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Digibap - VIP - A.M.I.leaks: Ferdinand Richard’s reply about production in Rio, 2011

Digibap - VIP - A.M.I.leaks

Tuesday 3 April 2012, by I-WEI LI

3 week after the Digibap residency in Rio, I sent a formal letter to Ferdinand Richard, head of A.M.I. and chief project manager of Digibap, to give feedback about A.M.I.’s production. I emphasized the need to ensure the necessary arrangements for visas (so that participants are not stuck in an airport for three days, as VIP Boris Nzedo was); improving technical equipment preparation (i.e. no missing cables or memory cards); and necessity for a full-time technician available on site. My intention was to continue thinking with A.M.I. to make the next session better, in return, I was accused of being ’childish’ and inflexible.

Unforunately, A.M.I. was not open to my feedback and responded in the most disrespectful way. In their response, A.M.I. also stressed that I was merely a workshop facilitator, rather than acknowledging my role as artistic director (which is defined in my contract with A.M.I.). This is despite the eight months of work I have put into DigiBAP, including the creative conceptualization of the project, the VIP open call development, my sole responsibility for the VIP selection process (which involved going through nearly 200 applications and 30 individual VIP interviews), and the sharing of my cultural network in Brazil (Joao Vargas Penna, Felippe Fonseca, etc.) whom I introduced personally to Elodie and each VIP at the Digital Culturia Festival in Rio. My demotion to the role of workshop facilitator also ignores the huge amount of work I put in to have the DigiBAP online platform ready in less than 3 weeks before the start of VIP session in Rio.

On top of this, A.M.I. deny my authorship and intellectual ownership of the project. This is despite the fact that A.M.I. involvement in the conceptualization of the project did not extend beyond a “brainstorming” meeting at which I presented the fully-developed concept for VIP open call: an open lab involving practitioners of different disciplines and from different countries collaborating on equal terms. I presented this as an alternative to A.M.I’s original concept, which was to have “European masters” direct the work of a group of Brazilian and African artists. In short, I have been fully responsible for the conceptualization of DigiBAP as it is being executed, something which A.M.I. refuse to acknowledge.

Clearly, A.M.I. do not value or share the philosophy of open exchange and collaboration that I believe the project - Digibap to be fundamentally grounded upon. I am no longer prepared to work under their diktats. As a result, I resigned from my role as the artistic director with DigiBAP. This is purely down to the actions and attitude of DigiBAP producer – A.M.I., which I have found to be characterized by a top-down, hierarchical, Euro-centric, narrow-minded and unimaginative approach

Below are correspondences I had with Ferdinand Richard about the feedback on Digibap residency in Rio, Dec 2011.

From: Ferdinand Richard Date: Tue, Jan 17, 2012 at 4:13 PM Subject: my answer To: I-Wei Li Cc: Elodie LE BREUT, Cecilia JUMEZ

Dear I-Wei, Elodie had a bad private problem thing happening, she came back in the office only today. I was out of the office last week. I am not going to enter the details of your recriminations dated 31st december, since some things are true (but not showing a matter of extreme gravity) and some seem to be more bound to interpretation of rules, bad faith, or bad temper. At first pointing the worst:
- the per-diem bank destination is your mistake. We sent the money to the only bank account you sent us.
- Elodie is not your assistant.
- Through the way you adressed Stephanie Suffren, representing of one of our main institutionnal partners, you did put in danger in several occasions the delicate relationship AMI has with it.
- I believe you put our mail exchanges in cci to quite a few persons that have nothing to do in this project. I asked you for explanations on this, and you never replied to me. One would say that this does not precisely build confidence, and break contracts confidential matter...
- You have circulated to artists (and may be to somebody else, who knows ?) private mails between you and me, without my permission, which is going far beyond what our common contract allows you to do.

I am not even less answering your very arrogant and unfair way to appreciate my thoughts, aims, morality, and militantism (you seem to know my thoughts better than me). I feel offensed. But there is not very much to do about it I suppose, and anyway my modest person is not in the middle of the picture. The artists are, what they will produce as well... Since many years, I have my way to try to put them in a feeling of confidence, which proved to work with dozens of them (including some that are quite a lot more famous than you), we never ever received such critics and had such complicated times as we have with you. And my way is obviously quite opposite to your radical attitudes. I understand now that we do not share the same values.

Let me just remind you several things:
- you are not producing your own artwork. You accompany several artists in a collective movement towards a collective dream. Eventhough you decided to rename it, this project is not yours, it’s AMI’s, and we have prepared it since a long time, well before even thinking about proposing to you to be the artistic director.
- The raising fund process is not at all bound to the redaction of the workshop project (eventhough it has as such a very big importance). It started from a commission of our region. Their confidence in us is fueled by our 15-years expertise on decentralisation cultural cooperation. This is also proving Alliance Française dedication, which made possible several prefiguration missions and possible for AMI to work directly with brasilian foundations, since AMI, being not a brasilian organisation, has no possibility to work with de-fiscalised money. And please bear in mind that they are the contact point in Brasil for Institut Français, a central institution in such cooperation issues.

