Art is one of the most delicate and surprising ways to inquire into the world around us, and with it we can imagine other possible worlds to live in. The artists of our time take unconventional pathways to (un)learn and relate, and create forms and images to let us see and sense, question and think. Art inspires changes in our perception and behaviors, and in larger systems, too.
Casco Art Institute works closely with artists by presenting art for making different worlds, now and into the future. We study, situate, and mediate art in relation to the field of the commons. This means, above all, we work closely with diverse communities.
We are living in a time of a large-scale and urgent transition away from an economic growth-driven, extractivist society towards social forms and systems that can support a sustainable and joyful life for all human and non-human beings, as equally as possible. The commons – collective resources that are co-managed by self-organizing communities where maintenance, care, sharing, cooperation, and diversity are of the highest value – is directing the movement of this transition. Whether or not they were named as such, the commons existed before nation-states (the public) and neo-liberal markets (the private), and they continue today. Yet they have been reduced if not enclosed by privatization, undervalued if not made fragile by exploitation.
Casco Art Institute dedicates itself to cultivating and sustaining the commons through art, questioning its forms of life, shared resources, customs, and borders. Art is here to offer a lens to look at the commons whilst the commons looks to the world, including art.
You can visit our home base in Utrecht and engage with our regular program, consisting of a biannual Exhibition Program, a quarterly School in Common and an annual Assembly. Each is an occasion for experiencing art and relating with communities while studying, imagining, and acting together in different ways.
Exhibition Programs occur biannually, to present art in diverse forms and formats of exhibition, offering art and its singular space for seeing, sensing, thinking about, and acting together on the commons.
School in Common is a quarter-yearly public meeting point for speculation and collective planning.
Assembly is a multi-day, annual, large-scale gathering of practitioners of diverse backgrounds to engage with changing the (institutional) conditions and structures for art towards the goal of commoning art institutions.
The home base also houses the Office Gallery, its resourceful library on art and the commons is open to use and visit throughout most of the year. We also move beyond our home and its walls with our extramural projects, which spread, multiply, and further align and embed our work locally, trans-locally, nationally, and internationally. www.commons.art is a digital infrastructure that is under development to further facilitate this wider and broader co-existence.
School in Common is programmed through several intersecting study lines around art and the commons. The study lines guide and shape the program, as they each express the concerns of diverse communities around us and entail a care-filled, long-term, and non-hierarchal cooperation. This way we do not only talk about the commons but practice it, and in this process, a different form of institution and ways of living together are prefigured.
There are currently eight study lines, as follows:
Center for Ecological (Un)learning deeply cares about the environment and practices an open space where learning and unlearning new ecological ways of living take place, especially with communities of the Leidsche Rijn, one of the newest neighborhoods of Utrecht.
Diverse Economies explores diverse forms of exchanges, transactions, and accountabilities among diverse communities beyond capitalist ones.
Angry Letters delve into conversations, writing and publishing, in particular through educational-institutional contexts in the Netherlands, as sites where oppressor/s are decentered as to actively explore modes of coexistence with regards to freedom and liberation.
Poetics of Living brings together the values and practices of non-normative ways of living into consideration with rapidly changing discourses around sexuality, health, communal life, and death.
Unmapping Eurasia imagines the Eurasian commons beyond the geo-cultural and geo-political divide such as Europe and Asia.
Commonist Aesthetics reflects on what and how art serves the commons in consideration of the existing theories of art and aesthetics.
Language and Dissemination practices alternative modes of communication, mediation, and circulation of art for and of the commons.
Site for Unlearning (Art Organization) questions and changes embodied knowledge and organizational patterns and habits from the perspective of the commons, taking art organizations as exemplary sites.
Casco Art Institute trajectory has continued through several decades. Casco’s first identity was established in Utrecht in 1990 as Stichting Casco, and was run under the one-word name of Casco. It was set up by three local artists and art historians as a non-profit foundation and gallery for presenting art for the public. In 1996, Casco renewed its structure for the first time by appointing a director, and devising a trans-disciplinary and project-orientated program composed of Projects, Salon (discursive platform), and Issues (publications). From then on, Casco mostly used the name Casco Projects. In 2003, it gave itself an official subtitle, Office for Art, Design and Theory, to highlight its international, trans-disciplinary, and collaborative character. In 2018, Casco was re-launched under its current name Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons.
