29 03 11 Art/Value Meeting Mins

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DATE Tuesday, March 29, 2011
LOCATION Royal Festival Hall, 5:30 - 9:00

THOSE PRESENT: Marsha, Cinzia, Raquel, Kuba, Karem, Neil, Metod, Sharon, Scott, Deane, Phil
Minutes: Marsha

Item 1: To brainstorm proposal for Berlin Biennial 2012

We convene outside on the deck of RFH:

  • Cinzia, Raquel, Karem, Kuba and Marsha meet at 5:30 and Marsha begins by reading a few reflections added to the Art/Value questions earlier today. There is a lot of interest in running the biennial differently--more transparently. Marsha is especially interested in how this might impact CP. Inspired by the Precarity: A People's Tribunal - ICA, May 20, 2011, we also wonder about creating solidarity with other groups in the biennial, including technicians and cleaners. Marsha notes that Jeff Wall makes photos--representations--of cleaning/cleaners. The question is: "How do we put this work to work?"
  • Kuba suggests we demand an open budget; Cinzia is concerned this could be little more than an exercise in publishing--a self-referential gesture. Karem speaks about the impact of transparency in Egypt--how it resulted in a pay cut for a reporter from something like £9 million a year to £1.9.
  • Other people join the discussion - Neil, Sharon, Phil, Metod, Scott and Deane
  • Kuba makes the point: There’s an economy of how labour is paid. But perhaps more interesting is how public money is being spent--and if/how the value it generates is returned to the public realm.
  • We continue speaking about the "Berlin Biennial" and discussion drifts from "the biennial" to "Berlin". Scott proposes some concrete interventions into the city to make it more bike friendly. Karem interjects, Berlin is already a very bike friendly city.
  • Karem confirms that it is already the case.
  • Kuba observes there's a two-fold problem with Berlin: It's overly politicized and (hyper) discursively produced.
  • Scott says that's the case everywhere.
  • Cinzia wonders how we got from value to revolution?
  • Marsha notes Tomas Hirschhorn's point about the difference between "doing political art and doing art politically". It's the latter we're after, in her view...
  • Although disorganized, the discussion was useful. It helps us to better understand our respective interests and concerns, which seem to be organized around three themes: self-organization, gentrification, and precarity.
  • At this point, we decide to select a chair and a minute taker and to create an agenda: We'll review the invitation, and then spend some time speaking about the "effects" of art. After this, we'll break into small groups and formulate concrete proposals for the biennial. We'll then bring these back to the large group for consideration and select something by the end of the meeting.
  • Neil notes The invitation is not just asking for an artwork, but an artwork that does something.
  • Scott cites an example from The Future is Social residency: A live feed of chickens from a US farm...An interface between different worlds

We agree to move inside because it's cold by the Thames. We relocate at the back of the Hall, and make a quick run for drinks and snacks.

  • Cinzia insists we need to be more concrete about the effects and Neil suggests there's something about an effect effecting something or someone. This means we have ask political questions around who this "who" is; what this "what" is.
  • Marsha suggests we might think crudely about whether or not we want to engage systems, constituencies or both. There's a quick round of voting and general interest in constituencies as part of systems is expressed...
  • Scott is interested in working in healthcare or education--doing something with people that might really make a difference to their lives.
  • Kuba reminds us that for Benjamin in "The Author as Producer," it's about engaging with the means of production from from the inside out.
  • Marsha recalls that AZ defines effects in terms of "power". In Applied Social Arts, he writes: "Having an effect implies some kind of power, and having power is what art is most afraid of. The problem being that it already has power. Art has the power to name and define, to intervene in the workings of culture, exert pressure on elements of the social structure by turning them into artefacts (art works). And every artefact is after all an apparatus for actively modelling fragments of reality. If politics is the power to name things, art has that power – perhaps even in spite of itself. Even a love story is an agent of cultural power because it can induce or channel emotional needs."
  • Kuba observes there are various effects in play:
  • AZ's "power"
  • the existential idea - art changes something in our lives
  • evaluation - operative in relation (this connects to the "value horizon" as something that always takes shape through co-authorship)
  • mapping values - process and not a result
  • therapeutic value...
  • Neil notes The Paradox of Value
  • Marsha is struck that we're supposed to be talking about "effects" and yet we keep coming back to "value"...What does this signal?
  • Deane wonders: What's the relation between value and effects? Effects need to be thought of as short and long term. Can we think about ripple effects. Something that has effects within an evaluative horizon.
  • Cinzia asks: What an effect has = for whom?! Critical Practice - the evaluative horizon = who owns culture? CP was originally about producing and promoting open source culture.
  • Scott recalls The Knot as a missed opportunity to engage the local Turkish community. The bouncy mattress was great but...
  • Metod or Cinzia make the point: We need to be careful with language - as that will certainly determine "for whom"?
  • Kuba observes issues around The Knot and Parade - not about producing a superficial public but instead one that was more focused, shared a common interest.
  • Metod notes that this is also an issue with Madrid - What public will we address?
  • Kuba's point: What can you change on the level of the singular art project...We are all implicated in this--is what we're doing feeding this machinery?!
  • Diane comes back to the point: With whom or with what or both? Constituency - Her practice is concerned with using mirrors to disrupt routines, letting people see themselves reflected in other processes. It's not aspirational because that's patronizing. It might just break a cycle that you're stuck in. Raising an awareness - means that people can make a decision for themselves. If you can interrupt a routine, then in that awareness something else can happen.
  • Could be a constituency that's temporarily engaged in a system .
  • Metod: System first - because if you're focused on a constituency, then you're patronizing.
  • Kuba: Perhaps we should pay instead of paying to attend the biennial. Political prototypes...
  • Scott: Proposes "plus" - press the button - and there's a menu of service providers
  • Cinzia observes there's something to be said for kindness and generosity in itself.
  • Kuba mentions Brecht's The Good Person of Szechwan - and Marsha echoes there's no such thing as altruism
  • Sharon feels strongly that it's about "changing someone's day" - Offering an alternative experience/mini intervention. We can't change the world, but we can change the experience of one person in one moment in time.
  • Marsha suggests there are different characteristics of "the effect" and we begin mapping them via binaries:
  • long-term vs short-term effects
  • deep vs surface effects
  • people vs system
  • charitable deeds and political policies...
  • Cinzia observes some effects exclude others - we want to think about both individuals vs groups...
  • Kuba: As much as he's sympathetic to this idea of charitable acts, it sounds very much like The Big Society and Sharon agrees - we know it's complicated...

