When there is never enough time and survival is uncertain, how do collective art practices continue their ways of being together and shape art institutions working for the commons? (1)
Our values must shift from individualism to community and collectivism, from hierarchy to sharing power and wealth, and from products and profits to people and planet. Such shifts will decenter the dualistic world of public (state) and private (market), in which competition, degradation, exploitation, and authoritarianism are built in as inevitable. And by doing so they achieve the expansion of the commons framework of plurality and equality. Casco Art Institute believes art and art institutions also must change as part of this shift. Moving beyond conceptual art, individual authorship, the notions of artistic autonomy and the avant-garde, we seek for art that embraces its symbiotic relationship with many other agents – human and non-human. We seek for art made collectively and within a community, and for art aligned with social movements and in ecology. This sort of art is not always manifest in objects, nor is it found in aesthetic alienation and judgmental spectatorship. Rather, it can turn up in the middle of collective experiments, through thinking, designing, making, acting together, caring, and sharing.
The Casco Art Institute annual Assembly for commoning art institutions is a recurring collective moment for art institutional reflection, collective agenda setting, and commoning experimentation that is open to the public.
The 2020 edition follows on from the 2019 Assembly Our House is On Fire – from which a powerful, independent working group was born, crafting a climate justice code to be enacted over the new year(s) – and the inaugural 2018 edition Elephants in the Room, in which we collectively dealt with institutional habits such as “busyness” and the unlearning process. This Assembly will address various forms of collective art practice and the question of their resilience, with contributions by groups from across the world, including Utrecht, Singapore, London, Warsaw, Kampala, and Medellín.
These twenty-odd groups form a part of the Casco Art Institute ecosystem and go towards shaping Casco’s institutional practices. The Casco building may have been empty during lockdown, but the social net within and around it has never been closed. In fact, these social relations sustain it. Titled We Owe Each Other Everything (2), the 2020 Assembly will mark a comradely moment for mutual recognition and learning among these collective bodies. Collective art practices are understood here to mean artist collectives, working groups, project teams, duos, cross-field collaborations, multilocal networks, coalitions, and work situated in community. As ever, the Assembly will involve the public as active listeners and potential (if not already) partners. We Owe Each Other Everything is for sharing stories, tactics, methods, blind spots, and action points to support each other and empower the whole in affirmation, bearing in mind both the vulnerability and resilience inherent to these collective practices.
Under the limited circumstances of the pandemic, this year’s two-day Assembly is going to take place online with a compressed format and duration. Nevertheless, the Assembly will remain a collective moment to experience and engage “doing art” with and for the commons.
Prior to the Assembly, each contributing group responded to an invitation from Casco to elaborate on their collective working practices using a chosen word beginning with C. The collected responses, titled “C-words for the Commons,” will be shared in advance with the contributors and the registered public.
Day one of the Assembly will bring together the contributing groups in a series of “conversation tables” to expand on the shared C-words and related stories from their practices and exchange with one another. Rather than debates, the conversation tables are intended for collective resourcing in a supportive context – laughter, love, generosity, and other forms of feedback are encouraged. This will become more tangible in the program of day two, which entails mapping workshops to make visible the connections, entanglements, and/or counterpoints among what we shared and learned from in the previous day. As collective outcomes, the resulting map(s) will serve Casco Art Institute as well as Assembly contributors/participants to continue, to adopt and/or to strategize around our collective practices, opening pathways and perspectives for an even greater alliance.
The Assembly will be held in English and includes live captioning. The detailed schedule and the “C-words for the Commons” document will be shared in the lead up to the Assembly. On registration, we ask each participant to contribute to the collective pot. Their contribution will be used for any follow up work after the Assembly.
Find the booklet including full colophon and program here.
(1) Inspired by the work “Haunted Bookshelves for Catalogue No.3” by Display Distribute, Kunci and Read-in at Seoul Mediacity Biennale 2018, which was inspired by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing who in turn was inspired by Ursula K. Le Guin with regards to storytelling.
(2) The title is from the book The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study (2013) by Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, as well as its many echoes in social movements.