Topic

making capital flows visible

News

A love letter from Paris

DEAR LOVERS,

I write this to you as a hot sweaty love letter from Paris, the city of romance and adults who are allowed to stay out late at night. As you gather in Sydney I am meeting with a large group of dreamers and makers who are part of a growing movement of discontent with the economy. This is a global movement variously called the solidarity economy, peer to peer, or transition, post-growth economies, or simply ‘the commons’. It is not called the share economy because some dickheads from Silicon valley ruined that word already. Although as I scribe from this venue bedecked in an astro turfed and bamboo veneer decor, I am not 100 per cent convinced the viral bandwagon of collaborative consumption and positive capitalism hasn’t already entered the building. It feels a bit like Vivid and TEDX combined their event and asked Hillsong if they could do the catering and the lighting/Sound in a big circus tent at Tumbalong Park in Darling Harbour. ANYHOO the message is pretty clear: we need some new models. 

From bitcoin to data commons to ride share to co-working, many conventional business providers are looking to cooperatives and social enterprises to help support or to benefit their communities. They speak of a things like triple bottom line, and collaboration, and social engagement. To those of us who are barely make their living from the arts, these are not novel ideas. But their rapid uptake by the corporate sector is interesting to reflect on.

Why are other sectors and business having this conversation about changing the business model, and the arts isn’t? Especially when it never worked for us in the first place. So in my recent suite of works exploring art and economy, I have been pondering the following questions:

1. What specific elements of the conventional business model don’t work for the arts?

2. What do artists in the small to medium sector already do well when organising their own production and distribution?

3. How can we shape our economy with the particular language we use to describe what we do as specific and important?

4. Who is speaking for artists and art workers and is their decision making informed by their practice?

MONEY LAUNDERING

These questions have helped shape MONEY LAUNDERING which is the obvious name you give to a quest to build the worlds first artist run laundromat. The idea is pretty simple but as yet untested. But in theory it is being designed to fit the business model to the practice—not the other way around. The artist run laundromat is a response to the feast and famine which is characteristic of the gig-economy. It will result in a functional commercial enterprise, governed by a shared equity model, that will prioritise the artist’s working life as a practising artist by offering unconditional flexible paid work (as a laundromat attendant) to cover living costs during periods where the artist is in between gigs or selectively inactive. The physical space of the laundromat will also function as a hub for artist activity and presentations, as well as being an ongoing site for experimentation in artist led practice and fair-share economic models.

This idea is a practical idea underpinned by some serious reflection about no longer wanting to simply do the best we can within the sad and limited prospects of an economy designed by a handful of people with terrible imaginations and suspect motives. Artists need to come up with new models to survive, but these models need to come from a thorough overhaul and redesign of the entire economy.

AN ARTIST LED ECONOMY

I want to propose a set of principles for a practice-led economy; this an idea that ties decision making to the bodies that will enact them and/or be impacted by them. It a design that eliminates the role of the manager/middleman, as the man who stands outside of the embodied practice, whose decisions are executed by others, and whose body will not be affected by any adverse fallout but instead benefit from the negative impact it has on others. We need to consider an alternative to this where the body and the practice are tethered to decision making.

HOW AN ARTIST LED ECONOMY BEHAVES

Here are some elements that I have started to write about as forming a set of values and ideas to articulate how an artist led economy would behave.

Interdependence

It recognises that its spheres of labour and social are messy and conflated, and bound up in reproducing each other.

Relational

The bee produces honey but this is many ways a by product to its real function which is to pollinate. The artists economy works better when it is considered as a conduit and fertiliser of relations.

Movement: Processual, Flux, Flow

We don’t capture but momentarily apprehend, and we flourish when we keep the the gift in circulation

Indeterminacy (becoming-unbecoming)

Along with keeping things in flux, we also understand things as constantly forming, like who we are, and we create the conditions to allow this to happen.

Open Source

Ideas and knowledge grow best through sharing.

Mutual Aid

No hands held out for charity. We consider the contributions we make according to the values that we decide on.

Spectrum—Non-binary

Our identities shift across a spectrum, and we enjoy the benefits of a proliferation of constantly differentiating binaries. Never a full stop static binary which is the logic of cancer.

Nothing about us without us

We represent ourselves and all decisions are made by those who will be affected by them

Practice-led

The shape of our production and distribution is shaped by the practice and the needs of those who practice it.

Custodian/stewardship

First nations people were right. You can not own the land, you can only belong to the land.

Design models where care and roles and responsibility are embedded into legal structures governing the care of shared resources such as land, air and water.

Anti-monopoly

It is possible for people to own too much to control too many things, to be too busy. No more franchises. If you have an idea, don’t replicate it. Give your idea to someone else and see what they do to it.

Generative not Reductive – Abundance not Scarcity – Distribution not Accumulation

Spread it round, spread it open and release it into circulation. Keep it moving!

News

The Artist’s Exceptional Labouring Body – MCA/Artbar

Sumugan Sivanesan and I performed a lecture of sorts as an experiment in the artist’s exceptional labouring body in 3D! As part of Artbar at the Museum of Contemporary Art July 29 curated by Wade Marynowsky.

The introductory text:

This event is a work in progress in the sense that the artist work is never done. These conceptual nuggets are paraded here as raw material, half baked and unfolding. In a state of becoming. In a state of human. And as a performative resistance to becoming human capital.

We will present a number of resonant statements. Accompanied by images. We will try to resist becoming human capital by drawing attention to the human capital.  This might be reminiscent of the ways in which one draws attention to their fears in order to diminish them.

For these purposes we want to draw attention to our artist fee, as singular coins encased in these two display jars in front here. Each jar contains 200 x one dollar coins.

Your participation can happen in several ways. You can shift this capital from one jar to the other, in a simple act of making capital flow. You can extract capital from this act if you feel you have expended time and have not been compensated in other more intangible forms either through your enjoyment or knowledge gained. And finally you can add to this capital by departing with some of your own capital into one of the jars, and in this way contribute to the further extension of these ideas by expanding the bank accounts of the presenting artists. 

You have been given an opportunity to bear witness to what will follow, and you will exert energy in participating, attempting to decode and reassemble in your own mind and inside your own exceptional body what takes place here.

Our focus here is on the artist’s exceptional labouring body. These are bodies we describe as excessive bodies, or bodies that both exceed the capture by capital, and at the same time are increasingly marinated in and absorbed by capital.

At various points as we labour through this presentation, we may inject moments of ourselves and our own personal experiences in the pursuit of this open autopsy of artistic process.

We have prepared some images, and we have prepared some devices for viewing these images. We have prepared some notes, but our intention tonight is to unfold these thoughts, not necessarily in the order they were conceived, and as other ideas occur to us—triggered by our corporeal presence here tonight in the presence of other exceptional bodies—we take pause and reflect where necessary, or where possible, we may interact as two bodies in dialogue.

 

Projects

Marrickville School of Economics

The Marrickville School of Economics* is a creative accounting and artist-led curriculum for studying and developing new ways to do economy.

The School is free to attend and open to all and its syllabus will evolve in a manner that responds to the practical needs of the community.

It will function as a stink-tank for the forensic investigation of the systemic inadequacies of the current neoliberal economic model. Drawing on radical research and experimentation in other parts of the world, and empirical research from our own backyard, it will seek to enrich those with the desire to unfuck the economy, with the knowledge and skills to speak confidently about ideas to implement a new one.

