Email by Oliver Ressler

On Feb 22, 2012, at 2:37 PM, Oliver Ressler wrote:

The problem with the extremely low fees is indeed a serious one.
For most people, 250 euros doesn’t even cover one week’s expenses. Which means that anyone who agrees to take part in steirischer herbst is making a financial loss. Of course, art projects are often only feasible thanks to the commitment of those taking part, and are only possible thanks to additional private funding. But when even big festivals such as steirischer herbst, that are still financially strong by international standards, are forced to operate with starvation wages, things get critical for everyone involved. In political art, exhibition and lecture fees make up a substantial part of the artist’s income – I speak for myself and for several artists, knowing a bit about their financial circumstances. You do two things more or less free of charge, but in return you want to be paid well when you are invited to exhibit at big festivals or museums. Otherwise, you can’t make ends meet. Undermining this model of funding precarious artists jeopardises their possibilities regarding production and also their existence.

As far as the camp is concerned, it would easily be possible to invite 20 or 30 per cent fewer people and to pay them reasonable fees. This would also ensure that you really got everyone who has time to come.

Both as steirischer herbst and as a “block curator” you should try to avoid a situation where underpayment of the artists becomes a central issue for the artists themselves at the festival. Of course, this risk arises the moment you invite political cultural workers, and it may develop a momentum of its own and become a central issue (which would, I feel, be a great shame).
I think it would be reasonable to double all fees, i.e. 500 euros for artists and 1000 euros for curators. Internationally, that is still in the low range. The standard fee at the Creative Time Summit in New York, for example, a similarly spectacular, if very different format, was 1000 dollars – for a seven-minute statement per participant and two days attendance.


On Feb 23, 2012, 11:10 AM, steirischer herbst wrote:

It goes without saying that 250 euros is not a proper fee – it just about covers expenses. We re-allocated a large part of the festival funds for this project, but it is quite difficult to allocate any other extra funds from foundations, etc. for this project.
It would be totally unacceptable as normal payment – and usually we are very aware of this and try to be fair. But in that case we would say that we can only pay for two nights at most, and not as many as most people would like to stay, up to a whole week. And we would charge admission. We couldn’t reimburse people who don’t want to fly for the more expensive train costs (e.g. from England) and we couldn’t award 100 travel grants.

Taking part in and contributing to the camp only makes sense if someone is sufficiently interested in being there, and wants to get to know a lot of other positions here – like at a conference, where you get paid similar expenses. It is an invitation to take part in an exchange.

Still, we would like to pay more; we spent a lot of time working it out. Inviting twenty fewer people wouldn’t even amount to 50 euros more per person.  Only inviting half would severely limit the exchange and exclude a lot of interesting people who would like to come. The only feasible model would be to limit the grants drastically, which are one of the main costs of this event. Creative Time, for example, didn’t have grants like this, as far as I know. And far fewer overnight stays.

At any rate, we understand very well that you can argue whether this is the right principle. That’s why we discuss it very openly, also with people to whom this is an important aspect in their work. It will no doubt be one of the topics at the Marathon itself, too.

On 26 Feb, 2012, at 12:33 PM, Oliver Ressler wrote:

Thanks for the detailed explanation.
OK, I’ll take part and I’ll think about who to invite.

Camp policy of fees & general conditions

Since it is our aim to make it possible for many people to participate in “Truth is concrete” and the budget for this project is limited, we decided on very clear conditions that we can offer to all participants. There will be an equal payment for everybody, regardless fame, modes of presentation etc. We are aware, that this fee is rather covering expenses and more symbolic then an appropriate fee. It is clear, that it only makes sense to participate in the camp, if the participation itself is of value: We as hosts can only provide the frame, the infrastructure, the logistics for this meeting.

These conditions allow us to save enough money to invite everybody who wants to stay the full seven days of the marathon camp. And to offer 100 travel grants for students, young artists, activists, theorists from all over the world.

Contributors’ fees & conditions:

  • Each contributor gets a fee of 250 Euro.
  • Workshop hosts and block curators get a fee of 500 Euro.
  • For certain specifically developed projects there can be a production budget up to 750 Euros all inclusive.
  • Everybody is invited to stay as long as she/he wants. We cover up to all seven nights for the marathon, even if one might only hold a 30 minutes lecture.
  • There is food at the camp, three free meals per day for each participant.
  • Of course we cover the travel costs, also trains instead of planes if prefered, even if that means higher costs. We support all travel means that are ecologically sustainable.

Travel grants:

  • Additionally there are 100 travel grants for students, young artists, activists, theorists etc.
  • 50 places will be distributed via educational institutions with which we collaborate.
  • The other 50 will be distributed via an open call that will be released mid of March.

This grants cover:

  • Travel costs to Graz and back
  • Accommodation in the camp (Basic youth hostel standard)
  •  Three free meals per day in the camp

General public:

There is no entrance fee for all the events during the marathon – everything is open to everybody, as long as there is enough space.