The latest change has been put into effect by a trajectory of artistic research and the program Composing the Commons (2013–16) that was developed around it. The program included a number of artist-led, curatorial, and collective projects including, among many others: INLAND (2015), an investigation into land and urban-rural commons initiated by artist Fernando García-Dory; White Paper: The Law (2015), a project on urban and housing commons by artist Adelita Husni-Bey; and Parasite Lottery (2016), a project practicing ways of forming and redistributing financial resources among communities by artist Wok the Rok. We Are the Time Machines: Time and Tools for Commoning (2015–16), concluded the “Composing the Commons” program with a group exhibition, many of its artistic outcomes involved experimentation with ways of composing tools for, about, and of the commons and overall explored the concepts of study and temporality. During this period, an ongoing interdependent collaboration with Arts Collaboratory (2013–) was also begun. Arts Collaboratory is a trans-local ecosystem of twenty-five organizations engaged with decolonization, social commons, self-organization, and collaboration with communities beyond the field of art. Site for Unlearning (Art Organization) (2014–18) facilitated the ongoing institutional self-reflection as a collaborative research project by Annette Krauss and the shifting Casco team, introducing the practice of unlearning to art organizations. In 2020, Casco will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary.
While working nationally and trans-nationally, Casco Art Institute keeps its home base on the Lange Nieuwstraat 7 in Utrecht. This current home is a two-story building adjacent to the Abraham Dolehof, a beautiful courtyard in the middle of Utrecht’s museum quarter.
The current site used to be a place of common life for a religious order, namely the Saint Ursula convent (circa 1412–1602). The building we are in was used as a Catholic school for children with “learning disabilities” – disability being a normative notion that we challenge – and later became repurposed as artists’ studios and art galleries. Previously, Casco was located on the Nieuwekade (2006–14) and Oudegracht (1990–2006).
The part of the building used by Casco Art Institute consists of an Office Gallery (65 m2) with multiple facilities including working tables, a flexible auditorium structure, display wall, library, bookshop, kitchen, and four exhibition rooms (200 m2). The Office Gallery was first designed by Kooperative für Darstellungspolitik (Jesko Fezer and Andreas Muller in collaboration with Maximilian Weydringer) and, since 2018, is in the process of redesign and refurbishment by artists Falke Pisano and Riet Wijnen. We also share resources with neighboring artists’ studios and two organizations (Fotodok and In de Ruimte), including mutual access to the use of each other’s spaces and technical facilities.
Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons is a not-for-profit cultural foundation with an ANBI-status. Our donors can tax-deduct their donations to our institution. For the donation to apply for tax reduction, donors and Stichting Casco need to register the donation in an agreement.
General contact information:
Stichting Casco (RSIN: 009715435)
Adres: Lange Nieuwstraat 7, 3512 PA Utrecht, NL
T: +31(0)30 231 9995
Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons consists of a multitude of collaborators, visitors, users, and those with shared affinities. This wide-reaching program is represented by a small team who steward the study lines on the commons, plan and produce the program, and engage with daily care and maintenance work for the institution, with the support of our board.
Every Wednesday, the team holds weekly meetings where various matters on the program and the care and maintenance of works are discussed, which is followed by a collective cleaning session of the Office Gallery area and Casco’s home base. The Casco team also takes turns with cooking lunch. This practice is a conscious decision to make time for our reproductive labor within a capitalist structure that demands productivity.
Interns and volunteers support the team in many ways. Are you interested in an internship of volunteer position? Please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
head of diverse economies
Staci Bu Shea
communication, website & campaign
Common Grounds: Song / Value researcher
curatorial intern (April - July 2020)
intern (November 2019 - March 2020)
Hosts & Volunteers: Laura Casanovas, Yota Celenti, Sanne Coopmans, Laura Cuzzocrea, Amelie Eckersley, Agustin Faundez Rojas, Ana Flores Giráldez, Mafalda Gomes, Aneesha Goswami, Amy Gowen, Charli Herrington, Gordon H. Williams, Patricia Jiménez López, Ingrid Kramer, Una Mc Auley, Sophie Mak-Schram, Serena Medici, Abhaya Mistry, Egoyibo Okoro, Shannon O'Reilly, Rekana Owan Isong, Amy Pekal, Pieter du Plessis, Ellyse Randrup, Laura Sanchez Mera, Gentry Tsiatsiou, Roos van Unen, Jorge Vitorino
hosts & volunteers
Tim van Elferen, Thomas de Kroon, Jochem van Grieken, Julian Stolwerk
Clementine Edwards, Liz Allan, Katherine MacBride
Loes van Beuningen
Bram van den Berg
Xalil Abdullah, Niels Moolenaar, Rachel Morón, Martha Stroo, Angela Tellier
Irene van Renswoude
Martijn van der Linden
Wendelien van Oldenborgh
The board carries out its tasks on an honorary basis, and is at most renewed twice at three year intervals