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E C O N O M I ES

spring/summer 2018


Charitable partner

Join us! Arts Emergency is a charity and national support network for young people who don’t have influential contacts of their own. Founded with just a handful of mentors and donors, Arts Emergency now engages a community of over 3000 professionals from the arts sector; from professors to dancers, from journalists and best-selling authors to indie theatre makers and musicians. Join our network and support young people to get the mentoring, work experience, support, knowledge and real world connections they need to make the right choices for them in higher education, and break through into a career.

arts-emergency.org


SponSorShip partner

Company Drinks is an art project in the shape of a drinks company. It links the history of East Londoners ‘going hop picking’ in Kent to the formation of a new community enterprise, which brings people together to pick, process and produce drinks in east London today. Company Drinks is a new type of company, where the commercial supports the communal and cultural. Each year, we run a full drinks production cycle of growing, picking, processing, branding, bottling, trading and reinvesting.We create an open, inter-generational and cross-cultural public space, where we can meet to produce something useful with and for each other.

companydrinks.info


This is our first thematic edition, in it we aim to pull apart what ‘economy’ can mean for the non-profit sector 4


the embrace of commodification as a primary principle of society encourages us to value everything via its marketplace exchange-value. this results in the conflation of monetary and artistic worth. in statistics, when correlations between variables appear it’s tempting to assume that one causes the other. however, to guard against spurious assumptions we must always remain aware that correlation does not imply causation. to many of us, it seems obvious that the market position of a particular artist bears no connection to their artistic validity. this is because of the various capitals an artwork possesses, its financial value is not necessarily tethered to any of its other values. the artistic landscape is strewn with creative practices that have traded credibility for financial viability, but to cast creativity and economics as oppositional is to do no favours to either. the spring/summer 2018 issue of the Sluice magazine is our first thematic edition, in it we aim to pull apart what ‘economy’ can mean for the non-profit sector as well as examine both financial, conceptual and ethical modes of sustainability. how artists and artist-run and non-profit initiatives factor in the broader ecology of the art industry and how artists and curators pay their rent is every bit as urgent as purely artistic concerns. in this edition of the magazine, we hope to shed light on a traditionally difficult subject but to also perhaps provide real routes to viability and also to look at what we may gain or lose by adopting different models. 5


8 Love Art To Death an interview with Postmasters’ Magda Sawon Jack Smurthwaite

14 Infrastructural Culture Karl England

20 Don’t Look Down Alistair Gentry

26 Disclaimer Gallery Profile DOLPH

30 Centre for Innovative and Radical Fishmongery

The embrace of commodification as a primary principle of society encourages us to value everything via its marketplace exchange-value

Sam Curtis

42 The Value of Nothing… Perspectives on the Artist-led Kerry Harker

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publishing Director Karl england guest Advisory editor nicole sansone Associate editor Ben street proof and sub-editor Tash Kahn editor@sluice.info Book review editor rosanna van mierlo rosie@sluice.info publisher sluice sluice.info Art Direction + Design Christian Küsters margherita sabbioneda Barbara nassisi info@chkdesign.com chkdesign.com Lettering All fonts by Colophon colophon-foundry.org Distribution Central Books centralbooks.com Contact editor@sluice.info sluice.info unsolicited material cannot be returned, though all correspondence will be passed on to the editor. The views expressed in sluice are not necessarily those of the publishers ©2018 issn 2398-8398 eAn 9772398839005

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unauthorised copying, hiring or lending of this magazine is prohibited but ask us nicely and we’ll see what we can do. subscriptions: subscribe online at www.sluice.info

Sluice magazine is at all times a companion publication to a Sluice initiated project, whether our biennial, expo or simply a programme of associated events, as such the magazine, is positioned as a crucial document of record of art as Praxis. Sluice magazine is concerned with applied theory, we examine how the arts impact our societal and economic environment and vice versa. At Sluice we aim to publish writing that we perceive to have an unmistakable disruptive quality, which might open up traditional art discourse to unexpected ideas, approaches and methods. In this way, our contributor’s backgrounds are not important: we encourage contributions from any and all disciplines. At its best, Sluice magazine should be a site of artistic creation and theoretical reflection that creates confrontations, sparks, and unexpected alliances. Sluice is open to arguments from different (contextually merited) ideological quarters. Sluice magazine is a forum for debate not an echo chamber of assumed rectitude.

52 Company Drinks Interview Sluice

62 Capitalising Capital Cultural Philanthropy Andreas Backoefer

68 Abolishing the Distributaries of Value Nick Srnicek

72 Fellowship of Citizens Saemundur Thor Helgason

74 Artist-run Index: C Acknowledgements Guy Nicholson Jack Basrawy Sarah England Sanjay Bremakumar Lucy Cobb Nicole Sansone

Under our current mode of production, we find ourselves socially recognised through monetary sums

80 Precarious workers self care checklist Rachael Dobbs

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Magdalena Sawon postmasters gallery new York

Jack smurthwaite

In April, New York gallery Postmasters announced it had joined online funding site Patreon. Online patrons can opt to donate anywhere from $3 – $500 a month to support Postermasters’s work. Gallery founder and director Magda Sawon explains this latest ‘balancing act’. Jack Magda

Jack Magda

Jack

Magda

Did you consider any alternative funding mechanisms before settling for Patreon? Of course, everybody understands the situation in the mid-range and towards the bottom of the art world is pretty shitty. Obviously, we weren’t the only ones who are having economic issues. Our initial efforts were to increase our market outreach. And then, like many others, we did a couple of fairs that weren’t successful. When these conventional elements did not pan out we started looking into a much more radical and more contemporary ‘balancing act’ of a solution. We settled on Patreon because of its community support and the larger number of people that [can support us who] don’t necessarily come to the gallery. I have such a strong desire to share, and the desire to teach, and the desire to show things that may not be familiar in order to enrich people’s experience. Patreon just seemed like something that needed trying. But nobody else was doing it.

DEATH And people really responded.

It got a lot of attention; some of it positive and some of it negative. It makes you realise how fossiled the art world is because a lot of people had no idea that this more contemporary model of crowdfunding even existed. People are very strongly set in their ways and how they perceive things. Patreon seems like the perfect platform for the way Postmasters functions. It is very community-focused and your rewards a very much based on communication and are, I would say, personal.

I’m not sure the rewards are completely personal but there are two issues that really drove the rewards. Firstly, we really wanted to avoid the model of giving people little things made by artists because that would enter a third type of economy where you start to manage little editions of postcards and buttons. Our rewards are not artistdependent because I wanted the rewards to work for the artists, not feel like the artists were working for me. At the same time, the rewards engage with an issue that drives culture: a notion of experience. With the rewards, you can go behind the scenes and then, at certain levels, you go further and we can sit and do these “ask me anything” series of conversations with people that want to support us.

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Jack

Magda

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You say you use Patreon as a ‘balance’ to keep you going. Is it nice to shift the balance over to the other end of your support network, to those that don’t have loads of money or a massive income to buy a hugely expensive artwork from you? We just want to bring these other people into play. I have just enormous interest in people coming to the gallery and seeing things. I am a huge proponent of physical gallery spaces and actual exhibitions and presenting artists in large self-context and letting them do a lot of what they would want to do that no format can even come close to, in my opinion. Art fairs don’t do that, the Internet doesn’t do that, selling platforms don’t do that. There is still something very substantial in the experience of art gives so going further with this idea of experience there is something that makes us want to survive it. My goal is to have a little army of people who are invested in the gallery and pay $3 a month. That’s less than a coffee and it takes less than 3 minutes to sign up to Patreon.

Jack

You’ve obviously been very resilient over the last 34 years with physical gallery moves and different gallery sizes. Do you see Patreon as comparable to a move in galleries or minimizing overheads?

