positions https://autonomousfabric.org/ en Living Organisation – That Is, Self-Organisation https://autonomousfabric.org/text/living-organisation-that-is-self-organisation <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Living Organisation – That Is, Self-Organisation</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Rop</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Fri, 04/19/2019 - 00:17</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-text field--type-text-with-summary field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field__label visually-hidden">Text</div> <div class="field__item"><h2>#SelfOrganisation</h2> <p>As we redefine our <a href="/subject/perspective" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">perspective</a> on <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> and self-organisation, and distance ourselves from the notion of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> as the establishment of a small, free enclave, let us first consider this passage from On Complexity by the philosopher and sociologist Edgar Morin:</p> <blockquote><p><em>However, the machine, is, as a whole, much less reliable than each of its elements taken in isolation. In fact, it only takes a change in one of its constituent parts for the whole to be blocked, to break down, so that it can only be repaired by an external intervention (the mechanic). The living machine (self-organized), on the other hand, is entirely different. Its constituent parts are not very reliable. There are molecules that deteriorate very rapidly, and all organs are obviously made up of these molecules. Moreover, we see that in an organism, the molecules, as well as the cells, die and are renewed, to the point that the organism remains identical to itself even though all of its constituent parts have been renewed. There is, then, as opposed to the artificial machine, great reliability of the whole and weak reliability of the parts.</em></p> <p><em>This shows not only the difference between the nature and logic of self-organizing <a href="/subject/system" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">system</a>s and the others, but it also shows that there is a consubstantial link between disorganization and complex organization, because the phenomenon of disorganization (entropy) follows its course more rapidly in the living than in the artificial machine. In an inseparable way, there is the phenomenon of reorganization (negentropy). There lies the fundamental link between entropy and negentropy, in no way a Manichean opposition between two contrary entities. In other words, the link between life and death is much closer, much more profound, than we have been able to metaphysically imagine. […]</em></p> <p><em>It is a relative <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>, to be sure – and we need to remind ourselves of this constantly – but an organizational, organismic, and existential <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> nevertheless. Self-organization is in fact a meta-organization in relation to the orders of preexisting organization, and obviously, in relation to that of artificial machines. This strange relation, this coincidence between the meta and the self merits meditation</em>.<sup>1</sup></p> </blockquote> <p>Again, to avoid objectifying and fetishising disorganisation, here we should emphasise disorganisation as a consequence of living in a way that depends on the weak reliability of the constituent parts of a whole. I experienced this kind of disorganisation in my involvement with Arts Collaboratory, a network of some 20 art organisations, including Casco of which I was the director, all ‘purposing’ art toward their own respective social and political contexts, often with a baggage of colonial legacy. In the collective efforts of the members toward generating life – empasising ‘lifelines’ instead of deadlines, eco<a href="/subject/system" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">system</a>s instead of wired networks – there has been a constant cycle of reorganisation and disorganisation. I noticed this happening whenever this process got stuck, and I could see the team members starting to ‘fall out of love’, when they did not understand disorganisation as a process of generating life, but rather attempted to control the eco<a href="/subject/system" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">system</a> and turn it into a well-functioning machine. This panic then slows down the latent creativity of reorganisation. But what if we all could better embrace disorganisation?</p> <h2>#DeColonisation</h2> <p>While we need to be cautious not to objectify disorganisation, here I would say that we could unlearn to celebrate organisation. How often are our self-organising processes – the very nature of our life (and death) – oppressed by external interventions aiming to establish order within these processes?</p> <p> </p> <p><figure role="group" class="caption caption-img"> <img alt="Maid Mina goes shopping" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" height="280" src="https://www.autonomousfabric.org/sites/default/files/2019-04/lBjp3d.jpg" width="498" /> <figcaption>‘Maid Mina Goes Shopping: an Impression of Dutch Colonial Life’, from a compilation of film clips titled Van de kolonie niets dan goeds: Nederlands-Indië in Beeld 1912-1942, published by Tropenmuseum and Eye Film Museum, Amsterdam, 2003.</figcaption> </figure> </p> <p>The sequence of images above shows an everyday scene from colonial Indonesia (or, as it was then known, the Dutch East Indies) taken from a compilation of film clips titled Van de kolonie niets dan goeds: Nederlands-Indië in Beeld 1912-1942 (‘Nothing but Good News from the Colonies: Images from the Dutch East Indies, 1912-1942’). The scene shows a Dutch homeowner correcting her local domestic worker’s flower-arranging. Fortunately, the worker responds nonchalantly and then goes out for errand, which actually turns out be an occasion to spend time with a man with whom she is having an affair. The delayed errand irritates the landlady, who keeps looking at her watch.</p> <h2>#ReProduction</h2> <p>The word ‘<a href="/subject/reproduction" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">reproduction</a>’, when understood in terms of life (rather than of mechanical replication), may be seen as a condition or a support structure which makes life possible. This particular sense of the word ‘<a href="/subject/reproduction" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">reproduction</a>’ becomes clearer when we consider it from the <a href="/subject/perspective" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">perspective</a> of reproductive labour which has been gendered, racialised, undervalued and made invisible – including childcare, cleaning, cooking, doing errands, fixing and mending (the latter may also include for instance a cascade of email communications during unexpected conflicts or falling-outs). In their book Reproducing Autonomy: Work, Money, Crisis &amp; Contemporary Art, Kerstin Stakemeier and Marina Vishmidt argue for a reconstruction of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> based on an expanded understanding of <a href="/subject/reproduction" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">reproduction</a>: engaging with <a href="/subject/reproduction" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">reproduction</a> as a context for generating <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>. This may sound baffling to those who believe that what makes art ‘autonomous’ is its detachment from the usual <a href="/subject/mechanism" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">mechanism</a>s of production. How, then, can we even consider <a href="/subject/reproduction" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">reproduction</a>? Isn’t art all about a ‘just do it’ spirit – even so for those who believe in art’s critical function and its social engagement against the brutal nature of our world? In light of such considerations, Stakemeier and Vishmidt outline a reality which the ‘autonomous’ must necessarily deal with:</p> <p>The power of capital to subsume areas of social activity which are not directly value producing appears to have massively expanded in 'our' time and it has changed the conditions for art as an economic, as well as extra-economic, entity. This means that within the relations constituting the totality, there is a significant sense in which art has been displaced from the <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> – relative or absolute – that was imputed to it in the modern period, or in the period of modern art. Art now enters much more directly into circuits of valorisation, be it in luxury manufacturing, brand enhancement, the ‘experience economy’, tourism, or gentrification. Its importance as an asset class has grown tremendously since inflated asset values, and the speculation in them, first became a significant basis for economic growth in the 1980s. It has also become much more visible in the disciplinary domain, with aspects of ‘socially engaged practice’ commonly included in the agendas of neoliberal social management, often in areas ‘plagued’ by disinvestment and ‘diversity’. If these developments reflect additional and more direct roles for art as a commodity or as social palliative, there is a further shift in the exclusive relations between art and labour, as object-critical and post-studio practices emulate various social services, whereas waged labour is encouraged to view itself as ‘creative’ in the most simplified and exploitative terms.<sup>2</sup><br />  </p> <p>If we agree with the above observation, then we should also endorse the following statement by the authors, in their pursuit of a redefinition of the concept of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>:</p> <p>An <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> that is constructed out of the <a href="/subject/solidarity" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">solidarity</a> of art with its own terms of <a href="/subject/reproduction" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">reproduction</a> would not be a private <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> like the modernist one, finding its critical resources in its own special structure of production and affect, and saving them for a better age. The <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> at issue here would instead start out from its very integration to win for itself an <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> with a general, socialized horizon. This is not to forget that this <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> can only achieved with the destruction of the <a href="/subject/system" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">system</a> that denies <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> to everyone who lives in it; the point is only that, as a result of its specific position, art does have its own resources for the articulation of means and suspension of ends. Such resources are capable of actualizing dimensions of an as yet only glimpsed social <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>, which can neither be subsumed into a general ‘supercession and realisation’ (as in the Situationist International) nor treated as a form of inspirational social creativity based on self-evidently emancipatory premises. It remains distinct from that ‘useful art’ which accompanies and even, as in Tania Bruguera’s conception, instigates social movements, but which in the end remains thoroughly dependent on its institutional-material premises and can only jettison its artistic framing as an artistic gesture.