San Francisco Institute of Possiblity


What Constitutions Can do for Arts Organizations – a public dissertation defence


While many artists involved with the SFIOP already have their copies, the official release date for the forthcoming “Book of the UN” has been set for March 8, where a “dissertation defense” of the book’s thesis on art and culture will be held at the Booksmith in Berkeley.

Many of the theses in the book were initially tried and tested as art events in the San Francisco Bay Area, including SFIOP events such as Camp Tipsy, the All Worlds Fair, and especially The Fallen Cosmos, which has its own section in the book.  (And whose “Gifting Graphic” is displayed in the art above.)

You can stay tuned to this channel for more details about the dissertation defense and the book release, but in the interim it’s worth considering the fundamental thesis of the book, which proposes that arts organizations need to stop thinking in terms of organizational charts and start thinking in terms of citizenship:  arts organizations must develop constitutions, and think of themselves as constitutional cultures, in which rights, privileges, and responsibilities are made explicit rather than assumed.

This approach is intended to short-circuit the classic “crash-and-burn” scenario (which the book calls a “mitosis”) in which creative talent gets shunted aside in favor of the administrative and business side as an artistic movement grows successful.  But more than that, as arts organizations gradually come to see themselves as constitutional bodies, a series of best practices for membership and participation in these constitutionally governed artistic communities will rise and spread organically, as people copy and remix the best of what works from one another – until, gradually, a new social consensus that can be organized around will emerge.

To some extent you can already see it happening in areas with intense artistic scenes, where a series of regionally shared norms and expectations for participation have emerged – and you can see it happening in DIY culture movements like sea-steading, where each “boat island” has its own set of laws and rules, and over a decade’s time they have more and more frequently come to resemble each other as people see the kind of culture they want to belong to, and copy it.

Does that make sense to you?  Do you think that artists thinking of their communities as constitutional entities will help change the world?

Over the next few months we’ll be debating just those subjects, as we prepare for the Book of the UN’s dissertation defense.


%d bloggers like this: