Notes: 11th of December meeting

It turned out to be an infinitely long Friday night. We had two Assemblies, one after another (first Residency, then General).

Someone (John?) has suggested moving the Assembly from Friday night to another day of the week, so sometimes we can have a drink with other friends in the real world whenever the Lockdown is over. Will it ever be possible?

On the other hand, Sevda suggested making a “drunk reading room” to read and drink, because it is Friday night and it is an evening and because we read and drink with friends!

Representatives of working groups reported to the Assembly that our new web site is still in production and ready soon. Clive described an exciting project of integration of our virtual museum with a platform called Discord. The Residency working group and decision-making group shared their ideas. It looks like we are very close to finally formulating our fundraising policy, and the rules by which we will develop our residences/rooms.

The Assembly decided to alternate reading groups and general assemblies. Every two weeks, the reading group will meet to read and discuss texts. We will put together the list of text and invite people to host it and join us for the discussion as speakers and facilitators.

Every two weeks, the Museum of Care General Assembly will discuss the current issues of the project.

We had an hour-long discussion of the first part of Dubrovsky & Graeber’s essays, “Another Art World: Art Communism and Artificial Scarcity.”

We asked ourselves: How can this text be used to implement daily communism within a distributed network of virtual and offline residences/rooms?

Our discussion will also be accompanied by small video dialogues, recorded later, which we will post on the website. The first one is here.

Updates: 

Press: 

  • N/A

Residencies: 

  • We met before the assembly, and are going to make our idea of ‘rooms’ and how they look like more specific

Fundraising

  • Potential funding from an Econ Anth editorial group with folks including Michael Hudson, they will have a room
  • What should fundraising focus on? Art grants? Patreon? Website has the Wikipedia model: no hidden content, anyone can contribute. We can broadly extend this to the full project- BUT we can still also be open to specific grants for specific rooms
  • Discussion on Fundraising:
    • If someone has ideas for proposal/s funding grants, can someone send an idea? Yes
    • Other ideas: Let’s also think about time banks. Let’s also think of task-based work, essentially let’s not discount anything for now — big foundations, Patreon, Kickstarter etc
    • Nika: Also want to emphasise that we do need to develop an ethos. When we negotiate with funders, we should spell clearly the ‘rules’ of how much they can influence the broader project. If we fundraise for a specific project/room, there’s a risk that the Core group will stop being facilitators and start being a planning committee. 
    • Rob L: For fundraising, we’ll need to put something on paper, i.e. a proposal. We should have an idea of how that would look
    • Dennis: Also need to remember that there will be a process for agreeing to have a room, and we should develop it
    • Rob L: Shared a link about the Preston model of municipal socialism: https://neweconomics.opendemocracy.net/preston-model-modern-politics-municipal-socialism/

Review action points:

  • Agreed to have an alternating bi-weekly model, as discussion can bleed into reading group time
  • So, we’ll alternate between a week of discussion and a week of reading. Consensus!
  • So next assembly on Dec 18 will be for discussion. The one after…is Christmas Day. So, we’ll discuss on the 18th if we keep a reading group on the 25th, or later
  • Nika shared potential future speakers for reading groups: Steve Keen, Michael Hudson, also discuss some of David’s other texts e.g. moral grounds of economic relations, couple of unpublished works etc [Chat log has some good links]
  • Nika: It’d be good to also go into more technical texts such as David’s On the Moral Grounds of Economic Relations piece, so we can all also engage with complex concepts in a way that everyone understands

Reading Group – Another Art World 1

Nika – some background about the text

  • This text is very personal to me as I’m part of the art world, and we (David & Nika) went to the Venice Biennale. Many artists spoke to us at the cafe. We also wanted to do a series of interviews, which didn’t happen.
  • With this text I wanted to put my own experiences as an artist  in dialogue with David.
  • David writes like he’s doing sculpture, moving things around and reorganizing things “Hmm, that’s how we should start!”
  • The main idea was not just a critique of the art world (which itself has a long history of self- and institutional-critique), but to also imagine how another art world (in this case the world as it is) could exist. 
  • This was very personal to me, because as a child I wanted to be an artist. It was a very Romantic idea, like changing the world, being free. But upon encountering the art world, I thought it looked like a very shitty place, quite careerist. Maybe academia is the same.
  • MoC is an attempt to bring a practical realisation of the theoretical discussions we’re having in this text

Is this unique to the West?

  • Rojava actually has a Video Commune. In NY someone asked them: how do you finance the project? Who funds you? They said: well, we don’t! We just travel around and take classes for video production. So they don’t do things like the West.
  • Meanwhile, the way they do it in the West, the mechanism of how the art world functions: it’s a perfect description of everything else, the value creation system. Hence, it’s on top of everything else.

Comment/question: Academics hate academia, artists hate the art world. Still, we see periodic declarations that the art world sucks and we need to get rid of the boundary b/w life & art. E.g. In the text you mention Romantics, Russia in the early 1900s etc. So we have Art as a ‘revolutionary’ thing that collapses borders, OR Art as a symbolic crown you put on value. 

Another author I liked was Ranciere who has a similar argument: he goes back to people like Schiller & Kant. There was something revolutionary about the way they formulated art, but it eventually got screwed up. “The camera gained its autonomy […] the choice is not between two kinds of art, it’s between two senses of the world […] the new one by which they make things that directly enter into the common, the production of the common life”. Is this also what your text tries to do?

  • Yes, but what’s important is that this process (from a revolutionary version of art, to its transformation into something shitty) isn’t unavoidable. 
  • That’s why David’s article on communism (On the Moral Grounds of Economic Relations) is important to us as MoC, as it clarifies this: Communism is not a messianic future paradise, it won’t come by taking down the Winter palace. It’s the same with the art world.