<sup>3</sup><br />  </p> <p>The authors then propose further, and more concrete, artistic possibilities for such <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> in the realm of <a href="/subject/reproduction" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">reproduction</a> – for instance, addressing issues of unpaid domestic and/or reproductive labour, and blurring the distinction between art and labour, thus bringing about a condition of non-specialisation (so that labour could become art too, allowing one to consider the conditions of artistic labour – ‘who cleans your exhibition space?’ – and of life itself). The authors also elaborate on subverting the definition of care by characterising reproductive and artistic labour as ‘a potentially negative commons, a productively anti-social streak’.</p> <h2>#UnderCommons</h2> <p>How then should we understand the valorisation of the condition of being ‘anti-social’ – not in the sense of being apathetic or psychopathic, but rather as the position that resists the normativity imposed by the current social order – in other words, a kind of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>? This ‘anti-social’ or autonomous position in fact addresses the valorisation of reproductive labour, and is also related to the idea of the ‘undercommons’ proposed by Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, in much the same way as Vishmidt appeals for a ‘negative commons’ or a militant commons, in response to the rapidly growing field of commons-related discourse and practice. Moten and Harney too are wary of the possibility that the affirmative idea of the commons may be co-opted by the neoliberal capitalist economy in order to support the increasing equality it generates and the welfare <a href="/subject/system" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">system</a> it proposes to dismantle. Efforts to strenghten the ‘commons’ in the midst of such rampant privatisation and commodification could thus have a counterproductive effect, and actually serve to consolidate the capitalist economy. However, as Ugo Mattei wrote (and as Vishmidt would agree), we usually expect the commons to be disruptive of existing <a href="/subject/system" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">system</a>s, but not of that which can be co-owned and cooperatively managed. The concept of the ‘undercommons’ seems to be positioned somewhat differently. Rather than the subversive function of collective action, Moten and Harney pursue a parallel track allowing for what they refer to as ‘study’. This concept of study, borrowing from the struggle against slavery, describes a condition of being together in a resistance and struggle that takes place ‘underneath’ the institutional structure. For instance, this type of ‘study’ does not take place in the universities themselves, which Moten and Harney see as neo-liberal machines of professionalism, managerialism, bureaucracy and <a href="/subject/debt-economy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">debt economy</a>, but rather:</p> <p>They’re building something in there, something down there, a different kind of speculation, a speculation called ‘study,’ a debt speculation, a speculative mutuality. Mutual debt, unpayable debt, unbounded debt, unconsolidated debt, debt to each other in a study group, to others in a nurses’ room, to others in barbershops, to others in a squat, a dump, the woods, a bed, an embrace.<sup>4</sup></p> <p>At a tangent to the ‘negative commons’, they propose a ‘general antagonism’, which seems to propose an extreme form of critical collectivity, within an all-encompassing negation of the idea that existing <a href="/subject/institutions" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">institutions</a> may be capable of actual change.<br /> Politics propose to make us better, but we were good already in the mutual debt than can never be made good. We owe it to each other to falsify the institution, to make politics incorrect, to give the lie to our own determination.<sup>5</sup></p> <p>Moten and Harney refer to this condition as ‘fugitive planning’. However, to be a liar is no easy task, since we have been taught from birth that lying is bad. Still, rampant bureaucratisation and the breaking down of boundaries between work and private life teaches us to become proficient at lying to <a href="/subject/institutions" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">institutions</a>, and even to the self when it embodies these <a href="/subject/institutions" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">institutions</a>. The challenge is thus in maintaining this double track, working for (if not serving) an institution, while doing other things that we enjoy doing together, which are not seen and thus are not acknowledged by the institution. It may sometimes feel impossible to maintain this balance, which is why some will decide to withdraw from the world, while others will abandon the idea of change or of establishing a different social <a href="/subject/system" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">system</a>, but will still join in the survival game within the <a href="/subject/system" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">system</a> while seeking temporary refuge within little private spheres. Otherwise, how to continue living in this impossibility?</p> <h2>#UnLearning</h2> <p><figure role="group" class="caption caption-img"> <img alt="biking into the water" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="https://www.autonomousfabric.org/sites/default/files/2019-04/s5PqCR.jpg" /> <figcaption>biking into the water </figcaption> </figure> </p> <p><sup><em><span>Source: <a href="http://sitefor">http://sitefor</a><a href="/subject/unlearning" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">unlearning</a>.tumblr.com</span></em></sup><br /> ‘Impossibility’ was also a recurring theme during ongoing discussions and exercises focusing on <a href="/subject/unlearning" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">unlearning</a> institutional habits (in the context of an art organisation) which took place at Casco in <a href="/subject/collaboration" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">collaboration</a> with the artist Annette Krauss. Krauss drew our attention to the contemporary