a $50,000 literacy, we call it this way, access, and there’s no deadline. So people apply when they’re ready and you can build up your knowledge. You can decide to bring a group together to talk about a subject and then you can come back to the fund
and ask for more money to talk about something else and you can build your knowledge this way. But again, collaborative,
strategic, open, accessible, those are all the principle that will guide your application. Read the criteria very closely because in the criteria it will reveal how your project will be evaluated. So you’ll see a big
emphasis on sharing info and working with other people. Voila. (audience applauding)

Danny Hutson

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