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note to a funder

This morning my first meeting should have been at Conjunto Santos Dumont (Rua Paim), but I did things out of order and went to the Copan building first. I wanted to compose a note to a funder. It went like this:


Hi ___,


Do you ever wonder what other people think of you? I guess we all do. I’ve been thinking about writing you for the past couple weeks, and this morning something ‘clicked’ in that direction. Maybe I’ll start to wonder what you think of me afterwards. Especially for writing an email that I am not supposed to write.


I’m not supposed to write this email for so many reasons. Some of them still elude me, but I can articulate others.


I’m not supposed to write this email because artists nor community organisers write to funders in this way. I am not supposed to be frank — candid — stepping outside of the hierarchy that is the typical ‘funder-aspirant’ dichotomy. I am not supposed to write this email because it is not invited. I’m speaking ‘up the food chain’, and in crass terms: nobody asked me. I have grouped the reasons why such a communiqué is ill-advised into three ‘buckets’ along with some observations:


(I)


I’m not supposed to write this email because I will express emotions and opinions. I’m not supposed to say that I remember this or that. I’m surely not supposed to complain about a recent happenstance that had __ cancel an exchange from Brasil when I had already arranged for the reverse exchange to Brasil from __ for later in the year. I’m not supposed to take that personal even if I am left with no other options than (a) breaking the bad news to young Brasilian artists who’ve already gotten their passports and planned for the trip in a few weeks, OR (b) adding more hours to my own workday to ‘exhaust’ my network looking for those tickets. And, I have no guarantee that (b) will prevent (a) in the end.


In fact, if that was the sole rationale for writing you, I would not. My understanding of complex systems and complex people would perhaps not allow me to ask a question for which the answer would seem obvious. I suppose another small art project can cancel participation (hotels/plane tickets) at the last minute, and is right to think that it will jeopardise the overall trip. I suppose I am supposed to understand her reality of having her funding cut, and then convey that understanding to the Brasilian artists who would normally be overwrought with excitement for their first trip to __. I suppose I may have to tell them.


But in fact I have made several projects in __ and in addition to many other possible ‘engagements’ I am convinced of — dedicated even — to the idea that young video mappers from Sao Paulo need to know what video mappers and other artists/makers in __ are doing and thinking. Yes, I am convinced of this value. I would like them to go to __. I would still like them to select two counterparts who come to Brasil in September. My vision for an important exchange does not waver.


(II)


In September during the closing of Lanchonete.org, we will work with an artist you know, __.


When the artist first told me what happened with the grant that was never used, I think I must have wrapped that ‘knowing’ in a gauzy cocoon in my head. I think I would have protected myself from overthinking about it. I think I would have first acknowledged to myself that I was glad I hadn’t known I was competing with a friend. I would have then tucked it away in a dark recess of my mind so as not to be depressed by it. I would not want to think again about being among a small pool of 28 when 15 (or 14 as it were) of those candidates would succeed and the rest would not. I would not want to overthink why the follow-up discussion of a support in the amount of 15k Euros never seemed to materialize either. I would not want to remember the question I had of whether the same reviewers who took Lanchonete.org three phases in the bigger competition were the same who considered its eligibility for the smaller 15k. It would need to be water under the bridge. Life would need to go on.


It was nice to see you in Paris in December. I think I must have mentioned it to __ in January. The artist must have told me again how the collective was accepted for the 120k Euro grant (way back then) but refused it. I think the new ‘telling’ met that ‘cocoon’ and they crashed into a bigger question, which I am most certainly not supposed to ask:


How profound was the research that had a never-fulfilled project succeed over Lanchonete.org, which has fulfilled its forecasted five-year plan without ever having the largesse of such a single grant. I think you may see my point, which is that I am not suppose to look at systems over time and question their efficacy. No one has ever invited that from me, and yet it remains my strongest curiosity in life … to watch organisational forms.


Again, if this were my sole rationale for writing, I would not write you. We take what we get, and make the best of it. Isn’t it?


(III)


I saw you at the event in Paris. Your network’s relation was obvious to me, so it was only pleasant to find that you were there.


I returned the favour to __ in Paris and invited them to São Paulo. In September when we are closing the project. When we hope to receive our guests video-mappers. When we are asking our supporters to help us bring someone else you know, __ to be a part of our public program, but at another location than the ones where the joint video-mappers would be ‘making light’ and the lanchonete ‘corner’ where the artist (who reminded me of our history) will be working.


So, you see it was only when I backed up and saw multiple present relations — rather than (I) a particular happenstance or (II) the past — that I decided to write you.


I’m really proud of what we’ve made here in the Center of São Paulo. That grant from [your organization] would have made a difference, but who knows what kind. Life goes on.


I do think that what Lanchonete.org has learned is worth reaching other parts of the world and perhaps the insides of networks to which it didn’t belong. I wish that ‘sharing’ wasn’t another whole project in and of itself, one that would require more grant-asking. I am not supposed to complain about what I have chosen to do.


I am not supposed to ask you if you still have that 15,000 Euro laying around. But I will.


If nothing else, I welcome your ideas.


All my best,


Todd

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