knowledge economy, which views knowledge as the accumulative matter of capital within a competitive market where lifelong learning is the given policy agenda. In response, she promotes the act of <a href="/subject/unlearning" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">unlearning</a> by introducing a series of situations or ‘sites’ which serve to <a href="/subject/facilitate" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">facilitate</a> a collective engagement of <a href="/subject/unlearning" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">unlearning</a>. Her first example of such a ‘site’ was related to the act of riding a bike. Since riding a bike is unquestionably considered to be useful knowledge, <a href="/subject/unlearning" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">unlearning</a> immediately provokes resistance. Why should we unlearn it? Furthermore, even if you try to unlearn, it turns out to be nearly impossible to do so, since we have come to embody this knowledge. When we ride a bike, we are no longer thinking about how to ride. However, engaging with this very character of impossibility, and with the initial resistance, is precisely what <a href="/subject/unlearning" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">unlearning</a> is all about. Amusingly, Krauss appropriated the famous image of Bas Jan Ader’s performance of riding his bike into an Amsterdam canal – Fall II (1970) – for her <a href="/subject/unlearning" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">unlearning</a> action Site of Unlearning (To Ride a Bike), while adapting it as an exercise for <a href="/subject/unlearning" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">unlearning</a> how to ride a bike.</p> <p>Additionally, Krauss and the ever-changing Casco team created a photographic image of themselves cleaning together, in this case appropriating the image of Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s act of cleaning in front of a museum – Manifesto for Maintenance Art (1969) – which claimed such maintenance work as an artwork. Cleaning together has now become a weekly habit within the organisation, after initially being one of several exercises for <a href="/subject/unlearning" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">unlearning</a> art-institutional habits which we have been engaged with under the title Site for Unlearning (Art Organisation). This exercise resulted from the team’s and Krauss’s analysis of institutional knowledge that needed to be unlearned at Casco, which turned out to be the psychosomatic experience of ‘busyness’, with the accompanying anxiety, frustration and eventually interpersonal conflicts, and which upon further analysis was shown to arise as a result of the logic of productivity. If an art institution is useful on the same level as a bike is useful, then its specific usefulness lies in presenting great art, every time, more and better. Yet it seems that such productivity comes at the cost of our body and spirit, and of our relationality, as was manifested in our previous cleaning habits. Only one or two of the team members were actually cleaning the office; the rest postponed or neglected such tasks because they were ‘too busy’. Casco has been relating – and at times working together – with mostly migrant domestic workers in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe since 2011, alongside its long-term project The Grand Domestic Revolution. The structure of perpetual inequality of gendered and racialised labour was however at work within Casco itself, thus replicating the very social <a href="/subject/system" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">system</a> which we criticised. The <a href="/subject/mechanism" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">mechanism</a> that perpetuates this structure is also what hinders what we call ‘deep understanding,’ which should be seen as distinct from knowledge. Deep understanding is a mode of relationality with our life, with what we do, and with others. One may well ask at this point: have you succeeded in <a href="/subject/unlearning" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">unlearning</a> this ‘busyness’ and the order of productivity?</p> <p><figure role="group" class="caption caption-img"> <img alt="Pouring water over the staircase" data-entity-type="" data-entity-uuid="" src="https://www.autonomousfabric.org/sites/default/files/2019-04/NAiiZD.png" /> <figcaption>Pouring water over the staircase</figcaption> </figure> </p> <p><sup><em><span>Source: <a href="http://sitefor">http://sitefor</a><a href="/subject/unlearning" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">unlearning</a>.tumblr.com</span></em></sup></p> <h2>#Joy</h2> <p>This order of productivity is embedded in the prevailing model of economic growth – a model which has led us to the situation, as expressed by Isabelle Stengers, in which we are confronted with a ‘coming barbarism’, the irreversible environmental disaster that comes in the figure of the earth as Gaia, destructive of humanity but not of herself. Currently, as Stengers explains, there is a ‘cold panic’ maintained by the current social order of accepting and perhaps broadcasting contradictory messages: on one hand, the necessity of a paradigm shift in face of the exploding environmental crisis, and on the other hand the necessity to continue or even accelerate trends of competence and competitiveness within the current economic model. Unlearning resists such a ‘cold panic’ – rather, it is a process of making the impossibile possible. This is not only a hardship, but also (or rather) a joy that comes with such ‘work’. Stengers distinguishes such joyful thinking from other existing forms of knowledge:</p> <p>Joy, Spinoza writes, is that which translates an increase in the power of acting, that is to say too, of thinking and imagining, and it has something to do with a knowledge, but with a knowledge that is not of a theoretical order, because it does not in the first place designate an