THE FUTURE OF CULTURE IS COMMON

© Dan Perjovschi

A Conference on Commoning Cultural Activism, Aesthetics, Organization and Policy

1, 2 & 3 June 2022
Lange Sint-Annastraat 7, 2000
Antwerp

The future of culture will be common, or there will be no culture at all.

Culture is always the result of creating, sharing and teaching, remixing, reappropriating, interpretating and critiquing. Even the most ‘autonomous’ artists use forms or languages that were passed over to them. One might also say: culture is a ‘common’, that is, a source of value that is produced and governed by everyone, and that therefore can never be the exclusive property or product of anyone.

In practice, however, the functioning of culture is often regulated either by the market (via cultural and creative industries), or by the state (via government policies, subsidies). By consequence, it is seen and treated as either a private or a public good, which often means that it either needs to be profitable, or that it needs to fulfill some kind of function in the service of the government (e.g. participation).

What would happen if we start considering culture as a common, and what would it entail to treat culture, and cultural production, in this light? What kinds of conditions would need to be in place for culture to thrive as a common?

In this 3-day conference, we want to investigate the many ways in which commons shape culture, and, vice-versa, how culture shape the commons. The conference is structured on the basis of four thematic clusters: ACTIVISM, POLICY, COMMONS ORGANIZATION and AESTHETICS. In keynote lectures, debates, and workshops we will address the following questions:

  • How can artists and other cultural professionals organize themselves more independently from governments and markets? Can the framework of the commons help to fight the precarious conditions of the contemporary cultural sector? Does “commoning” entail a different relation of artists to audiences, and to one another?
  • What strategies do activists use to struggle for a space between or beyond market and state, and how do they use art and culture to appropriate ground, making it common again?
  • How could a governmental policy relate to cultural commoners, and how do topdown and grassroots initiatives be aligned?
  • And finally, do cultural commoning practices have different artistic and aesthetic demands and expressions than cultural production from the official (subsidized) institutions or commercialized art?

Combining lectures with debates, workshops and artistic presentations, the conference is aimed at scholars as well as policymakers, activists, artists, cultural professionals and students who want to work with and in (culture) commons.


PROGRAMME

June 1st – Day 1

14.00-14.10

Registration and Welcome

14.10-15.30

Roundtable with the researchers of the project Sustainable Creativity in the Post-Fordist City.  Moderated by Pascal Gielen, the CCQO researchers will introduce, present and debate their main findings and current new directions. During the panel, Karina Beumer will carry on a live drawing performance on the inputs and outcomes of the discussions.

–    Culture Commons Quest Officers involved: Giuliana Ciancio, Hanka Otte, Lara Garcia Diaz, Louis Volont, Maria Francesca De Tullio, Thijs Lijster, Walter van Andel

15.30-16.00

Break

16.00-17.30

Launch of The Rise of the Common City: Cultural Commoning in Urban Environments, a book about the artistic dimension of urban activism (Brussels: Academic & Scientific Publishers, 2022) – Culture Commons Quest Officers and contributors Iolanda Bianchi and Stavros Stavrides.

17.30

Reception

June 2nd – Day 2

8.30-9:00

Registration and Coffee

9.00-9.15

Welcome and Introduction to the FWO Odysseus project – by Pascal Gielen

9.15-9.30

Introduction to the program and speakers – moderated by Annelys DeVet, CCQO member, researcher and designer

9.30-10.15

Activism Keynote Commoning Urban Cultural Politics and Space – with guest lecturer Friederike Landau-Donnelly, Radboud University

10.15-10.45

Questions and discussion

10.45-11.15

Coffee Break

11.15-12.00

Policy Keynote Common-Based Cultural Policy: leaning on three forms of democracy – with guest lecturer Pascal Gielen, CCQO Director

12.00-12.30

Questions and discussion

12.30-13.15

Debate session with Activism and Policy guest speakers moderated by Annelys De Vet

13.15-14.00

Lunch

14.00-15.30

First parallel workshops session

–    Activism: Activism & Academia: friends or opposites? – with Roberto Sciarelli (Universidade de Coimbra, Scugnizzo Liberato); Ana Sofía Acosta Alvarado (Université Paris 13, L’Asilo); Verena Lenna (Permanent, Community Land Trust Brussels, Commons Josaphat); Bas van Heur (Permanent, VUB)

–    Policy: For a commons-based cultural policy: Lessons Learned – with contributions from De Grond der Dingen (Willy Thomas and Sigrid Bosmans), Dancing Museums (Roberto Casarotto) and Fondazione Fitzcarraldo (Luisella Carnelli)

–    FRINGE Space in collaboration with Valiz

    • 14.15-14.45 CAPS LOCK: How capitalism took hold of graphic design, and how to escape from it. The author Ruben Pater in conversation with Open Souce Publishing (OPS).