ENROLLMENTS LINK HERE

Initial Preliminary Course outline

101 Fuck your Economy: An introduction

102 Value: How to do know if you got it

103 Carving up the Pie Chart (Culinary wisdom)

104 Entanglements and Intangibles (body based improv)

105 Rich White Men: Forensic ethnographic research

106 Trickle Down A/Effect (data visualisation)

107 Feast and Famine Economy (a boat building exercise)

108 Corporate Welfare – how to identify it

109 Mapping Capital Flow (hip hop workshop)

110 Ninja Economics (parkour combat workshop) 

You can find the current course outlines on the tumblr site (while we wait for our official site development)

If you are interested in attending/dropping in send an email with a brief introduction to Bek Conroy – bek@bekconroy.com

Internationals and long distance learning units catered for!

*The name of the school takes its geographic location as preemptive infamous moniker, very much in the spirit of the Chicago School, and the London School of Economics. Marrickville is a Local Government Area in New South Wales, Australia, with a high concentration of artists and creatives working in the small to medium sector.

Projects

Currency

[Expanded exhibition and publication]

2018

An expanded curatorial platform and publication that stages provocations and propositions for how we might reimagine economy.

  1. The laundry as an instrument for keeping things clean, smooth and removed, and aligned with the invisible hand of the market and its relationship to money laundering and informal economies.
  2. The fe/male/trans body as washing machine – as a circulatory vascular system accumulating toxins and flushing, cleansing, passing through – as threshold, as change agent, as behind the scenes mess hall, as front of house box office hygienist
  3. The laundromat’s historical relationship with migrant populations, foreign bodies, immigrant and illegal labour, and the transmutations and porosity of unclean and dirty bodies.
  4. The rise of alternative currencies bit coin etc and its correlation with speculative finance capitalism and affective labour/creative labour.
  5. The emergence of the share­-economy and the commodification of neighbourhood and the phenomena of place­-making, urban renewal and artist led gentrification.
  6. The rise of the creative worker as the ultimate poster child for neoliberalism marked by its characteristic flexible, precarious, and ephemeral labour to produce intangible capital.
  7. The laundromat as a trojan vessel to mimic existing economic models in order to occupy from the inside out in a viral form, and following permaculture theory, to reintroduce a species that disrupts a toxic cycle and brings equilibrium to the ecosystem; to re-­absorb/re-cycle the surplus/excess.
  8. Exploration of the excess of economy, following philosopher Georges Bataille and to extend his philosophy of General Economy into a making of new “economy” that preferences useless or excessive labour and production.

This exhibition is in development.

Projects

Diagram of a Washing Machine

[Poster Print and Lecture]

An instructive lecture with diagram to explain creative economy using the deceptively humble washing machine.

This lecture takes as its starting point the figurative image of the washing machine to map the capital flows of the creative economy and the various ways that intangible goods and affective labour irrigate the broader economy. Conventionally a space of gendered domestic labour, the laundry is rendered invisible, private and marked by bodily functions and social hygiene. In this refiguring, the circulation of goods and services through the washing machine will be subject to a remaking and repurposing to imagine a future where value, surplus, and exchange are presented in radically different ways.

This lecture is accompanied by a diagrammatic poster of a washing machine which charts the capital flows and unique exchange values of the local creative economy.

This project is a collaboration with Upacita (Jakarta)

Projects

Iron Lady

[Performative encounter and installation]

The Iron Lady is an artisanal business shirt ironing salon for temporary installation in close proximity to the finance district of a city. This artistic operation will seek to generate trade and exchange in a pop-off salon, using conversation and a unique shirt ironing service for the location’s finance workers. Simultaneously it will extract useful data related to how the world of finance ‘works’, and seek fugitive alliances with the art of economy and the economics of art.

The Iron Lady is one tough lady. She is not afraid of the big end of town. She knows what she is worth, and she can iron a mean business shirt in 7 minutes flat.

Creative Development: 30 Oct – 6 Nov

Presentation: 11 – 25 November

This work is a commision by PADA and presented by VitalStatistix (Adelaide)

Collaborators: Emma and Lucky Price.

http://vitalstatistix.com.au/projects/iron-lady/