Maybe artists DO figure out how to renounce the art world quite often, but we just don’t notice. Do you really think it’s a cycle, or do the two type of art (see above comment/question) coexist, and it’s just that the revolutionary kind doesn’t get noticed too frequently?

  • Look at the initiatives I share support for, e.g. Proletkult: despite the fact that they were dismantled brutally, by being sent to the gulag, its legacy was there to benefit anyone with any connection to the Soviet world. E.g. I went to the Palace of Culture, as did my daughter. So decades later, the infrastructure built by Proletkult in the 1920s was still there — in (East) Berlin you can still go with a child and study at the museum twice a week. Try that in NY, it’ll be something like 100 Euros per hour. 
  • So the infrastructural ideas of collective culture, when they prevail, are with us for a long time. No one can destroy them completely.

The art world is also a place of money laundering, and is often used to buy or co-opt art movements, such as the African American women Quilters in the American south. How does this combination between creativity and the market come about?

  • Yes, that’s capitalism. Something that’s collectively produced by a culture gets hijacked, resourced and destroyed. 
  • What I don’t understand is how much we can really change a social order. If we bring like minded people and say “hey let’s fuck this shit up”, does it really work? 
  • This was really the question we’re trying to get to with this essay. The ‘anthropology of the art world’ bit was pretty boring, it got more exciting when we tried to paint a realistic picture of how things CAN function as art communism today, and be inhabited by Budetlyani — the people of the future — who live right now. 

Rob L: Is it the society that gives you the art, or the other way round? In a society like ours, can we ever create communist art without being co-opted? In your essay you’re critical of the Romantics, but in the 19th c. they tended to stand out from their society which is maybe why they were so creative. It’s interesting: does art change society, or does society give us the art that is inevitably typical of that society?

  • There’s no value in a beautiful cup unless it captures social relationships. Art is in itself social relationships. 
  • On Romantics: we weren’t critical of them, they were the ones who invented the idea of culture, which was a collective idea. It wasn’t the idea of a genius man sitting on top of the world. 

Do you think art can show us the way forward, and if yes, is there a danger of vanguardism there?

Question/comment adding to the above: This text continues the meta-theme of hierarchy. One thing it says is, art has an inherently egalitarian/accessible sense, but contemporary is hierarchical even if it’s democratic in its aesthetics. One of the key takeaways from the text is that the contemporary art world, besides being an epiphenomenon of the financial world, is “Communism for the Rich”, still fulfilling the Romantic dream for an elite. 

One thing, to put it bluntly, is that the classic art world basically thinks of itself as ‘non-pecuniary’ and solely about aesthetic value — but for a layperson like myself, I can tell b/w ‘genuine’ art and something made for money. Somehow we can tell the difference. So the art world must have a reference that’s non-pecuniary. But in contemporary art, it’s so tightly connected to the market, that the market is the sole judge. 

Is this true? If so, then kinda difficult to believe that artists can lead us anywhere — if artists are part of the system, and the complicates the avant-garde role of the artist

  • Dennis: Some artists did a dinner party and said ‘this is art’. But it’s only when a museum does say it is art that it becomes so, because they are now creating scarcity. If we get out of this and make it less scarce, why would we still say it’s art?
  • TJ: One issue and maybe critique of MoC itself is we’ve adopted a division of labour where we shatter people into categories of ‘artist’, ‘engineer’, ‘activist’ etc. The person who drives change, they’re called ‘activist’. Now communism per Marx is something like: to do one thing in the morning, another at night. When I want to do activism — when I want to do social change — I’m trying to level up and learn new skills. How do we define communism? From each according to ability, to each according to needs. A technologist makes affordances to amplify people who don’t have ability. Is that a road for communism? Yes, and this is something we also buy into as MoC. But this is not necessarily what the article says we should do. Art will show us the way, if it includes a component of being an activist, doing things that change the social world. 

On the avantgarde, they started explicitly with a blueprint of ‘Marxism’ and of course, didn’t end there. David scoffed at them in his classes. His thoughts about the art world seem more complicated — one of the many assumptions in this text is that contemporary art is at the top of a hierarchy. Why? Thinking about David’s earlier work, maybe it’s because the only value of concern is economic value. If so, maybe it’s a very specific art world, exemplified by Jamie Dimon etc. We can’t be talking about performance, as you can’t really sell it.

  • It wasn’t just about art as economic value, it was also art as symbolic value — absolute desire. Like achieving a dream. 
  • From a ‘production’ viewpoint, maybe something of sociological interest here: not art world, but a world coordinated by people
  • Dennis: we see art as a pinnacle of capitalist production. But there’s a risk of being monolithic here — most artists live on grants, so there are already socialistic elements. 
  • Clive: In the UK we have a strange term- art, and ‘outsider art’. Art that doesn’t have to be bought and sold, but is something that can be shared
  • Amy: Art that’s not made by artists is discounted: scrapbooks, knitworks, collages etc. It’s because it’s not part of the art market, i.e. it’s not dealt with for money. 
  • Huanyu: I also find some artists in my country who become famous if they cooperate to make art with famous entrepreneurs. They say it’s like a gift. I find art is used as a medium or tool for some artists to accumulate social impact — to turn it into reputation. Even if they make the art for free, it’s even MORE helpful in reputation-building.
  • Clive: We also see this in the UK, where installing a statue is nice, but if you claim you’re the one who installed it, it defeats the point. Shouldn’t you make social statements anonymously?

Next group, maybe we can take a more structured approach. Should we discuss the piece by Ranciere?