15.30-16.00   

Coffee Break

  • 15.30-18.00 Antwerp as commons: a bike tour with CommonsLabMore info down below.

    Make a reservation: Info@commonslab.be

16.00-17.30

Second workshop session

–    Policy: Let’s shift roles! – a workshop with Stefan Kaegi, Rimini Protokoll

17.30-19.30   

Reception

June 3rd – Day 3

8.30-9:00

Registration and Coffee

9.00-9.15

Welcome and Introduction to the FWO Odysseus project – by Pascal Gielen

9.15-9.30

Introduction to the program and speakers – Moderated by Gerlinde Van Puymbroeck, VUB Brussels

9.30-10.15

Commons Organization Keynote Cultures of commoning and care in times of impasse – with guest lecturer Manuela Zechner, University of Jena 

10.15-10.45

Questions and discussion

10.45-11.15

Coffee Break

11.15-12.00

Aesthetics Keynote The Ethics of a Planetary Commons: What does an anti-capitalist commons look like?– with guest lecturer Oli Mould, Royal Holloway, University of London

12.00-12.30

Questions and discussion

12.30-13.15

Debate session with Organization and Aesthetics guest speakers moderated by Gerlinde Van Puymbroeck

13.15-14.00

Lunch

14.00-15.30

First parallel workshops session

–    Commons Organization: Circlusion (part I) – with Larre, feminist art collective and activists

–    FRINGE Space in collaboration with Valiz

15.30-16.00   

Coffee Break

16.00-17.30

Second parallel workshops session

–    Commons Organization: Circlusion (part II) – with Larre

–    Aesthetics: Ciné Assembly – with The Post Film Collective, creatives and activists

–    FRINGE Space in collaboration with Valiz

    • 16.15-16.45 Fragility: To Touch and Be Touched. Book presentation with Pascal Gielen

17.30-19.30   

Reception


KEYNOTES

Activism

Commoning Urban Cultural Politics and Space

Keynote speaker: Friederike Landau-Donnelly

This exploratory keynote will discuss different modalities of commoning in urban cultural-political contexts in Berlin, Germany and Vancouver, Canada, situated on the unceded territories of unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. By straddling these two empirical contexts in which artists act as political agents who meddle in complicated urban cultural politics of public funding for the arts, belonging and diversity, Landau-Donnelly will unpack political claims-making practices, creative place-making tactics and engagements in multi-stakeholder cultural governance arrangements. The local artist-led associations or groups differently appeal to the creative collectivities they aim to represent, finding their representation in tension – who is being represented, by whom? Who is invited into public spaces to culturally express themselves, who is protected to stay there, who is shut out? By situating these real-life negotiations on cultivating art as a common good, Landau-Donnelly will aim to nuance commoning as a verb (rather than the noun commons) as an inherently conflictual practice. With a conflict-oriented lens to study artists’ activisms, Landau-Donnelly will foreground commoning as both a conceptual and everyday political tool that cautions us to (re)think the manifold inclusions and exclusions in urban cultural politics and policy-making.

ComMon
Come on, for yourself
commoning for yourselves
shelf lives of commonplaces
commoning for whose sake
commoning whose stakes
commoning ≥ ≠ ≤  collectivization
it’s a buttery space to share
knives going in

Policy

Common-Based Cultural Policy: leaning on three forms of democracy

Keynote speaker: Pascal Gielen

The commons do not lean on a system of representative democracy but make use of two other forms of decision making: deliberative and agonistic democracy. The cultural sector, including social-artistic projects, contributes to such democracies as artists show people other possibilities to create new (visual) languages for expressing their feelings.  However, cultural policy in western countries appears to be completely embedded in the logic or principles of representative democracy. Hence, to support the commons, we should be able to relate these to other kinds of democracies; we should open up to them, creating a space for them to resonate with each other. Building on three case studies conducted for the FWO Odysseus project, Pascal Gielen will illustrate what strategies are needed to co-create between these kinds of democracies and how art can contribute to such co-creation. He will draw the first lines of a new division of roles between the actors involved, which he argues is a condition for a common-based cultural policy.

