C’mon, who’s it gonna be? Rhizome has posted a job listing to replace Lauren Cornell as Executive Director, but nobody seems to have any idea who could replace her. The applicant would need to be familiar with net art and new media, have curatorial and/or grant-writing experience, and have the ability to bring in cash money from donors and collectors. Who fits that profile? We have no idea.
We do know who it’s probably not, though, so let’s start there.
It’s probably not anybody on staff at Rhizome; nobody has the right skill set. The Executive Director of a nonprofit—particularly this one—is essentially a professional schmoozer, grant-writer, and administrator, a kind of combined figurehead and one-person development department. Precisely because Cornell was so good at those tasks, Rhizome’s other staff are all either technical archival staff (Ben Fino-Radin, Nick Hasty) or writers (Joanne McNeil et al). The one administrative employee they have was an intern eighteen months ago. Mark Tribe, Rhizome’s founder, seems unlikely to return.
Similarly, it’s probably not anybody at Eyebeam; if any of them were a possibility, they’d already have gotten the similarly vacant directorship at that nonprofit. Amanda McDonald Crowley, the former director of Eyebeam, might be willing to put her institutional shackles back on to try the equivalent job crosstown, but I doubt it.
Most established New York-based curator-types have little or no fundraising experience—that’s a dealbreaker—plus some other obvious reason not to take the position. Since there are only a handful of institutions out there, most net art writers and academics anyone can name have no executive experience to speak of. Barbara London or Chrissie Iles probably wouldn’t take the demotion, though the opportunity to run their own organization might be tempting. Rachel Greene isn’t a fundraiser/development-type, and hasn’t been close to net art for a few years; Christiane Paul is in a similar position, though she’s better-connected to net artists. Personally, I have to wonder what CRUMB founder Sarah Cook is doing; she’s smart, curate-y, and executive, even if she is across an ocean.
Lindsay Howard of 319 Scholes will probably throw her hat in the ring, but she has a short track record, little public fundraising experience, and occasionally rocky relations with some of the current staff at Rhizome. Karen Archey, a curator, writer, and Rhizome’s Editor-at-Large, almost certainly wants the job; without executive or development experience, though, she’s perhaps a gamble for an organization that—by its archival nature—is unlikely to risk itself on a relatively untested candidate. (Update: Karen Archey informs me via Facebook that she is not interested in the job.) Julia Kaganskiy is a relentlessly curious, capable manager, but she doesn’t have much institutional experience. Also, we wonder whether any writer or editor-type without existing ties to the organization—i.e., experience writing for them—would even be considered.
Our own Editorial Director Paddy Johnson could pull it off, but she’s perhaps too contentious for an institution like Rhizome and seems to universally elicit a kind of “Whoa” reaction. Marcin Ramocki would be a surprising, but qualified choice; he’s a talented, connected writer, curator, and artist, with experience running a gallery of his own and fundraising for it.
Another possibility is that Rhizome selects an international figure relatively unknown in New York, like somebody who’s really famous in the Netherlands, or somewhere like that; the issue there is that whoever gets the job would need to build a network of fundraising contacts very quickly. If I were Rhizome’s board, I wouldn’t take the gamble.
One suggestion I think is fantastic: Caitlin Jones. She’d be an absolute shoo-in, thanks to her skills as a writer and curator and experience in digital preservation. She’s well-connected in New York, has gallery-world credentials from her time at Bryce Wolkowitz (with the sort of practicality that can come with that), and once was a staff writer for Rhizome. Formerly a New Yorker, she’s spent the past two and a half years as the Executive Director of Western Front, a Canadian nonprofit based in Vancouver. Is she willing to come back so soon? I don’t know.
That’s all the wildly speculative comments I’ve got. Consider this an open thread to add your own.