object, but the very mode of existence of whoever becomes capable of it. Joy, one could say, is the signature of the event par excellence, the production or discovery of a new degree of freedom, conferring a supplementary dimension on life, thereby modifying the relations between dimensions that are already inhabited – the joy of the first step, even if it is uneasy. And joy also has an epidemic potential. That is what so many of the anonymous participants, like me, tasted in May 1968, before those who were to become our guardians, the spokespersons of abstract imperatives, dedicated themselves to have us forget the event. Joy is not transmitted from the knowledgeable to the ignorant, but in a mode that itself produces equality, the joy of thinking and imagining together, with others, thanks to others. Joy is what makes me bet on a future in which the response to Gaia would not be the sadness of degrowth but that which the conscientious objectors to economic growth have already invented, when they discover together the dimensions of life that have been anesthetized, massacred, and dishonored in the name of a progress that is reduced today to the imperative of economic growth. Perhaps, finally, joy is what can demoralize those who are responsible for us, bringing them to abandon their sadly heroic posture, and betray what has captured them.<sup>6</sup><br />  </p> <h2>#Some-How</h2> <p>The following sentences are speech fragments that I heard and wrote down during a five-day workshop in Berlin (January 31 to February 4, 2018) with a number of Arts Collaboratory members, where we attempted to implement a reorganisation in the midst of disorganisation, as part of the Arts Collaboratory self-organising process <a href="/subject/facilitate" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">facilitate</a>d by Maria Scordialos in partnership with Irene Vanikiotis. I hereby wish to thank all of the workshop members, especially Maria.</p> <p>Self-organisation is chaos until patterns appear.<br /> Until self-organisation becomes the capacity to operate, there needs to be a group of people to <a href="/subject/facilitate" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">facilitate</a>, not manage.<br /> We are moving from ‘what’ to ‘how’!<br /> Allowing multiple purposes while aligning them.<br /> Controlling the purposes, not controlling others.<br /> We are getting lost in endless discussions. How about going back and working alone?<br /> Now we need to ground ourselves.<br /> Unpacking Discomfort: it’s about hosting oneself, knowing one’s own hotspot.<br /> Self-organisation is like water with no container: sometimes it needs a topology.<br /> Self-organisation is brilliant when we can maintain continuity.<br /> Self-organisation is about interdependence.<br /> Looking at / evaluating what is not working generatively, by looking and listening through three lenses:<br /> which treasures / potentials are hidden in what seems like failure? What constitutes challenge, and where does it begin? Which tangible steps / practical ideas can we take moving forward?<br /> Rather than a paradigm of ‘plurality’, why not instead ‘spectrum’ (which is more inclusive)? Why not allow a space for all of us to have different <a href="/subject/perspective" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">perspective</a>s / entry points?<br /> Don’t try to problem-solve; don’t evaluate; focus on the roles of listener and speaker.<br /> Let’s cluster when you hear, instead of repeating.<br /> ‘The real leader is purpose’: what are we experimenting around?    <br /> You need to build a capability.</p> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-subject field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">Subject</div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/city" hreflang="en">city</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-date-written field--type-datetime field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">Date written</div> <div class="field__item"><time datetime="2018-03-01T11:00:00Z" class="datetime">2018-03-01</time> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-author field--type-string field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">Author(s)</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item">Binna Choi</div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-keywords field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Keywords</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/decolonization" hreflang="en">decolonization</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/autonomy" hreflang="en">autonomy</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/system" hreflang="en">system</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/perspective" hreflang="en">perspective</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/reproduction" hreflang="en">reproduction</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/solidarity" hreflang="en">solidarity</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/positions" hreflang="en">positions</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/debt-economy" hreflang="en">debt economy</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/institutions" hreflang="en">institutions</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/unlearning" hreflang="en">unlearning</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/mechanism" hreflang="en">mechanism</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/imagination" hreflang="en">imagination</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/collaboration" hreflang="en">collaboration</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/facilitate" hreflang="en">facilitate</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-literature field--type-text-long field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Literature &amp; Footnotes</div> <div class="field__item"><p>1. Edgar Morin, On Complexity, Hampton Press, 2008, pp. 17-19.