Commons organization

Cultures of commoning and care in times of impasse

Keynote speaker: Manuela Zechner

How can we transform our organizations and ways of organizing towards care and commons? What’s the link between care and commons? This input will bring together perspectives on transformation across self-organisational and institutional dimensions, learning from feminist and commons movements as well as new municipalisms in Spain particularly. Drawing on the book “Commoning Care & Collective Power”, it explores relations between autonomy and interdependence, between movements and institutions, and between commons and public systems. Refiguring organization as a matter of caring commons implies micropolitical and cultural efforts, challenging individualist, patriarchal and colonial ideas of authors, artists, citizens, politicians, families, nations, natures. Commoning care is a radical proposal within a world marked by the intensifying crisis of the capitalist system, narrrated here as an impasse of care. 

Aesthetics

The Ethics of a Planetary Commons: What does an anti-capitalist commons look like?

Keynote speaker: Oli Mould

What does the common look like? How does it feel, sound and smell? It might be impossible to answer these questions in such a general, broad manner, but it is still worthwhile to ask whether they belong to a particular aesthetic of the commons. If – as has been discussed extensively from Adorno onwards – the commodity forms and the process of commodification have affected what culture has come to look like, as well as the kinds of culture that we consume and the way we experience it, how would the opposing move of “commoning” art and culture affect its aesthetics and our mode of experience? In our culture, which is commodified through and through, the common is actually not “common sense” anymore – i.e., what and how people generally perceive and experience. Therefore, in what ways can art and culture contribute to a new common sense, in the dual meaning of a thoroughly common experience of the sensible, as well as sensuous experience of the commons?


WORKSHOPS

Activism

Activism & Academia: friends or opposites? (40 participants)

The workshop “Activism & Academia: friends or opposites?” focuses on the complex relationship between commons-based urban activism and scholarly research. The workshop’s central question is: how may academic research be used as a form of activism itself? The workshop will question the idea of a clear-cut separation between “experts” and “non-experts” in commoning and urban matters, as well as the idea of “neutrality” of scientific knowledge. Namely, speakers and participants will discuss: how can activism benefit from academic knowledge? How can academic knowledge be put at stake and in dialogue with activist knowledge? How can the former recognize the latter? These questions will be investigated by bringing into dialogue 1) urban activists who collaborate with academic researchers in order to reach their goals and 2) academic researchers who navigate within the grey zone between academia and activism. The panel will be led by a moderator who will involve the speakers and the audience in the debate.

Guests: Roberto Sciarelli (Universidade de Coimbra, Scugnizzo Liberato); Verena Lenna (Permanent, Community Land Trust Brussels, Commons Josaphat); Bas van Heur (Permanent, VUB); Ana Sofía Acosta Alvarado (Université Paris 13, L’Asilo)

Policy

Shifting roles for a commons-based cultural policy – Lessons learned (50 participants)

In this workshop, two cases that the researchers Giuliana Ciancio and Hanka Otte have explored will be presented by their initiators and organizers: The Ground of Things in Mechelen, Belgium and Dancing Museums in Bassano del Grappa, Italy. Both cases represent fresh, creative ideas about sharing and self-governing public space and look at the cultural realm as the arena of encounter, conflict, and activism. Despite not defining themselves as culture commons, they both had the objective to explore a possible artistic civil space and therefore fit the premises observed for understanding culture commons: horizontal decision making, public spaces managed and designed together with citizens, museums as spaces for interaction between different communities and the art practice as the terrain of social construction. In both cases, there was direct co-operation between governmental parties, artistic practices, cultural organizations and citizens.

Each experience will be discussed in three-quarters of an hour, focusing on both possibilities and difficulties encountered in their experimentations in the context of a pluralistic democracy: The Ground of Things on the local level, Dancing Museums on the level of EU. We question (as they do themselves) the longevity of their cultural efforts inspired by a pluralistic democratic conception. According to their empirical journeys, Ciancio and Otte think those efforts have to do with the possibility and willingness of all stakeholders, to reposition their roles. That applies to the government, the cultural organizations, the artists and the citizens involved.