Magda

It was probably seriously misguided ambition. If I have more space I can do more things. The gallery has big ambitions to deliver more culture and somehow create a financial model that balances that. Part of this model is Patreon - we’re hoping that a certain influx of funds from there will help us. Part of it is what happened from our announcement and maintenance of Patreon. We have managed to get an enormous amount of critical attention and press through joining Patreon. What that did, in fact, was move the gallery out of the massive pile of invisible galleries and made it something more visible. It just goes to show that there can be a balance. Both Tamas and I are Eastern European, we both come from cultures where there are other modes of support for art. For us [working with different modes of support] is not necessarily nostalgic but it comes from the knowledge that there are other ways. I work with a close friend of ours who is a graphic designer and has an amazing communication brand who runs a company called mad.com. He helps us with a lot of our outreach efforts about our sustainability. The latest idea is that we have this slogan: ‘love art to death’, which Eric came up with. It’s just about entering something which has some power and stake in representing your idea.


The gallery has big ambitions to deliver more culture and somehow create a financial model that balances that.


Everything needs to change. I think art and this whole system is a moving target; it is changing. I am a huge proponent of utilising contemporary tools.

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Jack

Magda

Jack Magda

I guess the answer is: I don’t know. If I started Postmasters today and this was the only model I knew, the notion of challenging it verses the notion of trying to fit in have completely different proportions. I know through all of these years of joy, pleasure, struggle, and horror that we sustained our way through. We have the privilege of knowing that overcoming these challenges is possible. And in some ways necessary. Completely necessary. Everything needs to change. I think art and this whole system is a moving target; it is changing. I am a huge proponent of utilising contemporary tools like Patreon.

Jack

How much of joining Patreon and aiming to get press was driven by making a public, international statement about how the art world – especially at your level – was flawed or failing galleries?

Magda

First of all it was driven by our survival and to generate assistance for us. But yes, the same time, the goals were bigger, to shake up the fundamentals. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t plan this with any kind of pr explosion in mind. It seems it was a useful kind of brain scratch and it showed that there is another way. We’ve tried a lot of different things over the years. With 6 other galleries we organised a thing called seven, which was a diy fair in Miami. During Basel for three or four years there were seven founding galleries that would rent a 20,000 square foot warehouse. And you had a flip of the model where the economics of it where exactly the same as paying an art fair but instead of having a booth I could bring a truck of art and have the equivalent of a gallery space to show it. It was a space between an art fair and a pop-up. Something that continues to be happening is the cooperation and collaboration between galleries. You always have to in some ways be in communication with your peers.

Jack

Magda

All images courtesy Postmasters Gallery.

With alternative funding models, like Patreon, available now, what would you do if you were to start Postmasters today?

Have any galleries you hadn’t heard of before got in contact with you about your sustainability through Patreon? No, a lot of people are very unwilling to say that they’re doing poorly. Everybody says they’re always doing great and there is just not a mathematical possibility that that’s true. If you look at the math of fairs, of how many galleries, and how much art there is, how much is being sold, etc it just can’t work. This might be another gesture that jolted people by us using Patreon. It might be another reason why people don’t want to follow because they don’t want to admit they aren’t doing well. I just can’t pretend that things are always go phenomenally when sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.

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Bridgette Ashton Model for Banqueting Hall Cavern Touring Replica 2014

Karl england

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Bridgette Ashton Maquette for the Vortigern Caves Experience Proposal 2011

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The infrastructural strata that simultaneously buoy and tie down an art work enables it to function and present contextually as meaningful.


The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production.” —Karl Marx art in both the market and institutional sectors is enabled by corporate sponsorship, wealthy collectors and state funding whose fortune and largesse is often questioned but rarely refused (hard side-eyeing beneficences of Zabludowicz). this system is supported by the precarious labour of those that occupy Gregory Sholette's characterisation of cultural 'Dark Matter' ie art-workers operating in the gig economy. in this way artists are largely complicit in their own instrumentalisation by providing their services to capitalistic endeavours, gentrification and artwashing. Contemporary art feeds on the crumbs of a massive and widespread redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich.” — Hito Steyerl the question is; can change come from within? Can any action be effective if it is occurring within the infrastructural conditions that it is criticising? if, as Mark Fisher describes, there is no lived experience outside of neoliberal capitalism? in ‘the author as producer’, Walter benjamin argues that the social, political and economic contexts in which a work is produced are also part of that work. the capital(s) art accumulates enables it to become situated within (art) historical and conceptual frameworks, but they are not passive. benjamin talks of an artwork’s “unique existence at the place where it happens to be”. this speaks to the mediation of the artwork through context, both accumulated and direct. the 'site', in regards to 'site specificity' can only be a multilayered beast. the infrastructural strata that simultaneously buoy and tie down an art work enables it to function and present contextually as meaningful. the aim of the infrastructure is to invisibly support and enable, but also to control and regulate. this dual role is reflected in the entrepreneurial precarity that describes most artists existence. 17


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Bridgette Ashton Model for Fake Mountainside 2015

Bridgette Ashton Proposal For The Clifton Baths Estate Experience 2013


as self-employed sole-traders artists fall into an entrepreneurial classification despite most being wholly ill-equipped for it. robert nickas, in ‘live Free or Die’ talks about Marcel broodthaers “broodthaers collapsed the traditional site of production into the institutional site of reception. and he accomplished this without exhibiting any works of art […] Furthermore, by naming himself director of this museum, broodthaers also collapsed the 'chain of command' between the artist, collector, curator, and museum director, insisting on the artists right to participate beyond the level of production […] Simply by calling his studio a museum, and conferring upon himself the title of director, broodthaers lays claim to the destiny of his own production.” the power of diy culture is to uncover the submerged structures that define societal interfaces and repurpose them to serve the needs of art and artists. diy culture lays bare the conceptual infrastructure that artists draw on when they present gallery-as-art and gallery-as-artist, viewing them as attempts to reject the neoliberal end-point of the Marxist notion that the artist must be alienated from his/her own work as soon as it falls under the shadow of the commodity. diy culture is about retaining, or at least trying to retain, a clear thread between conception, development, production, display and consumption. process determines outcome, the medium is the message. and controling the process and the message is power, just ask Murdoch.

infrastructural Culture is accompanied by images of work by artist bridgette ashton. the depicted work is part of a project where bridgette has engaged with redundant or overlooked sites, objects and archives, making scale-models, depictions and proposals. Finished works are often shown in ways that emphasise their ordinariness while at the same time inviting closer inspection to reveal layers of potential interpretation. http://bridgetteashton.co.uk

Karl Marx, The German Ideology, pub. 1932 (Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture, 2010, Pluto Press); Hito Steyerl, Politics of Art: Contemporary Art and the Transition to Post-Democracy; 2009. Walter Benjamin, ‘The Author as Producer’, New Left Review 1/62, July-August 1970 Mark Fisher , Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?, 2009, Zero Books Robert Nickas, Live Free or Die, 2000, les presses du reel

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Alistair gentry

Don’T 20


looK 21


They never look down in case, like Wile E. Coyote, they belatedly become subject to gravity after noticing that the iceberg they’ve been dining on top of has disappeared entirely because all the artists have maxed out their credit cards and left

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i don’t have credit cards any more. i still owe thousands of pounds on them, but i don’t use them. Sometimes i used credit cards to meet my responsibilities as a commissioned artist or artist in residence. like millions of other people, i’ve also had to rely on credit just to cover basic living costs like food, rent or making sure i could get to work, either because i was underpaid or because invoices went unpaid for months. of course it’s a privilege, albeit a dubious one, to have those cards or any other credit in the first place, but in turn i’m not as privileged as somebody who could get a mortgage. as a self-employed person with a generally low and extremely irregular income – and now a truly diabolical credit rating as well – there’s basically no chance i will ever have a mortgage or own residential property unless i marry somebody who already has a house. Most of the practicing artists i know may not think of themselves as debtors but they too live on borrowing: perpetual overdrafts, accessing the income of a partner or family member, and secretly using facilities from their other jobs are all very common. So is simply eating the total cost of whatever they’ve been asked to do, essentially borrowing from themselves. Several generations of artists developed their careers while they were on the dole: no longer an option in the punitive and coercive welfare model we have now. these strategies all point to an unbalanced ledger. the arts, blatantly but in perfect silence, rely upon artists and arts workers being in debt and doing more work than they’ll ever be paid for, not to mention giving generously of themselves and their resources in less economically measurable ways. even if you’re fortunate enough to be a step up from the struggling unpaid artist cliché, when you’re working on a commission it’s widely assumed you can front up money for materials or other costs and claim it back on a fairly relaxed timetable if you get it at all. “Just buy a ticket and we’ll reimburse you,” or “keep your receipts” might sound generous but again, the assumption is that being out of pocket (or in credit card debt, for example) for a few months is no big deal. ideally a self-employed person or small business should have a financial buffer to cover these things, just as baby boomer socalled experts – who had everything handed to them and could sign on for years after their totally free state education – blithely assert that you should have at least a year’s salary in savings, as if even having a salary is easy to do now. “Just cut back on matcha flat whites and avocado marshmallow toast, you lazy little Millennial fuck, you’d have your mortgage deposit in no time.” back in actual reality, if you can afford to put so much money away then you probably don’t need that kind of safety margin to begin with. 23


