DEL Reflection: Artists as ‘Alternative Consultants’

“Some people like that game, but I was never a fan; it feels like we should have other games that we’re allowed to play. I’ve got nothing against the hustle, nothing against the start-up world. It’s when those moral positions become hegemonic for everywhere else and start to define everything, like access to water and knowledge—then they become problematic.”

Liner Notes:

In a conversation with Artengine’s Remco Volmer, DEL resident Jerrold McGrath zooms out from the art world as a site of production, and considers opportunities for care, growth, and revitalization. Crucially, he articulates where existing hierachy needs to be dismantled and cleared, to make way for new formations. Drawing on his experience at the Banff Centre, Jerrold arrived at DEL with a strong desire to help artists out of their (prescribed) lanes—to bring their knowledge and expertise to other milieus; this desire has only grown bolder with the failure of so many vital infrastructures during the pandemic.

In his DEL ‘exit interview’ Jerrold mounts a sustained critique of the “scarcity mindset” that is rampent across the arts, and nimbly maps noncompetitive alternative framings. As per his earlier ruminations on mycology, he draws extensively on metaphors and teachings derived from natural systems (freshwater, forest management, etc.) as a way to re-think structure and support.

These quotes, notes, and references are highlights from an hour-long conversation that took place between Jerrold and Remco in Spring 2021. Click through below and watch the full interview.

01 – Ferment AI 

An outgrowth of his work with Ukai Projects, Jerrold launched Ferment AI, a newsletter about art and AI last spring. The tone of the dispatches blends playful optimism (deeply engaging AI’s generative potential) and pragmatism. “If the idea of progress—the promise of a better future and ever-faster ways to get there—is no longer valid, then AI offers some sense of control, at least to avoid the worst disasters.

02 – Rapid Response

Medical face shields, masks, respirators—the onset of the pandemic caused shortages worldwide. Seeing an opportunity to put strategic thinking into action, Jerrold teamed up with 80 peers to address inequity in resource shortfalls through Maitri Platform. “We organized the work around mycelial structure” says Jerrold. Outcomes include “turning garment factories into PPE production in India, repurposing sleep apnea devices into non-intensive breathing support in the Global South, and fundraising support for Indigenous women-led COVID projects across the U.S.”