Our guest speakers will share with us how both the new possibilities and difficulties encountered, in their view, related to the roles of the stakeholders and how this either constructed or destructed the artistic space as a civil space they both were aiming at.

Guests: Willy Thomas and Sigrid Bosmans (De Grond der Dingen), Roberto Casarotto (Dancing Museums) and Luisella Carnelli (Fondazione Fitzcarraldo)

Let’s shift roles! (50 participants)

Under the inspiring guidance of none other than Stefan Kaegi of Rimini Protokoll, we will envision together and experience the roles each stakeholder should or could take in a co-imaginative political dimension (as Giuliana Ciancio calls it) or in a co-creative (as Hanka Otte calls it) common based cultural process.

In this one and a half-hour role play, up to fifty conference participants including artists, researchers, politicians, cultural activists, local and EU policy officers, representatives of EU networks, students and cultural professionals will participate. The workshop will be observed by students, and at the end, every participant will be asked to fill in a questionnaire. The aim will be to gain a profound insight into the process of shifting roles and points of view. Co-imagining shared goals for the shaping of the fundaments for a commons-based cultural policy.

Guest: Stefan Kaegi (Rimini Protokoll)

Commons organization

Circlusion by Larre (20 participants)

“Care” is a concept widely used in the cultural milieu in relation to the need for devising more sustainable structures that could pay attention to the (precarious) conditions in which cultural workers operate. However, care has historically built upon complex power relations structures easily replicated depending on how care is inserted into cultural institutions or artistic practices. Thus, if care is being used today as a value to guide political and structural changes in our everyday lives, cultural practices and organizations, a space is needed from which to point out the complexities, the difficulties and the fuss that care in itself entails. Do we want cultural institutions and artistic practices to operate from the standpoint of care? What exactly does this mean? Which kind of mechanisms, tools, infrastructures or governing models allow that?

The workshop unfolds in two deeply interconnected sessions that will invite guests to reflect, discuss and co-create tools and mechanisms to implement care as an organizing principle within their own context, community, collectives, practices and/or cultural organizations.

Guests: LARRE (Collective: Angela Palacios, Lara García Díaz)

Aesthetics

Ciné Assembly (50 participants)

In Ciné Assembly, The Post Film Collective practices cinema as a form of polyphony, place-making and communal assembly, which entails collective knowledge-production, reciprocal exchange and ethics of connectedness. Ciné Assembly is a workshop format where The Post Film Collective takes the materials, reflections and process of their first film project “On Recreation” (working title) to co-elaborate with the workshop participants. The film project explores a polyphonic cinema practice while taking its cue from the poem “Recreation” by Audre Lorde. In her poem, Lorde explores a double binding of interrelating activities – “it is easier to work / after our bodies / meet” – that led to “recreation”, with its connotations of play, reciprocity, care, repetition, and regeneration. Through Ciné Assembly, the film process is available for the continuous re-composition of both conditions and artistic forms. The gathering of various languages, expressions, and rhythms prevents the film production from nesting neatly, preserving relational geographies of connected struggles, imaginaries, and resources. The Post Film Collective elaborates on the work and experiences of The Post Collective into the realm of cinema upon an invitation by filmmaker Robin Vanbesien. Since 2018, The Post Collective is an autonomous platform of co-creation, co-learning and cultural activism created by and for refugees, asylum seekers, sans-papiers and accomplices. It introduces a range of artistic, cultural and employment opportunities and provides a commoning environment for its members regardless of their legal status. The collective aims to develop creative alternatives beyond the dominant systems of control and exclusion it is facing. This means facilitating the position where one does not struggle to be assimilated but instead rethink and re-conceptualize critically a future together as a community.

© Michiel Devijver

Guests: The Post Film CollectiveMahammed Alimu, Marcus Bergner, Hooman Jalidi, Sawsan Maher, Mirra Markhaeva, Robin Vanbesien and Elli Vassalou.

 


FRINGE SPACE

June 2nd 15.30-18.00 – in collaboration with CommonsLab

Antwerp as commons: a bike tour with CommonsLab (15 participants)

See Antwerp through the eyes of urban commoners and activists. We will cycle through the city together for 2.5 hours. You will see places that we as urban commoners are very proud of, but you will also see the places that really make our cheeks red. Less attention will be paid to the typical tourist highlights, the focus will be on urban commons, commons transition, commons culture, Antwerp as a ‘historic predator’ of commons cultures worldwide. The prepared route is safe, but urban cycling experience is definitely an advantage. The tour is intended for activists, researchers, policymakers, cityplanners looking for inspiration. After the tour we cycle/walk back to the conference venue.