</p> <p>2. Kerstin Stakemeier and Marina Vishmidt, Reproducing Autonomy: Work, Money, Crisis &amp; Contemporary Art, Mute Publishing, 2016, pp. 38-39.</p> <p>3. Ibid., p. 65.</p> <p>4. Stefano Harney and Fred Moten, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning &amp; Black Study, Minor Com<a class="keyword-link" href="/subject/positions" rel="nofollow">positions</a>, 2013, pp. 67-68.</p> <p>5. Ibid., p. 20.</p> <p>6. Isabelle Stengers, In Catastrophic Times: Resisting the Coming Barbarism, Open Humanities Press, 2015, pp. 155-156.</p> </div> </div> Thu, 18 Apr 2019 22:17:11 +0000 Rop 53835 at https://autonomousfabric.org Autonomous Fabric https://autonomousfabric.org/text/autonomous-fabric <span class="field field--name-title field--type-string field--label-hidden">Autonomous Fabric</span> <span class="field field--name-uid field--type-entity-reference field--label-hidden"><span lang="" about="/user/1" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Rop</span></span> <span class="field field--name-created field--type-created field--label-hidden">Thu, 04/11/2019 - 13:38</span> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-text field--type-text-with-summary field--label-visually_hidden"> <div class="field__label visually-hidden">Text</div> <div class="field__item"><p>The (first) Autonomous Fabric symposium, organised by the Willem de Kooning Academy on February 10, 2017 at several venues across the city, presented an excellent overview of the <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> relevance of the term ‘autonomous’ as well as its problematic aspects. What exactly constitutes ‘<a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>’ in the context of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production, and what constitutes the material of this production? The event originated from the necessity to update the map of the existing field, as well as the alignment of the curriculum of the Willem de Kooning academy with this field, and how the academy approaches this alignment as an educational institution.<br /> The initiatives that presented themselves within the various workshops ranged from the pico-scale to the semi-institutional, and from a white-cube approach to full-blown politically and socially oriented programmes and formats. The academy’s educational activities and curriculum are currently structured according to three professional profiles: autonomous, commercial (i.e. commissioned), and social. This framework reflects an overview of the history and conceptual space of western <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> thinking (art in terms of its relation to existing forms of production, specifically capitalist production, within a social context); indicating the continued relevance and centrality of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> as a concept within this configuration; but also as something from which to distinguish and separate oneself. The partitioning between the commercial dimension and its critical counterpart and commentator, the arts, can thus be recognised within this framework.</p> <p>This model of the assignment of <a href="/subject/positions" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">positions</a> within the art world’s <a href="/subject/institutions" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">institutions</a> and infrastructure is reflected through its broader institutional <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> presentation and production platforms, which generally see exhibitions as the end products of artists, usually in the form of objects (contributing to an individual body of work within the existing economy of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production), and only rarely in the form of practices of production.<sup>1</sup><br /> Yet it is within this field of initiatives which experiment with modes of production as forms of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> expression, that most <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> notions of cultural production actually occur and are expressed. This institutional under-representation of the notion of practice as an <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> object indicates a mismatch between diverging ideas of what <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production is or can be. The focus of the <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> object is rarely upon recognition through institutional representation, but rather upon the quality and modality of the practice itself. Artistic production is understood here as a fundamental quality: how can it contribute to ideas of how we should organise our lives, and what are these lives to begin with? What is the <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> object here?</p> <h2>Terminology</h2> <p>The history of the term ‘<a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>’ is fraught with issues that mirror the problem of art’s relationship to life itself, to the ideology of politics, and to the organisational powers of policy-making. On a level of terminology, ‘<a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>’ within the arts resonates with autonomist notions of <a href="/subject/practical" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">practical</a> <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>: a retreat from the structures of power, accompanied by the establishment of independent organisations and ways of living. These ideas can be found in the writings of well-known Autonomist-Marxist thinkers such as Antonio Negri, Paolo Virno and Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, who promote the importance of self-organisation as the prime organisational quality, in opposition to the organisational models imposed by states or ideologies. This stance also entails a decisive distancing from existing institutes and structures, as well as from the immediate channels of agency and power that would have to be restructured or reimagined based upon the self-organised initiating principle – hence the continued importance and relevance of the idea of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>.