Parasite Lottery, initiated by Yogyakarta-based artist Wok The Rock and developed together with the Casco team, is a pilot collective lottery system for art organizations in the Netherlands and their communities. Adapting and fusing a lottery model for art funding that survives despite the dwindling of other cultural budgets and arisan, a commons-oriented micro-crediting system popular in Indonesia, Parasite Lottery invites a number of art organizations together as bidders, winners and hosts of lottery drawing events that are open to the public. The winners receive a sum of money to be used as a “fee for deviation”. In other words, the prize money should be spent on something that the winning organization would usually never have the budget for. For example, the money could equally be spent on “doing nothing”, just as it could be used for a project that was otherwise not possible, due to a lack of financial resources.
Beyond the prize itself, Parasite Lottery is a collective exploration of chance effects, not just in the thrill of winning, but also through a series of gatherings that will take place around it, including talks, food, and music. The latter produced by Wok The Rock in collaboration with Berlin and Yogyakarta-based musician Frau (Leilani Hermiasih), and the lyrics written in collaboration with several Dutch art professionals. These invoke key issues relating to cultural policies and their effects on art organizations, ranging from austerity measures and precarity to the debt economy, and questions concerning sustainability and solidarity.
The conception of Parasite Lottery was prompted by growing concerns regarding funding practices in the art world, and more specifically the economic situation of arts in the Netherlands. Post-crisis austerity measures included particularly draconian budget cuts in the cultural sector, which were legitimized by the portrayal of artists as “parasites”. Faced with the lack of funds necessary to produce new art and their own conditions of existence, artists and art institutions are increasingly turning to new strategies, such as the current negotiations with government authorities to reform policies concerning artist fees, which was the topic of a Platform BK debate held at Casco in February earlier this year.
Meanwhile, in the private sector, a substantial amount of funding for the arts is provided by lotteries such as the “BankGiro Loterij,” which invests all of its proceeds into cultural and heritage organizations. For instance, the Arts Collaboratory network, which Casco is part of, is also subsidized by DOEN Foundation, whose financial resources come from lotteries. Oddly, however, very few artists play the lotteries themselves. This might be due to lotteries fostering transient dreams of extravagance which artistic positions normally take some distance from—while also, however, benefit. Parasite Lottery brings these two realities together by asking art institutions—and their publics—to take part in a lottery.
How it Works
Parasite Lottery involves four art institutions of different scales: Casco itself, artists’ collective Das Spectrum, artists’ coalition Platform BK, and the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam or SMBA, the project space of the Stedelijk Museum. All of these organizations received a personal invitation to participate. Every participating institution commits to buying a weekly lottery ticket, the price of which is dependent on their the size of their overall budget: smaller organizations pay less to participate than the larger players. Every institution playing the Parasite Lottery wins the prize money once—unlike in existing lottery systems—although they cannot know when. Since the prize money is evenly divided over the different players, the smaller participating institutions’ returns will be more than the sum they invested; for them, the Parasite Lottery presents a chance to increase their resources, while simultaneously establishing firmer connections with other organizations in the Netherlands. Larger institutions are designed to lose money during the course of Parasite Lottery; their interest might lie in fulfilling their public mission by making their funding money available to trickle down to lower-key institutions and artists in a form of solidarity, while it also allows them more space and time to reflect and work on their practices by deviating from their routine or norm, often dominated by the rule of productivity or other pressures.
Furthermore, the participating institutions would agree to invest a part of their prize money in the organization of a social event to which all participating institutions are invited. As such, Parasite Lottery also presents an occasion for strengthening ties between its participants and promotes sociability and solidarity between artistic and cultural producers of all kinds. For these occasions, newly produced music provided by Wok The Rock, in collaboration with Indonesian musician Frau (Leilani Hermiasih). The music address selected urgent topics around the political-economy and funding systems in the field of contemporary art. Apart from the social component, hence, these events are designed to also contain an element of reflection and exchange on how these topics affect the ways in which the different participating institutions work.
Fusing Lottery and Arisan
Parasite Lottery was inspired by the arisan, a commons-oriented microcrediting system popular in Indonesian culture. The arisan is a cooperative system that facilitates a collective saving system as well as social bonding. For arsian, a group of bidders gather regularly, mostly in rotation in the homes of the arisan members. Regularly, lots are drawn to determine the arisan holder, who then receives payment from the other members so as to host and prepare food for the group. This continues until finally the amount of money received equals the amount of money paid by the other arisan members. As such, the arisan functions as an alternative to bank credits or saving accounts and in a larger form is often used to fund investments that would otherwise be impossible to make. By injecting the concept of the arisan into a lottery, Parasite Lottery experiments with a game of chance and desire vis-à-vis ways of redistributing funds among art institutions—a redistribution that, in the future, will hopefully include artists and other cultural workers. At the same time, it intervenes in the economy governing artistic production.
The first drawing event in Parasite Lottery will take place on 9 June 2016, 18:00 hrs at Casco. This evening will be especially festive, as it will mark the beginning of the project. The other drawings take place on 16, 23, and 27 June and will concern the effects of art policy, collaboration, and alternative strategies. They will be hosted and organized by SMBA, Das Spectrum, and Platform BK, respectively.
About Wok the Rock
Wok The Rock is an artist and cultural activist, active across the fields of contemporary art, design and underground music. He is a member of artist collective Ruang MES 56 in Yogyakarta, runs the music label Yes No Wave Music and initiated the Indonesian Netlabel Forum. He was the curator of Biennale Jogja XIII in 2015. His work in the Netherlands was first introduced in The Demon of Comparisons, organized by Electric Palm Tree in 2009, and later in Made in Commons organized by KUNCI Cultural Studies Center in 2013, both co-organized by SMBA, respectively in collaboration with and with contribution by Casco. Parasite Lottery is the first major solo project by Wok The Rock in Europe.