- The general thematic through sustainable development, fablab, technological recycling, art in time of crisis, etc... has been chosen together with Kër Thiossane, AMI, Oï, during a brain-storming session in Marseille, which you attended, and therefore I’d like to remind you that you cannot claim in no case the paternity, neither on the thematic, nor on the engineering. You are in charge of the animation of the collective work process, through workshops, development planning, process writing, etc... a thing we all consider you do very well. This quality you showed in Ljubljana has convinced us to ask for your collaboration.

- As far as this thematic is concerned, the produced open-call followed a commission, and is equally the fruit of a brain-storming, and also the object of a global commission given by our Region and Institut Français to A.M.I., which is the project leader in all aspects, thematic, financial, and future development

But let’s go back to the frame of this open-call (which you could apply yourself as well): "Are you ready to exchange your competences with others?" As far as your implication in the networking of the project, the only and sole mission report we got from you is only dealing with difficulties. You have in no way included informations/contacts (maybe Filipe in Belo Horizonte, but what could he have done?) you could have raised after the scouting mission and the personal investigations you have made in Brasil also for your own profit, thanks to A.M.I. and A.F. On the contrary, even if Elodie was late to transmit her mission report, she nevertheless delivered to you precious contacts, not to mention Thiago, or Batman, main multimedia producer in Rio. And others... And no report came from you after you presence in Bamako, payed by Kër Thiossane and AMI.... Your activity planning for Rio reached Elodie after you arrived there, although she had asked for it (at least a draft) one week prior to your arrival, in order to fix a maximum of things in advance. You did not even informed Elodie and me about this digital arts festival there, and of course did not put her or me in contact with the organisers, although you had a meeting with its director by the time of the workshop. And you talk about sharing ?...

"Are you flexible enough to adapt to the challenging working conditions?" This is a good one, as far as you are concerned....! Yes, a couple of things unexpectedly changed during the workshop, as for Emeric’s limitations and Yann Lorvo’s decision... Yes, the group had to re-write on the spot a very loose technical rider. Yes, the technical rider AMI provided (as refeering to the contract), although brend new out of the MacIntosh shop, were not good enough for you... Yes, one of the festival participant (not you) gave us the contact about the recycling center. So what ? Flexibility ? Or maybe you want the workshops to happen exclusively in Switzerland ? And please read again the Charta, it could be wise to apply if to yourself...

About your relationship management inside the team: Obviously, a team leader needs some diplomatic qualities.. It would be a lie to say that I believe you have them. Even if many of your requests had legitimacy, the autoritarian tone of them was difficult, specially when considering the gap between your financial treatment versus others.

About your autonomy: Apparently, the external context situation (of which AMI is not responsible) forced you to some adaptablity and technical autonomy, which you did not accepted well. Elodie either. Just to remind you that, for the final act, there were at least 6 persons on your side, to try to help, so you were not alone...This asks questions on your production competences, up to the point that I believe they are scarce (you cannot know everything, but you can trust others...). A last little drop: I also know you did not move even your little finger when coming to the point of packing everything at the end. It does not sound to me very much in tune with what you clame to be the philosophy of the project. Artists did.

As a conclusion:
- yes, your competence as workshop leader proved to be there. Only that. We payed for it. Except your last taxi. We owe it.
- yes, the whole group had to show flexibility in adapting a new, complex, unexpected situation (as asked in the open-call). The participants did. You did not very much.
- yes, we have cash-flow problems. Therefore, the best for you would be to work with the Goethe Institut, but they never heard about you.
- yes, instead spending hours on writting down your recriminations, please send me your artistic report, what you think about the artistic future of this project, etc... but no report of this kind so far, although you came back almost one month ago.....
- yes, this workshop was a success, but not only because of you, far from that ! Also because of the artists, because of the AMI team, and specially Elodie, who has done things for this success that you would not be able to do, that you cannot even imagine.
- yes, there is a big gap between your philosophical declarations and you attitude. Not a big deal, you are not the only one... Just keep it private.
- yes, we are all capable of flexibility, which means that, if you consider AMI to be too bad and unprofessional for your high standards, I would understand that you would leave the project. We shall adapt...

Now, either we stop these things right now and prepare Marseille, or we split right ago. There is no more time for endless childish discussion. We all have a lot more to do. And manipulation is not welcome in this house. This is final. Shall we work ? Regards Ferdinand

From: SidebySide Studio Date: Sat, Dec 31, 2011 at 3:54 AM Subject: Important: DigiBAP’s future To: Ferdinand Richard

Dear Ferdinand,

As discussed, I send you my concerns about DigiBAP in attached letter.

Please read it carefully with openness and patience.

I sincerely hope 2012 will be a fruitful year for DigiBAP, AMI, and SideBySide Studio.

best, I-Wei

Attached documents

  • On 31.12.2011, I sent a formal letter to Ferdinand Richard, head of A.M.I. and chief project manager of Digibap about the session in Rio de Janeiro. This 10 day session started on 01.12.11 and the production was managed by Elodie Le Breut from A.M.I..

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