Cut back on matcha flat whites and avocado marshmallow toast, you lazy little Millennial fuck it’s important to remember that nowadays money and monetary debt have no objective reality. a bank doesn’t deprive itself of cash when it ‘loans’ you money for your business, mortgage or car. actually you have conditional use of the bank’s property until you’ve paid them the sum they created when they mouseclicked your loan into existence. the bank of england itself says that 97% of the uk’s money is not currency (i.e. actual coins and notes) but electronic deposits, mainly created by the act of lending. (http://positivemoney.org/how-moneyworks/proof-that-banks-create-money) not paying it back doesn’t deprive them of anything either, except good standing in the eyes of their shareholders and those ‘markets’ that are now unironically referred to as if they were a sentient, moral gestalt being rather than roomfuls of chinless, barely educated investment bankers pretending they’re in control of the countless ai servers running trillions of ineffable micro-transactions every day. if the markets really were a person, they’d be a coked-up, paranoid, bipolar one whose good friends would advise they stop making big decisions and take some time to get well. imagine a libertarian Carrie Fisher but not at all funny or self-aware. Conversely, the borrowing that the visual arts does from artists and other workers absolutely is the type of transaction that deprives the lender of finite resources and does them real harm when it isn’t paid back. the visible sector is the tip of a vast submerged iceberg of effectively mandatory debt, unpaid labour, unrelated day jobs and night shifts, overtime, informal childcare arrangements and domestic bargaining, borrowing, gifting, favours, friends’ vans and lifts in cars, corners cut, partial or full subsidy by artists themselves in the service of the profits or salaries of institutions and galleries, indirect subsidy of non-payers and exploiters by all the individuals and institutions that do support artists properly, and everyone generally going beyond the call of duty in inverse proportion to any eventual kudos or rewards. Without all of this underwater mass, in most cases the pretty little iceberg wouldn’t poke above the waves at all. 24


Some may say that this is just that mysterious, burned-out market monster in action; if anybody really wanted it, they’d pay for it, there would be a viable business model and ‘audience’ for it. this ideology is so asinine and at odds with reality it’s barely worth refuting, but i will anyway by analogy to the notoriously mercenary music and film industries. With all their power and supposedly bull-headed, populist business sense they a) regularly demonstrate how to not make a success of sure things with millions of dollars worth of r&d behind them and b) have not been able to get a grip on piracy for about forty years despite their most draconian and hysterical efforts, because if they can get away with it so many people are not prepared to pay for the films, tv shows and music they want, like, and in some cases love fervently. the global entertainment industry still incessantly releases stuff barely even meriting the term entertainment, being primarily and nakedly investment vehicles, contractual dodges, tax shelters, or money laundering. they fail hundreds of times a year even in this base and cynical aim. the same goes for the top end of the art markets, with their zombie whatever-genre-ists, institutional shows for artists who just happen to have works for sale in an exhibition opening at a private gallery in the same city, their gross and grandiose pandering to oligarchs, tyrants and criminals. neither the elite art world nor any of the most massive capitalist companies really work in terms of pure economic logic because they’re all riddled with overt and covert state or private subsidy, croneyism and cartel tactics, lies, secrecy and corruption. So universally do they not work that capitalist logic is an oxymoron. top commercial artists regularly fail to meet expectations at the auction or gallery, which is why we hear so fulsomely about the exceptions; it masks the reality that the commercial gallerist’s, superstar curator’s, or “thought leader’s” [sic] career bears the same relationship to being a rational business as playing in a toy kitchen does to running a restaurant. they just look like they know what they’re doing, eating the pretend cake and sipping the imaginary tea from the dolly cup. and they never look down in case, like Wile e. Coyote, they belatedly become subject to gravity after noticing that the iceberg they’ve been dining on top of has disappeared entirely because all the artists have maxed out their credit cards and left.

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d i S c l a i M e r

i n Te r v i e w

diSclaiMer gallery

DOLpH

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g a l l e r y

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low income as in low income, zero assets, zero trust funds, zero fucking beer sponsorships All images courtesy Disclaimer Gallery.

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Disclaimer Gallery is run by low income people to showcase low income people and otherly marginalised groups. Low income as in low income, zero assets, zero trust funds, zero fucking beer sponsorships. We want this gallery to be a vivid expression of the experimental and non-hierarchical nature of the Silent Barn. We want to embrace our role within a larger organism. We are queer women and non-binary people of different racial backgrounds and that is who we will be showcasing. We value representation, accessibility, and fighting dominant power structures within the art world. With this kind of a project we feel a lot of artists who are opening spaces, galleries or project spaces have a different way of looking at what the space is for, more than presentational, not ‘just let’s hang some paintings and make some money’, but actually engaging. Looking at where your artistic practice ends and your curatorial practice starts and using that as a jumping off point to step out of sole ownership into something more collaborative. Because artist-run projects sort of become an extension of your practice. We feel by opening spaces, you’re able to work more politically, your politics become more concrete, you become more aware of the impact of what you’re doing. What we felt was starting to happen was we started to feel like we were asking other people to answer our questions, that we’re trying to answer in our work. And we think that needs to be addressed. It gets muddled which we think is exciting! Our practices are separate but they do come together through the space. We feel like visually we’re all very different, but Disclaimer is a sharing of ideas, it’s community, it’s about building a community, we’re filling up a vacuum which is the result of the complete removal of affordable and nurturing spaces in the city. White-flight is something that has really shaped American cities, and then when gentrification sweeps though it’s on the back of people of colour being displaced. It’s the invisible hand of government and money, allowing and driving these changes.

disclaimergallery.com

For these reasons, we felt the calling to build a gallery that worked to buttress the market for that kind of work. It is imperative that the mindset of the avant-garde be included in the art of our future, and we’re doing our part to champion that work within the New York art-gallery system.

Disclaimer Gallery is run by WE, Sessa Englund, O.K. Fox, Sarah Wang, Shaina Yang, Zaria Poem, JinHee Kwak and Amber Dennis. Following the recent closure of Silent Barn, Disclaimer Gallery is looking for a new space/way of working.

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Sam Curtis is an artist and curator based in London. Collaborating with a range of people from diverse areas of work and life, he develops projects that provoke, question or subvert our ideas around creativity, economy and labour. Building relationships and trust are key to the conversations he fosters; from which unexpected collaborations grow. For over 10 years he has used his day jobs as platforms or starting points from which to develop practice and projects. This has been a useful way to navigate precarity and has become a vehicle for inhabiting the grey areas and permeable boundaries between art and life. Informed by two years working as a fishmonger in Harrods, he now runs the Centre for Innovative and Radical Fishmongery, an organisation that explores how fishmongery intersects with art, individuals and society.

