Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons, Introduction

Main Menu

Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons, Introduction,

New name for Casco, new modus operandi, and exhibition program

Opening: Friday, 26 May 2017, 17:00-20:00 hrs
Exhibition: until 16 July 2017

After more than twenty-five years as Casco, Casco Projects, and finally Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory, we are changing our name to Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons. The title heralds our new modus operandi, presented initially in the form of an exhibition that opens on 26 May 2017. With this change we aim to act on our political-aesthetical intentions and face their urgencies with “working for the commons”[1] as the guiding imperative for all Casco operations. The commons, as we mean it here, refers to more than a common resource pool—it is rather a value system and general governing principle, a way of living and working, an alternative to capitalist modes wherein the mutual blindness of the private and the public lead to one dominating another. The exhibition offers aesthetic experiences and shares the conceptual toolbox used in its making, specifically involving ideas and practices relating to institutions of the commons in the art field. As such, the exhibition is a beta version for Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons, and a platform for your appreciated feedback, which will be integral to building the institute.

Let us also note that central to making the newness of our name and our modus operandi is what we call “re-structuring and re-articulating” as opposed to working on a new building or form of production. We re-structure and re-articulate our practices through various activities and in different media via three major forms: Action, Body and Kirakira.

With Action we manifest art as a set of experimental proposals and as a means for social and political change, or more specifically, we use commoning as a verb. Action requires durational development sustained by organizational strength and collaboration with other bodies, along with strategic planning and speculation.

Through Body we highlight organizational forms and processes such as labor, while making sure to attend to economies of energy and resources that extend beyond wage-based relations and institutionalized territories. Despite the discourse of crisis, if not of urgency, in organizing (and collectivizing), practices of organizing have been left invisible and treated as non-artistic matters devoid of forms and aesthetics. Instead, we consider these practices to comprise an indispensable arena of aesthetic and artistic concern in engaging with the commons.

We use Kirakira[2] (“twinkle twinkle” in Japanese), to infer the practice of fragile yet persistent forms of “study” and improvisation,[3] which situate the objects one encounters. Kirakira embraces the critical appreciation of aesthetics, poetry and myth. It’s a practice of un-doing while doing, to see the uncommon — differences and openness — as the condition of the commons.

Action, Body and Kirakira are three forms of practice that intersect and feed into each other; we consider them an ontological basis for art and art institutions working for the commons. The exhibition places focus not only on the ways in which they are distinct, but the possibilities in their immanent entanglement.

The exhibition is also a test-run for several infrastructural developments towards working for the commons, such as launching, a growing repository of open and common resources. On this website our three forms of practice described above are digested and ascribed possible future applications, advancing a structure for experimenting with a “commons-based management system.” In developing these we take conscious recourse to literary power.[4] Further, we will install a small store and display room at Casco for what we call Hyperobjects, objects resembling commodities yet working as links to a network that extends widely beyond them. Occasionally murals will be commissioned for this space to open up an imaginary field of this network. Optic to Haptic Cinema (OH Cinema) will be established over the course of the exhibition period, as a venue for a revolving film program and ad-hoc events and activities, providing occasions in which seeing becomes “touching.”

Ultimately, this change attempts to recognize our effort to actualize artistic practices via non-capitalist, feminist values of reproduction, care and sustainability. Most (art) institutions and organizations, as we know, adopt patriarchal values that enforce a hierarchy of productive labor and reproductive labor,[5] and likewise (re)presentation and the organizing process “behind” things. We, however, advocate that “we are producing within reproduction.[6] This claim is especially urgent when both our bodies and our Earth are being ruthlessly fracked under a logic of competition and over production, regardless of field. At the same time, we sense the immediate need to strengthen our organizational power, if not accelerate it in the face of political realities across the globe. We aim towards an organizational porosity that de-institutes while, in the spirit of solidarity, re-institutes through sharing with a wider circle. This brings with it a perspective of self-organization or, a self-eco-organizing principle embracing a “consubstantial link between disorganization and complex organization.[7] The internationalism this process opens up will nonetheless require serious de-colonizing work and engagement with differences. Consequently, it also calls on diverse languages and forms beyond the “field”[8] of art to art.[9]

The concept of Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons has been developed over a lengthy period and galvanized by key Casco-led projects, such as the Grand Domestic Revolution (2009/2010-2012), New Habits (2014), We Are the Time Machines: Time and Tools for Commoning (2015/2016) and other artist- or community-led projects under the Composing the Commons program (2013-2016). It has taken shape through an ongoing collaborative process with those including the whole Casco team and board, artists, designers, researchers, activists, friends and colleagues. In particular, Site for Unlearning: Art Organizations with Annette Krauss (2014-ongoing), and Arts Collaboratory, a network of twenty-five art organizations forming an eco-system that includes Casco, have been formative to this wave of reinvention.


[1] For an introduction to the commons see; also read the extract of an article by philosopher and teacher Aetzel Griffioen on the notion of the commons, especially in the Dutch context available at

[2] Scholar and author of Minority Commune (2016) Jiyoung Shin introduced kirakira via “Midnight Contacts: Commune to Commune,” a lecture delivered at the 2016 Gwangju Biennale Forum “To All the Contributing Factors,” Gwangju, South Korea. The term refers to a collection of small and glittering ornaments made as sorts of lucky charms belonging to a homeless Japanese woman, who resided in Yoyagi park, to express her gratitude and find inner peace. This woman left, as documentation, significant parts of her diary dealing with the homeless lives in the park.

[3] Here, study shall be understood as being in affinity with that developed by Fred Moten and Stefano Harney in their book The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (2013), in which they elaborate on study as a critical, ongoing, persistent form of being together in resistance, especially in a time when academic institutions, ironically, allow students and teachers to do anything but study.

[4] In the text ”The Arts, the Sciences, the Originary Peoples, and the Basements of the World” (published by the Zapatista Army for National Liberation, February 2016, Subcomandante Insurgente Moises introduces a new tripod consisting of the arts, sciences and originary people as the condition for making a better world. He excludes literature from the arts because “literature must create ties between the three legs of the tripod and make clear, happily or not, their interrelations.” Thanks to Cooperativa Cráter Invertido, especially Hector Pena and Yollotl Alvarado, who published this article as a booklet.

[5] We are indebted for this awareness, to, above all, Silvia Federici through the Wages for Housework movement, her writings in Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation and Revolution at Point Zero, and other engagements.

[6] This phrase is introduced in by Kerstin Stakemeier in “Art as Capital, Art as Service, Art as Industry: Timing Art in Capitalism,” Cultures of the Curatorial: Timing on the Temporal Dimension of Exhibiting (2012), p. 35. The full quotation is as follows: “The contemporaneity gained in demonstrating the absence of any inherited autonomy in the arts enables a historic solidarity which reaches across artistic and curatorial services alike and demonstrates that ‘feminist art’ was never a style, but always opened up possibilities of a solidary form of (re)production beyond art, accounting for the fact that Gisela Discher wrote in 1974, ‘we are  producing within reproduction.’” The notion of reproduction could be understood as that which enables production but is not valued as much as production, including most notably care and maintenance labor but also, service and affective labor.

[7] Edgar Morin, On Complexity (2008), p.17.

[8] Here we speak of “field” as a sociological term inspired by Pierre Bourdieu, where a collective habit is built to set up a distinctive rule. Our project exhibition New Habits (2014) dealt with this notion of field in art and the possibilities of de-habituation.

[9] A useful, recent reference about this view is the book by Caroline Levine, Forms: Whole, Rhythm, Hierarchy, Network (2017), where she argues that forms organize not only works of art but also political life—and our attempts to know both art and politics.