NEW INC is the first museum-led technology incubator. Conceived by the New Museum and housed in its neighboring building on the Bowery in New York City, it will offer office space and professional development programs that focus on the intersections—and disruptions—between art, design, and technology. Selected members of NEW INC will have a twelve-month residency at the incubator, where they will share workspace, resources, equipment, and ideas. Organized and designed together by the New Museum, Rhizome, and Studio-X New York, NEW INC is structured like an art-business hybrid, but plans to dissect this simple dichotomy through creative inquiry, R&D, and experimentation. 032c corresponded with NEW INC’s director, JULIA KAGANSKIY, about the project, which begins this summer.
What kinds of references were you looking at when you designed NEW INC?
JULIA KAGANSKIY: NEW INC draws inspiration from a number of different worlds and models. On the one hand, we’re referencing business and tech incubators, which help groom and bring start-ups to market and provide them with capital, mentorship, expertise, and a community to grow their businesses (usually, in exchange for equity, something that we aren’t interested in doing right now). On the other hand, we’re looking at incredibly influential multi-disciplinary arts and tech academic programs like NYU’s ITP and MIT Media Lab, which are producing some incredibly innovative projects and ideas that are impacting both culture and industry alike. We also looked at relevant traditions in the art world, be it the artist-residency model or alternative schools like Black Mountain College or Bauhaus, which seem to have new resonance today with artist-led education initiatives like School for Poetic Computation or Trade School coming up. I don’t know that NEW INC is directly related to any one of these things, but it’s vision is certainly informed by them collectively.
What range of people and professions are you inviting to participate?
We’re looking for a broad mix of disciplines and approaches to “cultural entrepreneurship” — be it an individual artist or designer who is looking to build his or her own career, a group that is launching a studio or agency, or perhaps developing a product or platform that they intend to bring to the market. We’re focused on projects that exist at the intersection of art, design, and technology and are driven by creative inquiry, R&D, and experimentation as opposed to market forces. Unlike traditional incubators, we want the emphasis to be on the strength of the idea and its potential impact, rather than it’s potential to make a ton of money. The focus is more on creating models for sustainability as opposed to scale.
What kinds of projects will you create?
It’s hard to answer this with any certainty as we just started interviewing applicants! It’s incredibly exciting to see the wealth of talent and creativity, and imagine the possibilities of where these people and projects will take NEW INC, and what kinds of new ideas might emerge from their interaction with one another. Some of the things you might see coming out of NEW INC could include: digital art installations, wearable tech projects, platforms for 3D printing design and manufacturing, sustainable architecture projects. But that’s just a small sampling of the ideas we’re seeing come through and which feel like they might have a home at NEW INC.
What kind of public image do you hope for? Education programs? Business accelerator?
That’s a good question. I think what we’re aiming for is something between these two. We are helping to build a creative community that captures some of the collegial energy and offers some of the resources, access to expertise, and professional development that you might find at an educational program. But the emphasis is on cultivating a professional environment, thinking through business models and giving creative individuals and teams the tools to build projects that are financially viable. I guess our bold ambition is to define a new category and model for supporting arts and culture that is responding both to changes in the ways artists and designers are working today, as well as to changes in the education and business worlds. The internet has helped flatten and democratize these industries, to an extent, and it leaves the door open to new approaches and ways of working.
NEW INC doesn’t seem to be prioritising art over technology, but exploring them both equally. What are the advantages of productively combining art and start-up cultures?
Well, first of all, technology doesn’t necessarily mean start-up culture. Technology is much more expansive than that — painting and books are technologies, they just aren’t digital technologies nor are they part of our current technological revolution. Personally, I take technology as a focus because it’s probably the main driving force behind culture today. Digital culture used to be something that was nerdy and niche — now, I’d argue that digital culture is the new pop culture. To me, some of the most interesting conversations and ideas happening today in the fields of art and design are somehow in dialogue with technology and innovation. Maybe that means adopting some of the ideology of start-up culture, but it could just as easily mean subverting or critiquing it. We’re not necessarily being prescriptive in terms of how the people and projects coming out of NEW INC engage with technology, we’re just identifying it as an important area of focus at this moment in time. It’s also a focus that builds on the New Museum’s existing tradition of being at the forefront of the art and technology conversation — by supporting Rhizome, which has been an affiliate of the museum for 11 years, as well as other early media-focused initiatives spearheaded by Lisa Phillips.