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Sam is represented by Division of Labour. scurtis.co.uk divisionoflabour.co.uk 41


the Value of nothing Kerry Harker

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perspectives on the artist-led The Price of Everything… Perspectives on the Art Market, is the title of an exhibition produced by curatorial fellows at the Whitney Museum of american art, and staged at the Graduate Center cuny, between May and June 2007.1

this is in turn borrowed from oscar Wilde’s famous definition of the cynic as the man who knows ‘the price of everything and the value of nothing’, a one-liner that seems as apt for our times as it was when the author penned it in 1891.2

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the exhibition’s timing was to some degree impeccable as well as ironic, on the face of it an exploration of artists’ responses to questions of price, value and their determination, set amid what then seemed an ‘unprecedented expansion’ in the international art market. the associated entanglements of artists, dealers, collectors, institutions and exhibitionary practices provided a context for the project’s genesis, but within weeks of the show’s closing, the enormity of the growing global banking crisis was becoming evident and the world economy went over a cliff. prefiguring the economic collapse, the exhibition’s curators felt it important to point out in their catalogue introduction, ‘art requires many forms of investment – intellectual and emotional as well as financial.’3 but to those working in what might be considered an ‘artist-led’ field of practice, rarely troubled by fluctuations in art market prices, this likely comes across as stating the blindingly obvious – at any given historical (and perhaps future) moment. in the cynical neoliberal imaginary, economic value trumps all. if much artist-led activity evades capture in purely economic terms, rendering it as an empty value (a blank cell on a spreadsheet where the cursor hesitates, blinking, without ever committing to a number), how can we make the case for this ‘nothing’ in terms that resonate, both for those within and without such initiatives? For all of us who have done the hard yards of setting up and steering projects through their early stages, there comes a moment where it is necessary to take a position on our approach to economics, putting in place some sort of organisational framework, adopting the appropriate language and building alliances and partnerships which can enable the flow of resources that the project requires. to some degree, economics gets in the way, whether we opt to navigate the tricky waters of public funding for the arts, with its potentially treacherous undercurrents, or elect to steer a course towards other ways of being and doing outside of this framework. raymond Williams reminds us that economy, along with society and culture, is a ‘comparatively recent historical formation’, relating originally to the management of a household or community before becoming abstracted and systematic, a process that began in the late 16th Century.4

in Marxism and Literature, Williams outlines how the unresolved problems inherent in the presentation of economy as ‘natural’, even as it bears the marks of its own structural deficiencies, present challenges for our contemporary conceptualiSation of ‘culture’. this in turn has developed from its original definition, ‘the growth and tending of crops and animals, and by extension the growth and tending of human faculties’, into a concept of remarkable complexity, as Williams puts it.5 What is critical is to question the naturalisation of these unresolved historical movements (economy, society, culture), and their implications for the landscape of cultural funding today, which, we must remember, is the result of policy formation rather than a reflection of any inherent values or meanings. either way, whether turning to public funding or private finance for support, the impetus to create artist-led spaces and projects is frequently proposed as somehow a rejection of normative values and practices at play in the wider economy, for example those that sustain an international art market. but to what extent are artist-led initiatives able to create sustainable alternatives, and to what degree are they in fact fully implicated in the maintenance of the status quo? in alternative Financial Spaces, Fuller and Jonas query the ‘alterity’ of local economic spaces (they use the example of the british credit union movement), based on claims made for their alternative social values and ideals, asking, ‘however, this begs the question of how these spaces and places in practice preserve such values and ideals, their local autonomy, and the social, economic and political bases of their “alternative” nature.’6 they go on to outline three more nuanced distinctions between ‘alternative’ institutions and the economic spaces they occupy: those which are ‘alternative-oppositional’ (actually being different in value or operational terms); ‘alternative-additional’ (those that represent an additional choice to extant institutions from which they are not distinguishable in the sense of being different above); and ‘alternativesubstitute’ (those that offer alternatives, oppositional or not, based on forms that no longer exist). Can we locate the practice of forming artist-led initiatives within this matrix of alternative economic spaces? it is conceivably under such scrutiny that definitions of the ‘artist-led’ begin to crumble, as the sheer diversity of approaches and formations in the field, comes sharply into view. So how viable are the various economic models available to artists aiming to institute ‘alternative’ practices today? in the UK, one option is to roll the dice on getting into bed with the various arts councils – and the prospect of securing multi-year funding undoubtedly on the face of it offers a compelling solution to the daily grind of making ends meet. but it is a world of spreadsheets, feedback forms and metrics – accountability and audit, in other words – and this can be problematic for initiatives whose value and values cannot readily be shoehorned into categories based on an instrumentalised approach to the arts. this is applied equally to organisations of wildly differing scales and remits, and usually plays far more convincingly into the hands of the larger institutions, a problem that lies at the root of the work done by the Common practice [cp] group, an advocacy network of smaller visual arts organisations in london.7 Since 2011, cp has commissioned research as a way of questioning the approach to cultural value, and the associated metrics, at play in the work of arts Council england’s [ace] strategic framework document, Great art for everyone, attempting to consider how the value of small-scale visual arts organisations might otherwise be articulated.8 Much has been made

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What is critical is to question the naturalisation of these unresolved historical movements (economy, society, culture), and their implications for the landscape of cultural funding today, which, we must remember, is the result of policy formation rather than a reflection of any inherent values or meanings.

of the fact that a significant number of artist-led initiatives entered ace’s ‘national portfolio’ at the 2018-22 funding round.9 Does this indicate a major shift in ace’s thinking, or in that of a new wave of artist-led practice? and how well will this new status serve them? if we scan the portfolio for historical precedents, it isn’t easy to locate artist-led initiatives which have managed to hang onto this comparatively secure form of funding while maintaining their founding vision and values (or indeed the individuals who were present at the beginning). two who have arguably achieved this balancing act are eastside projects in birmingham and east Street arts in leeds. but there are many others who haven’t: arnolfini and Spike island in bristol, ikon Gallery in birmingham, and the tetley (operated by project Space leeds) are among others founded by artists but no longer either under their control, recognisably operating in a way that is artist-led, or self identifying as such. Further, if previous artist-led initiatives achieving regularly funded status had been able to effectively shape the way that public funding is distributed (from the inside, as it were), would we still have at a situation where 71% of artists, in 2017, received no fee for publicly funded exhibitions?10 this statistic alone suggests that the power continues to lie elsewhere, and the money to flow in other directions. plus ça change. Sometimes, existing without public funding (and thereby without pay) can represent an active choice rather than a failure to successfully play the game of public funding. Circular economies based on exchange (such as time banking or the free loan and recycling of materials and equipment), and cyclical/communal forms of governance provide alternative ways of getting things done without the complications and caveats that come with public funding. and yet aspects of this model have also been increasingly problematised recently, particularly by those giving their labour for free to organisations operating with the time-honoured model of the rolling management committee. the recent struggles of transmission in Glasgow, founded in 1983, have been the most high-profile example of this urgent revisionism. in the summer of 2017, the then-management committee postponed transmo’s annual members’ show, making an extraordinary public statement that clearly articulated a moment of crisis for this particular alternative economic formation. in their email to transmission’s membership, they queried the enduring appropriateness of a model instituted some 34 years earlier, arguing that much has changed since and stating, ‘of particular concern is questioning what it means when those asked to perform free labour come from historically underrepresented, disenfranchised and underpaid peoples.’11 the organisation’s troubles were exacerbated when Creative Scotland pulled the plug on transmission’s regular funding earlier this year.12 the ‘storied’ Glasgow institution is not alone in asking these questions, as other initiatives across the uk, which directly borrowed their model from transmission, begin to adapt and reformat this model to make it more fit for purpose in the here and now. What new innovations will emerge from this we cannot yet tell, but Creative Scotland has acknowledged that it is looking at a new funding stream designed specifically to respond to the particular needs of artist-led initiatives, and that might offer promise for the future.13 into the gap left by dwindling public funding for the arts and the narrowing role of local authorities under austerity, has come the increasing relevance, for artist-led initiatives, of the property developer as partner and co-commissioner. today, little that requires access to space, particularly within our increasingly commercialised city 47


