The Utrecht Common(s) Course
Leading up to the opening of 'New Habits' and the opening festival 'Every Mode of Doing Needs Commons: An Uncommon Festival of the Common(s)' (1-3 May), Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory is hosting and helping facilitate what will hopefully become an autonomous learning and sharing time-space dedicated to common(s) thinking. The Utrecht Common(s) Course is a proposal for an institution of the common(s). Artists Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri, who are contributors to the course, provide the following introduction:
For the last centuries, political imagination has been dominated and captured by a logic of private and public. Today, those two notions and their increasing ineffectiveness in addressing common challenges are becoming more and more evident. Under neoliberal governance, public good has become synonymous with creating a good “business climate” even as the “climate” politically and ecologically deteriorates. And private well-being has meant increasing benefits for corporations and those who command vast sums of wealth.
(Meanwhile, public goods which were previously relying on the State's monetary injections and were subject to its authority, are conditioned to become business-like, subject to debt, and thus subservient to private capital. Even the most benevolent activities must seek to extract money to pay rent or interest.)
In such a degenerating environment, experimentation becomes necessary to understand what kinds of solidarities, habits, and institutions can emerge to reclaim common(s) and protect practices of commoning from being absorbed into processes of monetization and regimes of private property. ‎
In New York, with our friends at 16 Beaver Street, there has been a need to create this “course” both as a place of shared study and as a‎ way, an orientation, to learn from one another and create an inter-generational and cultural space of learning and struggling around common(s) and commoning. We named this course, “Commoning the City and Withdrawing from the Community of Money.”
For Utrecht, we hope to dedicate a seven-day period, involving individuals and groups in and around the city to explore together the bases of common(s) thinking and practices of commoning. We see the common(s) as site(s) for conjoining and orienting the various social, political, economic, and ecological challenges confronting all life on earth. And our desire to share further these reflections and concerns is part of an understanding that a cultural shift is also part of the broader struggle.
We would like to build up a vocabulary together with you to reflect, articulate, and broaden these shifts and nourish an understanding of our practices that are resistant‎ to the increasing social power that money commands.
Our hope is that this course can remain part of the fabric of Utrecht and/or inspires further spaces for debate and development of common(s) thinking.
The first session is 18:30 hrs on Wednesday 23 April at Casco's new location in the museum quarter at Lange Nieuwstraat 7, Utrecht. The form and content of the subsequent sessions is informed by what happens and who takes part. Participants are encouraged to take part on all the days, but all sessions will be open to accommodate as many people as possible. Participants can decide which sessions they would like to attend, and the more time we spend together the more valuable the course will be.
For those interested in taking part in The Utrecht Common(s) Course, please subscribe to the course mailing list at firstname.lastname@example.org and come to the first session.
The course lays the ground work for the opening festival, Every Mode of Doing Needs Commons: An Uncommon Festival of the Common(s), where individuals and groups will contribute different actions and activities which help build up a wider understanding or sense of the common(s).