<br /> Another, more complex, definition can be found in the writings of the philosopher Jacques Rancière, who developed a concept of the function of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> within our current model of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production, as the <a href="/subject/interrelationship" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">interrelationship</a> between on one hand those feeling unrecognised and looking for change, and on the other hand the powers that govern. The world is organised into spheres of common understanding, spheres which are policed, and one must be able to recognise the world and the power structures through which this world is governed and organised in order to affect or possibly counter these structures – to organise a redistribution of that which is ‘sensible’.<sup>2</sup> According to Rancière, the idea of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> is always, and inherently, linked to its heterogeneous quality: the exchange and engagement with the surrounding field. This discrepancy therefore becomes a matter of politics. In this case the retreat is not in itself a goal or a prerequisite; it is rather a strategic positioning, geared to modes of perception and redistribution.<br /> Whereas the first position is mainly informed by the assertion of a hegemony of capitalism over cultural production (requiring withdrawal), the second presumes a permanent space of negotiation to still exist, and to provide the remaining route for possible engagement.</p> <p>It is between these two poles that the current debate takes place, and it is here that <a href="/subject/positions" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">positions</a> and tactical approaches are conceptualised and strategised, and shaped into practices. Between these two opposites, the structures and programmes of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> initiatives are determined by a shifting configuration of organisational forms, between independence and compliance, between <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a> and heterogeneity. It is within this field, which has been the subject of ongoing development over the past decades, that the issue of institutionalisation has become of prime importance: how to realise the necessary organisation in relation to, or within, existing structures of power?<br /> In this regard, it is noteworthy and important that a survey of this constellation and of the field of existing independent initiatives has been instigated by an institutional art school such as the Willem de Kooning academy.</p> <h2>Self-organisation as an institutional format</h2> <p>Rotterdam has a rich history of artists’ initiatives, originating in the period from the late 1970s to the 1980s, when a first generation of practitioners established themselves – a few of which have managed to continue until recently, or in some cases are still active. These initiatives originated from a need to better equip the individual practice of artists, but also, and more importantly, to organise as a group or as a quasi-institutional manifestation – a cooperative enterprise.<br /> Though mostly instigated out of dissatisfaction with existing institutional formats, which were seen as being insufficiently equipped to articulate <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> needs, the prime motive of these initiatives was not to retreat from contact with the public, but rather to organise and engage on one’s own terms. These initiatives were at the vanguard of producing new <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> forms that are still fully in use and recognisable today, and that have proliferated widely and deeply into the texture and infrastructure of global <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production.<br /> For example, presentation models developed here were structured not so much around the idea of an individual artists’ profile, but rather around a theme or topic that needed to be addressed. Such a topic, or a directional and curatorial approach, was mostly the result of deliberations between the artists and the network at hand, with a focus on providing an opportunity to express <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> ideas and formats.</p> <p>These presentations were often accompanied by side-events such as artist talks, symposiums and debates, where the presentation continued on a discursive basis. Publications, either as a mode of articulation or as a documentation of events taking place, constituted another important element in the development of modes of dissemination of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production.</p> <p>There was also a major effort toward viewing <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production as a form of exchange. Numerous artist-in-residence <a href="/subject/positions" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">positions</a> were established, facilitating a global exchange among artists. This <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> residency format in turn gave rise to a practice of research, in the sense that artists coming from abroad, in order to orient themselves in their new surroundings, had to develop knowledge of where they were working. This led to a practice of a research-based mode of production that addressed local, regional and international conditions. </p> <p>Self-organisation generally provides the main impetus guiding these initiatives. This made it possible to circumvent the choices that normally would have been made by institutes, through their curatorial or institutionally thematic guidelines. This is how these initiatives differ from established institutes, which are more accountable to governmental and political production guidelines, so that these institutes remain more aligned with the existing economic order. The production of any manifestation realised under the supervision of the autonomous initiative is thus the further advancement of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>, which is maintained and operationalised in the form of agency.