So, here we are at the crossroads (again). 48


artist-led initiatives have multiple economic models available to them today, among them relationships with public funding bodies and private developers, and the traditional, if problematic, model based on rotating, unpaid labour. 49


centres, can be done without recourse to relationships with the commercial property sector. this has become increasingly the case as cash-strapped local authorities have continued to divest themselves of their property holdings, bringing quantities of heritage buildings back onto the market for the first time in generations, alongside empty city-centre retail units that have spawned the ‘pop-up’ temporary space movement. attending an’s first ‘assembly’ event of 2018, hosted by paradise Works in Salford on 24 May this year, presentations by organisations including S1 artspace in Sheffield, the newbridge project in newcastle upon tyne, and acme in london, reiterated for me how foundational to artist-led practice these relationships have become. this feels significantly different to the way in which groups of artists, the founders of long-standing organisations including Space and acme themselves, in the late 60s and early 70s, particularly in london, were able to gain access to privately-owned spaces that were temporarily unwanted for any other use or awaiting demolition. having artists inhabit and maintain these spaces was simply expedient. today, these relationships are far more implicated and mutually dependent, as developers not only seek to offset empty building rates, but as they have simultaneously become much savvier at playing the ‘regeneration game’ and responding to the new role and agenda set for culture by local authorities and thereby inscribed in urban planning. artists, and artist-led initiatives, have become useful in building the credentials of developers seeking competitive advantage, and in this way, ‘culture’ has become allied to lifestyle in promoting new and repurposed developments to end users including retailers, shoppers and residents. So, here we are at the crossroads (again). artist-led initiatives have multiple economic models available to them today, among them relationships with public funding bodies and private developers, and the traditional, if problematic, model based on rotating, unpaid labour that i have touched on here. is artist-led practice growing up, trading complete freedom for the longevity that seems muchdesired by many in the field at present? While models built on unpaid labour might have historically attracted new graduates who regarded their participation as a ‘rite of passage’ into the visual arts sector, this model is seen as increasingly unviable across the board, and begs the question of how to make artist-led practice sustainable beyond one’s twenties. another by-product of the rolling model of governance is the damaging loss of skills and knowledge that fly out of the window with the cyclical arrival of every new committee. but i’m minded to ask whether this is a problem shared across the sector more widely? how do we capture the rich learning on offer across the infinite variety of artist-led practices? For researchers, the field represents a vast and largely untapped source of data, and yet many artist-led initiatives are estranged from participation in research, and absent from the table when cultural policy is being debated and formulated. there are issues of capacity here, of course. Some artist-led initiatives have recently begun to explore the potential of collaborative phDs with he institutions, but it remains the case that the vast majority of artist-led practice evades meaningful research and the critical analysis that might strengthen practice across the sector and lead to new insights and innovations for the future. the ongoing work of organisations such as Sluice and Doggerland is to be welcomed in this respect, in creating discursive platforms that engage with the specificities of artist-led practice. but where are the longitudinal research partnerships and advocacy groups, akin to that nurtured by the Common practice group, that 50

the ongoing work of organisations such as Sluice and Doggerland is to be welcomed in this respect, in creating discursive platforms that engage with the specificities of artist-led practice.


notes 1. Martin braathen, Stéphanie Fabre, Minnie Scott, Mike Sperlinger, The Price of Everything… Perspectives on the Art Market, (new haven: Yale University press, 2007). 2. in Lady Windermere’s Fan, Wilde has his character Cecil Graham ask, ‘What is a cynic?’ to which lord Darlington replies, ‘a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.’ Graham retorts, ‘and a sentimentalist, my dear Darlington, is a man who sees an absurd value in everything and doesn’t know the market price of any single thing.’ 3. braathen, Fabre, Scott & Sperlinger (2007), p.6. 4. raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature, (oxford: oxford University press, 1990), pp. 11–13. 5. Williams, p. 11. 6. Duncan Fuller and andrew e.G. Jonas, ‘alternative Financial Spaces’, in Leyshon, lee & Williams (eds.), alternative economic Spaces, (london: Sage, 2003), p.56. 7. the Common practice members are afterall, Chisenhale Gallery, electra, Gasworks, lUX, Matt’s Gallery, Mute publishing, the Showroom, and Studio Voltaire. commonpractice.org.uk. 8. arts Council england, Great Art for Everyone: 10-year Strategic Framework 2010-2020, (london: arts Council england, 2010), revised as Great art and Culture for everyone in 2013 available at: artscouncil.org.uk/great-art andculture-everyone. 9. they include Grand Union and Vivid projects (birmingham), the newbridge project (newcastle upon tyne), backlit and primary (nottingham), in-Situ (pendle), artGene (barrow in Furness), and KarSt (plymouth) among others. the full npo 2018-22 listing is available at: artscouncil.org.uk/ national-portfolio-2018-22/moredata-2018-22. 10. one of the findings of the air: artists interaction and representation’s UK-wide paying artists Survey in 2013, available at https://www.a-n.co.uk/news/paying-artistssurvey71-receive-no-fee-for-exhibiting/. 11. transmission, email sent on 21 June 2017, and received by this author, who is a member of the organisation. 12. reported by an for example, and available at: an.co.uk/news/transmission-gallery-issuesstatementcondemning-creative-scotlandfunding-decision/. 13. ibid. 14. Quoted in Carla Cruz, Practising Solidarity, (london: Common practice, 2016), p.6. 15. Cruz, ibid. 16. J.K.Gibson-Graham, A Postcapitalist Politics, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota press, 2006), xxiii. 17. ibid, xxiii-xxvi.

Kerry harker is Founder and Director of the east leeds project, a conversation about the part of the city where she has lived for 20 years, taking place at the intersection of contemporary art, urban green space, and sustainability. She was formerly Co-founder and Director of artist-led initiatives Vitrine (2004-6, with pippa hale) and project Space leeds (2006 - with pippa hale and Diane howse), leading to the opening of the tetley in 2013, where she was Co-founder and artistic Director until 2015. She is also currently a phD candidate in the School of Fine art, history of art & Cultural Studies at the University of leeds, and a non-executive Director of Corridor8, a not-for-profit platform for contemporary visual arts and writing in the north of england.

argue collectively for more nuanced understandings of artist-led initiatives’ specific contribution? Should we be concerned that, whether entering into relationships with public funding bodies or private developers, these unilateral partnerships might simply reinforce the status quo by conceding to a meritocratic worldview? the most recent report written for Common practice by the artist Carla Cruz, practising Solidarity, rests its call for greater solidarity among small-scale institutions partly on andrea phillips’ critique of meritocracy. in remaking the arts Centre, phillips argues that, ‘Meritocracy removes the contextual and historical basis of any individual or collective emergence. it produces individuals whose randomised ascent is based on autonomy.’14 as Cruz states, the shift from public funding of the arts to the privatisation of culture has led to a situation where, ‘meritocracy has ingrained itself [in the arts] and autonomy ischampioned.’15 if many artist-led initiatives have historically been wary of the competitive landscape of public funding, we need to be careful that the new partnerships with developers, seen as potential roadmaps to sustainability in the aftermath of the economic crash and dwindling public funds, do not simply reinforce the old terms of the game under another banner. Cruz’s text is a rallying cry for greater solidarity among small-scale actors in the visual arts and the potential of the ‘we’ it engenders as mitigation against neo-liberal meritocracy, even as she acknowledges the difficulty of achieving this in praxis. but try we must. in a section of their introduction to the polemic A Postcapitalist Politics titled ‘the Makings of an imaginary’, J.K. Gibson- Graham outline their ‘persistent conviction’ that only large-scale, coordinated action can attempt the task of ‘economic transformation.’16 the model they propose takes inspiration from an understanding of second-wave feminism as a movement that has achieved transformation on a global level without recourse to the creation of a ‘vanguard party’ or formal, global institutions (although they acknowledge that some of these did indeed come into being). Uniting individuals and groups at the hyper-local level ‘emotionally and semiotically’, feminism’s ‘Ubiquity rather than unity was the ground of its globalisation.’ the ubiquity of women, as GibsonGraham argue, enabled the development of a feminist spatiality that could transform a set of ‘disarticulated places’ inhabited by them: ‘households, communities, ecosystems, workplaces, civic organisations, bodies, public arenas, urban spaces, diasporas, regions, government agencies, occupations – related analogically rather than organisationally and connected through webs of signification.’ artists are ubiquitious too – part of the creative dark matter so compelling drawn by Gregory Sholette – inhabiting the spaces of the formal art world as support workers, and many other places besides. is it therefore time to reclaim the ‘artist-led’ in similar terms to those proposed by Gibson- Graham for feminism? not as a global movement with formal administrative structures, or even as form of practice united by a shared definition, but as one which now has real longevity (certainly since the late 60s in this country), is ubiquitous globally (wherever there is a developed infrastructure for contemporary art), and which continues to be of enduring relevance for the future of fine art pedagogy and practice? that artist-led ‘nothing’ might just be ripe for a ‘politics of possibility in the here and now.’17

