Precept No. 2: Transparency in Experimentation



For me, as an artist, one of the hardest things to do is to reveal anything other than my best work - something that has been thought out extensively with no mistakes and all possible holes and bases covered. But the facade of perfection is a lie and we really need mistakes to learn and pretending that they don't happen is disingenuous. Mistakes are actually no big deal as long as they're corrected and experimentation is one of the greatest gifts nature has given us. The Muzineum wants to help facilitate and be a part of creating a culture and environment where experimentation and mistakes are acknowledged openly.


The first experiment-idea-mistake (all or none of those?) was when I was contemplating how to compensate the Community Creators for Pandemic Still Life. I have been an activist-ish for close to 6 years now and I try my best to be lead a life that acknowledges oppression and operate my personal and professional life as someone who not only reduces harm but materially show up for folks. So for the Pandemic Still Life I was toying with the idea of a tiered compensation system that depended on self-reporting on various marginalized identities. Essentially the idea was taht there was a base pay of $75, but if you are a woman or femme you would get paid another $25 - if you are queer another $25 - if you are disabled another $25 - if you are BIPOC another $25 - if you are in financial need another $25.


I know, feels a bit cringey and weird right? On the one hand I was acknowledging the natural disparities in wages these groups experience - on the other I was reducing these identities to a checkbox and putting a price on it which also didn't feel great. I decided to ask social media what they thought and made a post on my personal Facebook --- and didn't really get any engagement on it, which to me isn't a very good sign. I pivoted and asked a very good activist friend their opinion on it and they took it to conference with other folks.


The verdict was that they also felt on the fence about it. Eventually through this dialogue we concluded that a flat-rate compensation would suffice for now - but when choosing contributors give preference to those who were BIPOC, queer or in financial need (and only have one checkbox for all three.) Practically, it was determined that a flat-rate pay would be best from a financial stand point. The Muzineum is still a tiny start-up organization with a small grant and having a fixed budget for projects just makes more sense!


I still think the tiered compensation idea has some sort of merit - but for various reasons this wasn't the right time and right project to try it out. Perhaps when the Muzineum has matured, or maybe if would be a good way for large, predominately white male institutions could start thinking about compensation. What are your thoughts? I would love to hear about them.