We break into groups and discuss concrete proposals for 45 mins.

  • Group 1: Karem, Phil, Scott and Sharon - working within the biennial to highlight tensions rather than going against it. Waitrose - limited edition tokens - system of exchange - CP currency - you can donate the artwork to the CP bank and it has a social effect - valuing unseen work
  • Group 2: Marsha, Neil Raquel - To repurpose the market of ideas - perhaps address it to the theme of "organization" - we spoke during the lead up to Parade about renting out stalls in the market to explore issues of value in the market - what's the effect and who is it on? Perhaps there are multiple effects? Perhaps it's about avoiding the temptation of projecting "missing others"...i.e. cleaners who are marginalized by the biennial and/or prisoners, who cannot attend the event due to being incarcerated. Perhaps it's about creating a live feed that brings the biennial out of the biennial.

Scott wonders: how long would it be happening for? A week? A day?

  • Neil suggests a weekly market.
  • Kuba suggests the market should focus on "value" instead of "organization".
  • Cinzia observes this market seems to have grown out of our first two: What's cultural about economics? (Festival of Europe) Second market = being in public. (PARADE)
  • Group 3: Cinzia, Metod and Kuba - One of the values of Critical Practice = That we don't have to agree - creating a platform = the suggestion relates to the agora - at regular intervals, there's a plot of money that gets made available and the people have to decide what to do with this money = and the money has to be distributed through different processes each time - so it's about testing different systems of democracy by way of putting this pot of money at the centre - and also different types of constituencies - and we could think of different models - first past the post, rough consensus...And some of this could operate outside financial redistribution at the biennial. Because we all hold different interests, we might want to facilitate this a different stages/aspects = could reach out into different spheres, education, sociology...research from different perspectives - we're interested in different systems of decision making. Perhaps one of the judgements could be how long it lasts. This is the idea of the system producing the constituency--or not...consider, question and explore. Redistribution of the public money for public good/exchange.
  • Raquel: speaks about micro-financing in Africa - and Cinzia suggests that we consider other "matching" schemes. Kuba also reminds us that The People Speak have a similar game called...?
  • We then return to details of our proposal:
  • Scott suggests a possible structure for the tokens game: One person is at the stall and the other person is operating elsewhere.
  • Marsha takes the temperature of the meeting and suggests the following: Following Kuba's suggestion that instead of "organization," the market could focus on "value" and following our general agreement that this could provide a platform for doing the other two projects, we're all super excited about a Market of Values.
  • Cinzia feels that it's important for the market to function that people distribute tasks - We should decide what they really want to contribute - so taking responsible for someone or something you really want to do. We should be clear about ideal conditions in our proposal.
  • Marsha suggests that even if this project doesn't take place in the Biennial, we should still do it--it could be our next Parade!
  • Neil observers he's still recovering from the last proejct.
  • Though it was proposed earlier that the market might take place every week, this doesn't seem practical. The Issues around continuity and variability.

The Market of Values - Proposal:

  • Neil reminds us that we have a lot stuff already written and that we should draw from this.
  • Structure: We want to make reference to AZ's discussion around effects, propose how we're responding. We are thinking about specific examples, including the agora.
  • We agree it should be 1000 words long.
  • Sunday 5:00 pm deadline for contributions - it will then be cut down and synthesized
  • Marsha encourages everyone to contribute, as this demonstrates commitment to the project
  • Marsha explains that she's been contacted by Terry Smith from the Experimental Art School regarding doing an overnight project at Modern Art Oxford - August 13/14, 2011. We decide we're enthusiastic; Marsha agrees to write back to Terry expressing our interest.
  • Metod announces another HUNT rehearsal on April 12, 2011 - details to follow.


  • Contribute to the The Market of Values - Proposal
  • Marsha to contact Terry Smith regarding CP's interest in the EAS
  • Metod to contact everyone regarding the next HUNT
  • The next time we meet in RFH, we should remember to bring our own snacks and drinks.

The meeting fractures - but we're all super excited - We're slightly dazed and amazed that what started out as a very amorphous discussion has produced such an actionable outcome.

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