51


Com Drin An Art project in the shApe

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pany ks of A drinks compAny

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in T er vi e w

kathrin bÖhM Company Drinks essex

sluice

Company Drinks is an art project in the shape of a drinks company. It links the history of East Londoners ‘going hop picking’ in Kent to the formation of a new community enterprise, which brings people together to pick, process and produce drinks in east London today. With Company Drinks the commercial supports the communal and cultural. Each year, Company Drinks run a full drinks production cycle of growing, picking, processing, branding, bottling, trading and reinvesting. They produce syrups, sodas, saps, tonics, ciders, pops and beers. And create an open, inter-generational and cross-cultural public space, where they can meet to produce something useful with and for each other. Kathrin

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Company Drinks began in 2014, with a simple invitation to residents in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham to go picking again. Since then, more than 36000 people from across the borough and London wide have engaged with the company through harvests, workshops, public events and Hopping Afternoons. Today, Company Drinks have developed into a fully-fledged community enterprise with a permanent base in Barking Park.

Sluice

It seems there’s two ways to approach Company Drinks, one as a company in the marketplace and then as a socially-engaged artwork and platform. So in one way it needs to operate fiscally responsibly and yet it’s also dealing with a completely alternative set of exchange values, do these ever conflict?

Kathrin

It’s very much about this social space we’re creating, and that’s also how we advertise and promote the picking trips, so we’re not saying come and pick for us for eight hours because we need free labour. We’re referring back to this history of people from east London going picking, which a lot of local residents remember, but it’s also a very universal thing so people can see value in this idea of going picking together, and then we make it very clear that this is an invitation, and the deal is that we cover all the costs on the day, and in return we ask everyone to give us half a day of what they’re picking. But of course there’s a weird assumption around the fact that because we have ‘free labour’ our production costs go down which of course is not the case because it’s not a very cost efficient way to take a hundred pensioners to Kent to hand-pick a few hops. The drinks cost


It’s very much about this social space we’re creating 55


It’s about reclaiming economy as a cultural realm, and just because it’s dominated by capitalist thinking doesn’t mean we can’t engage with it.

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a pound per bottle to produce, in Barking where we’re based we sell them for between £1.20 and £1.50, at Frieze we sell them for £3, so there we make a profit, but we’re committed to selling half our stock in the Borough of Barking, because otherwise I think it would be exploitative. Our relationships to the borough would be a bit imperialistic, as in exporting value without sharing the profit. The idea was always that Company carries two meanings – the fact that a lot of the production is about social space and being in good company and creating this more cultural space. But we’re also Company, less capitalistic but focused around ideas of community economies, so we try and communicate that we produce a lot of different values and we generate a lot of different contributions outside of the purely capitalist. Sluice

Kathrin

Sluice

Kathrin

Sluice

Kathrin

We’ve just published an infographic that lays out how Sluice functions financially, which we did as we wanted to increase our operational transparency, but I think much more interesting would be an infographic that attempts to lay out the alternative economy that actually enables us to exist. You have produced a diagram on your website that attempts to map your alternative economy... Yes, it’s about reclaiming economy as a cultural realm, and just because it’s dominated by capitalist thinking doesn’t mean we can’t engage with it. I think it’s really a reclaiming exercise. We have to constantly remind ourselves how easy it is to become trapped in capitalistic arguing, like I’ve just done with you, I just talked about income, I shouldn’t have done this, the economic geographer Katherine Gibson would have started with all the other values that are being produced, so it’s a constant rewriting, reclaiming. Obviously we’re using and creating many different economies but one big ambition is to stress the fact that the way we deal with each other is the cultural economy. So we have to take control of that, we can’t just leave it to capitalist thinking to tell us what economy is, because what we value and what we exchange even on a small scale is within our control to reclaim. The problem with reclaiming what constitutes an economy seems to be that non financial valuations are neither clear nor standardised, are subject to uncharted fluctuations and ultimately participants in the exchange may not even be aware of the economies that are being traded... That’s true, because I think most people think that economy is something that’s being delivered to us by some specialist. I think we need to really communicate this idea that we are all culturing an economy. Everybody recognises a good deal, deals are quite a mutual moment, and I think a lot of the projects I do are about this mutual moment where we have an idea, and for it to work someone has to recognise the value in that, and people take part, and it’s not compulsory. In circumstances where you have two parties where both can make decisions you can have mutual agreement. So if people come and pick in the countryside for free for a day, they get a day in the countryside they don’t have to pay for. With the Centre for Plausible Economies, because we’re fundamentally an arts project we wanted to bring a certain cultural discussion back into our programme. So in addition to the picking and other communicative strands we wanted to instigate a further art programme with the topic of artist-led economies, taking back the economy and the artistic strategies required to do that. As we’re operating within a capitalistic system, what can we actually hope to achieve? There are different scales, of course, everyone I know who puts effort – including your magazine – into promoting the idea of not-for-profit activities, of course we all hope to overturn the system, which doesn’t look very likely at the moment, so I think then one thing is to network, and also to remind ourselves of the much bigger global network and discussion. So we are looking at different scales, maybe we don’t have a critical mass to overturn things but I think it’s important to keep practicing those ideas even if we don’t have a revolution tomorrow.

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The formats I engage familiar to those every shop or a school or a they are set up as art 58


with are often very day structures like a drinks company. But and they remain art. 59


If someone wants a drink then it can be functional, but if someone wants to exhibit it then that is also fine.

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Sluice

Kathrin

Sluice

Kathrin

Sluice

Kathrin

You recently launched your Centre for Plausible Economies with a talk titled ‘Redrawing the Economy’ which was moderated by Alistair Hudson, Alistair is known for promoting the idea of useful art, is this an area you see Company Drinks occupying? ‘Useful’ is not a very precise term, because something that is purely aesthetic can also be useful, so I think the term is used mainly as a provocation. I think Tania Bruguera at Arte Útil and Alistair Hudson are now shifting the language a little bit to this idea of user-ship which makes it more practical as a term to engage with, and it leaves it a little more open to how anyone that engages with it wants to use it. In the case of Company Drinks if someone wants a drink then it can be functional, but if someone wants to exhibit it then that is also fine. So I think that to allow for many different uses as possible is important. The idea of useful art seems to me to be attached to the idea of the arts being instrumentalised to provide services that promote social cohesion. I see this expressed in funding outcome requirements and where artist groups are stepping in and taking over and re-opening libraries as community projects for instance. Do you see a connection between those things? Between the idea that art could be useful and then art having to be useful? Well of course the Tories idea of ‘Big Society’ as an idea to off-shift all social responsibility to society itself and the government is stepping out, I’d be strongly against that, I think the state has to provide certain welfare structures for the system to work fairly. If we would feel like we were being instrumentalised to deliver things that I think the state should provide we would be very very careful, it hasn’t happened to us yet. It’s happening to colleagues in the library service and then when we see it I think it becomes a matter of solidarity. Finally, as an artist do you have a studio practice other than your community based work? No, no, I studied abstract painting, and I still love hard edge abstraction, but I just wasn’t interested in having a gallery audience as my only audience. And also the role of the object in the gallery is just very limiting and I think again if you come back to the idea of user-ship, if you operate outside of the exhibition space there can be a much more dynamic and flexible interaction, so really it had more to do with how I wanted to work with others when it comes to art making. What I do I do as an artist, but all the work that I initiate or work on is placed within everyday situations. So my work is not studio based towards a gallery context. But it exists within everyday places and cultures. So, the formats I engage with are often very familiar to those everyday structures like a shop or a school or a drinks company. But they are set up as art and they remain art. It’s not important to me if everybody uses them as art or thinks of them as art or sees them as art, but it is definitely their origin and I think over time it becomes obvious to everyone that’s involved that a certain messiness and complexity and playfulness is possible because it’s art.