Make a reservation: Info@commonslab.be

June 2nd 14.15-14.45 – in collaboration with Valiz

CAPS LOCKHow capitalism took hold of graphic design, and how to escape from it. 

The author Ruben Pater in conversation with Open Souce Publishing (OPS).

Capitalism could not exist without the coins, notes, documents, graphics, interfaces, branding and advertisements; artefacts that have been (partly) created by graphic designers. Even anti-consumerist strategies such as social design and speculative design are being appropriated within capitalist societies to serve economic growth. It seems that design is locked in a system of exploitation and profit, a cycle that fosters inequality and the depletion of natural resources.

CAPS LOCK uses clear language and striking visual examples to show how graphic design and capitalism are inextricably linked. The book contains many case studies of designed objects related to capitalist societies and cultures, and also examines how the education and professional practice of (graphic) designers supports the market economy and how design practice is caught within that very system.

  • Ruben Pater was educated as a graphic designer, worked in several design studios, also independently, and as an educator (e.g. MA Royal Academy of Art, The Hague). With Untold Stories Pater makes critical work on the edge of graphic design, journalism and activism.
  • Open Source Publishing questions the influence and affordance of digital tools through its practice of (commissioned) graphic design, pedagogy and applied research. They prefer to use exclusively free and open source softwares. Currently the group is composed of people with backgrounds in graphic design, typography and development. They find excitement in the cross-over between its members respective fields and competences. Legally OSP is structured as a bilingual Belgian non-profit organization and aims to question and find alternatives to the standard graphic design studio model.

June 3rd 14.15-14.45 – in collaboration with Valiz

operatie wooncoöperatieOut of the housing crisis through shared ownership. 

Talk by Arie Lenkeek.

Affordable housing has become virtually impossible in the Netherlands. Inequality is increasing in all kinds of areas: between generations and between those who are wealthy and those who are not, and the real day-to-day economy and the housing bubble are also out of step. The solutions to the lack of affordable housing proposed by the market and politics address the symptoms but do not provide structural innovation.

This book focuses on the community economy and positions the ‘housing cooperative’ as a third alternative between rent and purchase. Not the individual question ‘how do I want to live?’, but the joint design of the question ‘how do we want to live together?’ is leading in this. Housing is a fundamental right, not a commodity. Citizens can shape this together.

operation housing cooperative tells the history of our housing; why the cooperative disappeared from the picture and how the housing crisis came about. It documents ten special projects from Vienna, Zurich and Munich and explains how these types of projects can only arise through conscious choices on the part of local authorities. It works towards an optimistic, offensive, applicable and feasible proposal: out of the housing crisis through communal ownership.

June 3rd 16.15-16.45 – in collaboration with Valiz

FragilityTo Touch and Be Touched. 

Book presentation with Pascal Gielen

In a competitive existence we hide our weak spots. Evaluation madness and the constant urge to innovate and evaluate pushes people back further and further into a virtual shell. Anyway, we are all just messing about, Marlies De Munck says. She therefore pleads for openness and compassion. All this sheltering keeps you from touching and from being touched. Pascal Gielen warmly advocates an aesthetic skill: the ability to experience, through all our senses, a ramshackle and fragile reality and still see it as a coherent whole. Art, theatre, dance, and music can touch us deeply and unexpectedly, show us new connections, and change rigid opinions. That is the power of art and culture: to reconcile us with life, even amid its turbulence, incoherence and precarity.

MODERATORS AND CONTRIBUTORS

Pascal Gielen (CCQO Director, Professor)
Karina Beumer (artist)
Walter van Andel (CCQO researcher)
Louis Volont (CCQO researcher)
Maria Francesca De Tullio (CCQO researcher)
Annelys DeVet (CCQO researcher & designer)
Stavros Stavrides (NTUA researcher)
Giuliana Ciancio (CCQO researcher)
Thijs Lijster (CCQO researcher)
Hanka Otte (CCQO researcher)
Gerlinde Van Puymbroeck (VUB researcher)
Iolanda Bianchi (IGOP researcher)
Lara García Díaz (CCQO researcher)
Arne Herman (CCQO researcher)
Andrea Marsili (CCQO assistant, Conference coordinator)