A group of cultural workers, curators, writers, critics and artists came together to describe operational modes that resist definition by the market and neoliberal institutionalisation. The intention for the evening was to be aspirational, practical and self-critical, and to remind ourselves of the possibilities of allowing ideas to become realities.
Speakers included Zarina Muhammad from The White Pube who recently published Ideas for a New Art World; Caroline Woolard from art.coop who are rewriting the rules for art funding based on solidarity economies, and Farid Rakun and Reza Afisina from ruangrupa, who announced the principles of Lumbung for documenta15. A lumbung – or rice barn – is a place to store communally-produced rice as a common resource for future use; to heal today’s injuries, especially those rooted in colonialism, capitalism and patriarchal structures.
The event was part of COMPOST, a collaborative exhibition between The Showroom and artist Kathrin Böhm, who share a desire for not continuing business as usual and are making use of COMPOST as a moment to reflect and produce fertiliser for future use. Curator Lily Hall and Managing Director Seema Machanda joined the discussion as the core team of The Showroom, who want to actualise organisational development embedded in values grounded by a commitment to interdependence; and Kathrin Böhm and Kuba Szreder from the Centre for Plausible Economies c/o Company Drinks, who are proposing Interdependent Art Worlds.
COMPOST explored and reformulated twenty years of artist Kathrin Böhm's practice. For six weeks throughout June and July 2021, a cumulation of objects and methodologies filled the gallery space at The Showroom, opening up an invitation to contribute to a process of fertiliser-making: to sieve through, to assess, to archive, and to reformulate Böhm’s practice by making use of her methods of production, working one-to-one, collaboratively and in public.
This event took place in the last week of COMPOST, as an exhibition in-use, organised around principles of transparency in regards to the economic, social and material processes towards its realisation and de-materialisation.
Reciprocally COMPOST constitutes a shared process of redefining institution-building for The Showroom; taking this approach to artistic production, exhibition-making and new models of sustainability as a method of enquiry. If under the one-to-one circumstances offered by COMPOST everyone becomes a co-producer through usership, what kind of collaborators and stakeholders do these processes generate? And if usership is piling-up, reviewing, archiving, socialising, reading or simply being in the space, how does this determine, augment or change the nature of the exhibition-in-use and the work itself over time?
The Centre for Plausible Economies
Economy is a strange beast. Everybody is exposed to economic forces, but nobody seems to be in control. Responding to this frustration with upbeat pragmatism, The Centre for Plausible Economies brings together artistic action and critical thinking to reclaim the economy as a cultural everyday realm. The centre is as a new platform for mapping and reimagining economic systems, in the arts and beyond. It was set up by Kathrin Böhm and Kuba Szreder and opened in June 2018 at its home at Company Drinks in Barking, London.
Initiatives and publications include idt (The Interdependence), a multi-local identifier for community economy led organisations; Icebergian Economies of Contemporary Art published by Pyrammmida; and the in-progress collaborative work of The Penfold Principles - towards interdependent Art Worlds.
Kathrin Böhm is a London based artist and is currently collaborating with The Showroom on COMPOST; an evaluation and resetting of her practice to date, in public. She is currently working on the long-term Rural School of Economics together with Myvillages.
Kuba Szreder is a researcher, lecturer and independent curator, based in Warsaw. He has co-curated many interdisciplinary projects, hybridising art with critical reflection and social experiments, such as the exhibition Making Use. Life in Postartistic Times (together with Sebastian Cichocki, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, 2016). He actively cooperates with artistic unions, consortia of post-artistic practitioners, clusters of art-researchers, art collectives and artistic institutions in Poland, the UK, and other European countries.
centre for plausible economies
The White Pube
The White Pube is the collaborative identity of Gabrielle de la Puente and Zarina Muhammad under which they publish reviews and essays about art, video games and food. You can find them at thewhitepube.com or on twitter and instagram at @thewhitepube.
art.coop is a report, a website, and a community of cultural innovators - arts educators, cultural organisers and creators, arts academics, economists, and grantmakers - who are building the cultural economy we want. The cultural sector is actively seeking alternatives to business-as-usual to create economic and racial justice in the sector and beyond. Everyone can play a role in the transformation of the sector by following the lead of Black, Indigenous, People of Color, disabled, queer, trans, and working class creatives who are innovating models for self-determination and community wealth. Join them here: art.coop and connect with them on Instagram here
Caroline Woolard is the Director of Research and Programs at Open Collective Foundation, an Assistant Professor at Pratt, and co-organizer of http://art.coop with Nati Linares and Marina Lopez. Since the financial crisis of 2007-8, Woolard has catalysed barter communities, minted local currencies, founded an arts-policy think tank, and created sculptural interventions in office spaces. Woolard is the co-author of three books: Making and Being (Pioneer Works, 2019), a book for educators about interdisciplinary collaboration, co-authored with Susan Jahoda; Art, Engagement, Economy (onomatopee, 2020) a book about managing socially-engaged and public art projects; and TRADE SCHOOL: 2009-2019, a book about peer learning that Woolard catalysed in thirty cities internationally over a decade. Woolard’s work has been featured twice on New York Close Up (2014, 2016), a digital film series produced by Art21 and broadcast on PBS. carolinewoolard.com
ruangrupa was founded in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2000 by a group of artists. The founders felt that there was a great necessity for ‘space’ (physically and mentally) in Jakarta, where artists could work intensively and could direct their attention more to means of analysis and less to means of production; a space that conveyed the ideas of visual art – to analyse, mediate, and furnish – including public art, performance and video art. The founders felt that this was the only way in which visual art could possess a critical sensibility, which they define as the most important position of art in society.
As a non-profit organisation, ruangrupa consistently advances artistic ideas, both in an urban context and within culture at large through exhibitions, festivals, art laboratories, workshops and research; and by publishing books, magazines and online journals.
In 2019 ruangrupa were appointed curators of documenta fifteen. The concept ruangrupa has proposed for this edition of documenta is ‘Lumbung’. A lumbung – or rice barn – is a place to store communally-produced rice as a common resource for future use; to heal today’s injuries, especially those rooted in colonialism, capitalism and patriarchal structures.
Over the course of almost two decades, ruangrupa has changed its programmes and restructured its organisation several times. From the beginning, the organisation was intentionally designed flexibly so that everyone could continue to work individually. ruangrupa is used to working with a myriad of individuals of different backgrounds, where every individual is the key to "a treasure trove of historical and cultural fact". This is also evident from the house that became ruangrupa’s space during its early days in Jakarta. Located in the south of the city, ruangrupa is more like a clubhouse: always open, always peopled – a studio, a library, a research lab and a party venue, all in one. ruangrupa.id
Image above: Reza Afisina and Farid Rakun from ruangrupa in conversation over Zoom during Art on a Scale of Change at The Showroom and online, during Compost: For Future Use at The Showroom, June 2021
Compost was supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
Compost also involved a new partnership with Art360 Foundation enabling a process of live archiving and an online event.