Permyriad:  Proposal for SFAI Gala Bar 2017

Permyriad was a proposal submitted to San Francisco Art Institute for an art bar at their annual fundraising event.  It was rejected because the juror was 

"concerned that people will be quite averse to entering their annual income onto a device of any kind."


Tablet for entering income

Proposed event space

$160K puts one in the 168th Permyriad

Full Proposal

Gala events provide a singular opportunity at the intersection of philanthropy, culture and wealth.  More than just fundraiser parties, they can be used to investigate the economic ecologies they grow out of.  Booze, humor, chatting and dancing become the setting for critical fun. Permyriad will transform the Diego Rivera Gallery into one such setting. (Fig.1)

Permyriad is a concept that critiques the mission of every philanthropy based arts institution.  SFAI’s mission statement stresses “critical engagement with the world.”  True critical engagement is impossible without analyzing the structures of wealth that SFAI sits upon.  Permyriad uses humor and play to analyze the wealth disparity in the United States.  It allows guests to assume the role of oligarchs while at the same time revealing how truly removed those 1,400 families are from the rest of us.  

We’ve heard of the wealthiest 1%, but in order to truly understand and emulate the super rich, we must expand our terms.  Where percent (%) refers to one per 100, permyriad (‱) refers to one per 10,000.  Permyriad allows us to see the truly staggering disparity between the top 1‱, whose  annual income averages 9.5 million, and the rest of us.  (see attached Sheet 2)

Permyriad is a unique event experience that invites every participant to play the part of the super rich, if only for a night.  When guests order a drink they will enter an adjusted gross income into an ipad.  It can be theirs or one outrageously lower or higher than their own.  (Fig. 2) The app will then calculate that permyriad and offer them a proportional pour of the beverage of their choice.  For example, someone in the 5,000th permyriad will be offered only half of a drink.  (Fig. 3-5)

Now for the fun.  Any guest can give a donation to receive an “alternative fact” that will make up the volume of the beverage.  If they choose to do so no one but the guest and the bartenders, (all of whom will of course sign nondisclosure agreements) will know.  All other guests will assume they are chose an income in the top 1‱.  A simple equation multiplies the chosen permyriad by the average rental cost for 1 square foot in San Francisco to calculate the sliding donation scale for alternative facts.  Guests who do not want to make a donation can enjoy their proportional pour and then choose a higher AGI for the next drink.

The bar will serve both red and white wine as well as a signature cocktail, The Mary Pickford.  It’s namesake co-found United Artists in 1919.  It is a mix of rum, grenadine, and pineapple juice.

Before my time at SFAI I managed the Operations Department for 5 years at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, WA.  Part of my duties included facilitating our Gala.  I am very familiar with high level donor events and would love to merge that skill with my art practice. (see attached Sheet 1)

Thank you for your time and consideration,
Eric Carson, MFA 2017