Company Drinks was set up by Kathrin Böhm in May 2014, with the help of the Create Art Award. Company Drinks registered it as a Community Interest Company in 2015. Today, it’s run by Kathrin, Cam Jarvis, Pip Field, Oribi Davies and Tracky Crombie.

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CAPITALISING CAPITAL

Andreas Backoefer

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Cultural PhilanthroPy

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the title of capitalising capital is to be understood not so much on a tautological plane – but rather as playing on the various meanings of capitalising, including those of “concentrating on something”, “attaching importance/value to” and “emphasising”. as it is possible to suggest that in the field of art, too, capital only becomes visible in its effects, these are examined under the headers of philanthropy, museums and performance. Said effects become most starkly visible in cultural philanthropy – also called sponsoring. in the anglo-Saxon countries, this kind of funding for cultural institutions goes back to the nineteenth century and continues to constitute the main pillar of cultural funding. in the US, philanthropy has significant effects even on taxation. it forms not merely a different kind of support, but can really only be understood fully in terms of a history of mentalities. in Germany, Switzerland and large parts of europe, insitutional funding is (still) a state concern. Yet, we can increasingly observe signs pointing towards a shift towards the american model, the exact degree of which is yet unclear. in this respect, we should consider that sponsors follow certain aims. these aims can change the cultural landscape. it is usually the cultural institutions that carry responsibility for how to make use of their capital and what effects it is to produce. in terms of tradition and skill, these institutions carry the agency of definition in the field of art; at the same time, they see themselves obliged to engage not only with new funding strategies but also new publics. cultural institutions frequently commission works of art, something which places them in the midst of a force field of diverging interests: the greatest conflict – albeit not the only conflict – is that between the self-affirmation sought by those providing the capital and the autonomy or even critical position the artist aspires to. Furthermore, the institution finds itself in a field of tension between conservation (collecting, evaluating) and innovation (risking, opening). Philanthropy and the Professionalisation of the Art World Cultural philanthropy – and especially the funding of museums/galleries and artists – differs in kind from other philanthropic fields such as those concerned with schools, universities, hospitals and libraries. Up until the nineteenth century, 64

a professional engagement with art – in terms of being the commissioning instance – was granted only to the nobility (and to the church). Feudal society lost this privilege with the rise of the bourgeoisie and industrialisation. this structural change led to a professionalisation of the art industry as we know it: art turned into a commodity. Yet this is a commodity of which the non-material value cannot simply be explained with reference to its commodity character. From the end of the nineteenth century, members of the rising bourgeoisie found two forms of engagement in the art world: as philanthropic museum supporters, or as collectors of art works. this is still the case today: many art collectors are also active as sponsors and hence inhabit a double function on the art market. Johannes Gramlich has analysed the resulting network as follows: artists now produce primarily for an anonymous market as removed from clerical or feudal functions or immediate dependence on patrons. We have observed especially from the second half of the (nineteenth) century the increasingly intense emergence of a finemeshed transatlantic network of competitive and cooperating art dealers. art writers and scholars, museum employees and collectors, indeed the whole art world were integrated into this network. these links are constitutive of the high-speed transport and exchange of information, commodities and services, of the assignation of positions of power and influence, of aesthetic quality and monetary value. hence the apparently simple market principle of supply and demand was conditioned in multiple ways.1 by the beginning of the twentieth century, it was clear to all involved that artworks formed a useful means of capital preservation – especially in times of economic crises. hence the art dealers known as the Duveen brothers argued during the world economic crisis of 1931 “that it was better to hold pictures than stocks, as anyhow they were worth something, whereas stocks might go to nothing.” Philanthropy Today philanthropists’ investment in art stands under the general suspicion of reinforcing one’s own traditional, conservative aesthetics as part of public discourse; of constituting a kind of funding aimed


By the beginning of the twentieth century, it was clear to all involved that artworks formed a useful means of capital preservation – especially in times of economic crises. Hence the art dealers known as the Duveen Brothers argued during the world economic crisis of 1931 “that it was better to hold pictures than stocks, as anyhow they were worth something, whereas stocks might go to nothing.”

at the production of “safe stuff” turning its back on new, untried “edgy stuff”. the counter-argument, however, has also been made; british theatre director nicolas hytner, for instance, has stated that “philanthropists want big, bold, risky and new.” by contrast, in the second half of the twentieth century, the German artist hans haacke presented for discussion his vision of the sponsor as censor. in this respect, the piece moma poll, shown at the MoMa exhibition information in 1970, is of particular relevance. in scholarship, the exhibition is often considered as the first concept art exhibition organised by an american museum. haacke initiated a poll of which the result was made visible to the public. the poll’s subject was the then-governor of new York, nelson rockefeller, at this point member of the MoMa board of trustees and intending to stand for election to become american president. the question put to those coming to see the exhibition was the following: “Would the fact that Governor rockefeller has not denounced president nixon’s indochina policy be a reason for you not to vote for him in november?”. the voting slips answering “Yes” were to be placed into the box on the left, those answering “no” into the one on the right. both boxes were see-through, and it became apparent that there was twice the number of “Yes”-votes than “no”-votes. this is an example of haacke’s early work opposing overt demonstrations of power on the part of sponsors; such fundamental threats to artistic autonomy, however, have become rare in the current museum landscape. nevertheless: Sponsors Follow Certain aims. Money: the most important resource for a cultural institution is supplied by the patrons (in europe in conjunction with public funding). all policymakers in an art institution have to work with this fact. State financing, admission fees and annual or season tickets do not usually cover all costs. this results in a dependency on major sponsors who need to be attracted and bound to an institution. an intitution’s directorate constantly finds itself in a field of tension between their influence on the one hand, and the task of preserving and supporting the institution’s vitality and integrity on the other. in response, it becomes necessary to develop new funding structures rendering as transparent as possible the given conflicts of interest instead of obfuscating them. 65


Cultural institutions find themselves obliged to integrate into their monetary policy as well as their curatorial practice three different forms of financial support: state subvention, corporate sponsorship and individual sponsorship. each source of money places different demands on the museum. public money is to be employed to reach large audiences – especially from the perspective of cultural politics – and to guarantee a certain scholarly standard. at the same time, state funding involves the expectation of the promotion of innovation. Finally, state means are to finance projects in turn of interest to private financiers. the latter often follow aims diverging from those of the state. Curators know that potential sponsors always have the possibility of influencing exhibition projects. by now, this seems likely to be the case for all larger cultural institutions. For this reason, many american insitutions have formalised the process of sponsoring. each specific project is required to be initiated through sponsorship before the museum can add missing funds from its own budget. if the initial funding is too low, the project is not followed through. Some museums have exact guidelines concerning the ways in which corporate sponsoring or other funding can be put to use for an exhibition. in europe, these procedures have not yet been fixed. Some exhibition projects are still realised without sponsorship, and smaller museums work entirely on the basis of a publicly funded budget. okwui enwezor has summarized the dangers presented by sponsorship and the geographic differences as follows: … it is necessary to be much more interested in the influence of boards and friends’ organisations. Why does the MoMa in new York show private collections? We need to be alert to who is in control of the field, to who the genuinely powerful players are. and to discuss as public institutions where the means come from. We have had to accept dramatic cuts to public museums over the past years. nevertheless, the fact is that in Germany it is possible to work independently from politics. this cannot be considered a given even in europe.2 66

Terminological Digression Term 1: Giving Giving is a form of human action constantly performed everywhere – with or without recognisable intention. Human beings give to themselves or to others. Without giving, no real communication would be conceivable. Commodities could neither be accumulated nor received. Without giving, there would be no surviving: it is essential for human existence. Giving as embedded into our actions is taken for granted to such an extent that we often don’t notice it. Many actions are hard to imagine without this exchange process. Due to its omnipresence, it is a process hard to distinguish or define. This is due not least to the fact that giving is often not accompanied by a further form of communication. In this sense, silence is also a form of feedback. Some recent research in the field argues that in any gift transaction, the receiver, too, gives. A symmetrical relation between the two actors is thus established. In the act of giving, it is not only the recipient who receives something, but the giver, too, is a recipient – consciously or unconsciously so. He or she may receive social recognition, professional or social development, spiritual gratification or even financial gain. There are plural and possibly contradictory motivations for giving. In this sense, giving is an act as part of which the giver receives a further component. This leads to a fundamental reciprocity. As part of the capitalist coordinates, giving has multiple facets – partly as unique forms of appearance, partly as overlapping strategies. The most essential criterion lies in the difference between the qualitative or quantitative appearance of capital – or, to speak with Pierre Bourdieu – the difference between ‘economic’ or ‘symbolic capital’, a distinction central to the context negotiated here. Term 2: The Gift The dimensions of symbolic capital have been examined – avant la lettre – especially by French ethnologist Marcel Mauss in his analyses of exchange processes in archaic forms of society. Exchange and contracts in the form of presents that are theoretically voluntary, yet that “in reality always have to be given and reciprocated”, are common to many cultures. Mauss considers the gift as a present that is only rarely given from sheer magnanimity, but that is accompanied by formalized gestures concealing the coercion and economic interests involved.


Term 3: Debt(s) The potlatch system always leaves behind the debt of ‘return’ in the recipient. What is established is a relation of debtor and creditor. In the current economic logic, this is a relation of forces between those who own capital and those who don’t. Maurizio Lazzarato describes how all-encompassing this relation can become: In neoliberalism, that which is simplistically called finances expresses the increasing power of the creditor-debtor-relation. Neoliberalism has achieved the integration of monetary (…) and financial systems, developing specific techniques by which the relation between creditor-debtor becomes the central political stake. The creditor-debtor relation very directly expresses a relation of forces based on ownership. In the crisis, the relation between owner (of capital) and non-owner (of capital) multiplies its grasp on all other relations.3 The philosophers Deleuze and Guattari have very accurately applied Nietzsche’s argumentation from the Genealogy of Morals to contemporary capitalism and included the term of debt with that of morals. The exchange is not based on a logic of equality but on a logic of imbalance, a power differential. The subjective figure taking on responsibility is the figure of the debtor burdened with a bad conscience.

neoliberalism has achieved the integration of monetary (…) and financial systems, developing specific techniques by which the relation between creditor-debtor becomes the central political stake.

In the legal and societal forms preceding the current period, Mauss was never able to observe an exchange of gifts, wealth and products between individuals, but rather always between collectives that mutually oblige each other, conduct procedures of exchange and contracting. He discovered a further aspect in Maori society: that which obliges in the gift that has been received or exchanged lies in the fact that the thing received is not lifeless. Even when the giver has transferred it, it still forms part of him. For this reason, he exerts a certain power over the recipient, just as he exerts power over the thief as an object’s owner. This exchange is called potlatch. It is completely logical that in such a system, that which is really part of someone’s nature and substance has to be returned to him; for to accept something from someone means to accept part of his spiritual being.

Notes 1. Gramlich, Johannes: Die Thyssens als Kunstsammler. Investition und symbolisches Kapital (1900-1970) (thyssen im 20. Jahrhundert, ed. by h.G. hockerts, G. Schulz and M. Szöllösi-Janze). Schöningh: paderborn 2015, 51. 2. enwezor, okwui: “Kultur als Spektakel? nein, danke”. interview conducted by Catrin lorch. in: Süddeutsche Zeitung, 21.10.2015, http://www.sueddeutsche.de/kultur/ gegenwartskunst-kultur-als-spektakel-neindanke-1.2701854, 5.11.2015. 3. lazzarato, Maurizio: Die Fabrik des verschuldeten Menschen. essay über das neoliberale leben. b_books: berlin 2012, 37. this article is an edited extract from cAPITALISInG cAPITAL cultural Philanthropy and Art Museums – A Historical Approach epodium Verlag, München 2018 iSbn 978-3-940388-68-1 134 Seiten, ebook

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DISTrIbuTArIeS

The

AboLIShING


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nick srnicek

of VALue


While capitalism has individualised the attribution, distribution, and recognition of value, we must instead demand a basic collective right to our common wealth.

Under our current mode of production, we find ourselves socially recognised through monetary sums. the efforts that we make, the energy that we expend, the projects we build, and the contributions we add to society are aggregated and represented as a single figure in a vast social ledger. these figures mark our position in society, tracking the production, consumption, and distribution of value as it travels around the world and as it determines our mode of existence in a world dominated by capital. the question we face today is what happens when the mechanisms for creating and distributing that value become scarce? What happens when the production of value is simply funnelled and concentrated upwards, while its distributary networks dry up and perish as dead labour takes over from living labour? at best, we see people fighting and pushing to reach the few remaining outlets, increasingly debasing themselves in a desperate effort to siphon off some value from the process of accumulation. at worst, entire groups of people are excluded and left as an unnecessary excess to the functioning of the economy. how can this situation be rectified? how can the distribution of value be re-engineered in ways that abolish its concentration while simultaneously enabling the expansion of capacities to act, think, and feel? it is here that ideas of a universal basic income can offer us potential. instead of tying the distribution of value to a narrow set of socially validated performances, a universal income recognises that the production of value is collective and the wealth we generate is a commons. While capitalism has individualised the attribution, distribution, and recognition of value, we must instead demand a basic collective right to our common wealth. Whether we work in a factory, work in the home, or work to create, we demand a right to be recognised and a right to existence without the compulsion of wage-labour. this is the future that a universal basic income offers: in a world where the requirements of living labour have been reduced to a minimum, we stand poised on the edge of an immense expansion in our collective and individual freedoms. the challenge now is to rebuild anew the channels of value.

Nick Srnicek is a lecturer in Digital Economy at King’s College London and the author of Platform Capitalism (Polity, 2016). This text was commissioned to accompany Saemundur Thor Helgason’s solo exhibition Fellowship of Citizens, part of arebyte’s 2018 programme, Islands.

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If we imagine (as Joseph Beuys did), that everyone is an artist, in some ways this could be seen as a trial for analogous minimum basic income.

Fellowship of Citizens is London-based artist Saemundur Thor Helgason’s first solo exhibition in London. The exhibition marked the launch of the interest group Félag Borgara (or in English ‘Fellowship of Citizens’) founded by Saemundur Thor Helgason in Reykjavik in October 2017, which aims to lobby for basic income in Iceland through apolitical means.1 Part of arebyte’s 2018 programme Islands, the interest group seeks to demonstrate the feasibility of a financing scheme which operates as an economic island, a microcosmic financial system, lobbying for basic income in Iceland. The work operates on a national scale due to legal restrictions, but financially supports bien (Basic Income Earth Network), an international organisation that advocates for basic income worldwide. Fellowship of Citizens aims to fund bien with regular payments raised by a national lottery called ‘Happdrætti Listamanna’ (or ‘Artist Lottery’) open to all citizens of Iceland.2 In Iceland, the ‘Listamannalaun’ (or ‘Artist salary’), annually awards a given number of artists a monthly basic income for 3 months to up to 2 years. If we imagine (as Joseph Beuys did), that everyone is an artist, in some ways this could be seen as a trial for analogous minimum basic income. Bearing this in mind, the lottery campaign will address all citizens as if they were artists. Slogans include “Who creates more masterpieces at dinner, you or Warhol?”, “Embrace your inner artist”, “Are you a good cook, by Duchamp’s standards?”, “Who’s the better karaoke queen: You or Marina Abramović?” Happdrætti Listamanna does not pose as a micro pilot for basic income but serves as a tool for promoting the idea of basic income. Due to legal restrictions on small-scale lotteries in Iceland, the first prize cannot be money, or quasi-money, but must be a commodity or a service. Thus, for the inaugural lottery draw, taking place later this year, the first and only prize is ‘I’m feeling lucky’, a 100g, 18K gold artwork by the London based artist Anna Mikkola, commissioned by the interest group. Notes 1. A basic income is a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement. 2. Participation in the lottery is open beyond the borders of Iceland on the basis that the winner is able to collect the prize at their own expense. photos: saemundur Thor Helgason (install shots of exhibition Fellowship of Citizens at Arebyte gallery) Links: http://infocentre.online https://basicincome.org

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