</p> <h2>Which object? Which representation?</h2> <p>These initiatives thus established a new mode of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production, ranging in scope from making connections with the ultra-local to a more generalised commentary of our social fabric. A recurring theme throughout these developments is a general critique of the notion of the cultural object as a commodity, valuated solely through the market, as the prevalent system of art valuation. The establishment of non-commercial platforms for the production and exchange of cultural objects provided a critical response to the commodity-form of the cultural object, and thus to the capitalist system of valuation. The issue of individuated authorship, symptomatic of the prevailing form of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production, was also widely questioned here. The initiative was seen as a cooperative platform for <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production.</p> <p>A do-it-yourself ethos, and the question of how to run such an initiative in the first place – with the resulting financial implications – were also important elements in establishing these initiatives as political agents. Ideas of how best to organise, to house and to cooperate immediately bring up questions of an ideological nature: what needs to be produced, and how? This is an approach that has particularly shaped programmes in which issues of labour and organisation became the focus of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> inquiry. Current initiatives such as Casco in Utrecht or the Dutch Art Institute in Arnhem have especially focused on the conditions of production as <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> research. In Rotterdam, Leeszaal Rotterdam West can be seen as an initiative whose activities focus on the social question of how to organise labour. The general underlying question became an issue of which objects were produced, and who these objects represented as their producer. How does the <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> object function?</p> <h2>In and out of the institute</h2> <p>It is this model that has evolved into the quintessential framework of production for <a href="/subject/contemporary" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">contemporary</a> art. Sometimes the characteristics of this model are upscaled to new institutional formats, as is the case with Witte de With (Rotterdam), or they evolve from small-scale initiatives to a larger scale, as with De Appel (Amsterdam), Worm (Rotterdam) or V2 (Rotterdam). This model has also proliferated within the broader network of institutional frameworks such as biennales, educational environments such as Goldsmiths, University of London, or publication and residency platforms such as Afterall (London) or Bard (New York). This institutional scale is in constant dialogue with the smaller scale of independent initiatives and formats, in an ongoing exchange of people and <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> presentation formats.</p> <p>There is a permanent debate regarding the institutional form: how to function, and how to avoid the pitfalls of institutionalisation? Any condition of dependence, whether financial, logistical or <a href="/subject/practical" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">practical</a>, inevitably leads to concessions in the degree of <a href="/subject/autonomy" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">autonomy</a>: every transaction comes with issues of accountability, whether programmatic or pragmatic, that exert an influence on the independence of programmes and initiatives. It is this struggle that acts as a constant mirror to initiatives operating on a more established scale. Within this issue of maintaining sufficient independence, the smaller and larger scales are interlocked and part of the same fabric.</p> <p>It is this issue of institutionalisation which <a href="/text/living-organisation-that-is-self-organisation" rel="nofollow">Binna Choi </a>described, in the introduction to her workshop during the symposium, as the quintessential issue to be negotiated: how to become and remain aware of the effects of power and authority during the establishment of an organisational structure? Any organisation, through the very fact of its coming into being, generates conditions of power and authority, in which guidelines, identities and objectives are formulated that result in inclusion and exclusion. These mechanisms will inevitably occur, and must thus be recognised at every level, from the hyper-individual to the full-blown institutional. All institutional organisations must identify and deal with these mechanisms, in order to be as inclusive and non-authoritarian as possible, and also to monitor how these mechanisms are linked to the institute’s context – its work commission, as formulated through policy-making and political discourse.<br /> Problems of accountability arise precisely in the exchanges between different levels: policy-making imposes its own ideas of outcome and productivity upon the initiatives, for example upon an educational institute. Following this rationale, the issue of organisation is something that needs to be addressed and accounted for in all transitions occurring within the field, including policy-making and educational structures. In their co-authored article The Wrong of Contemporary Art: Aesthetics and Political Indeterminacy,<sup>3</sup> Suhail Malik and Andrea Phillips describe the difficulty of this task, and how every new understanding – and therefore every articulation – between different <a href="/subject/positions" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">positions</a> risks becoming the new normative principle. Any new arrangement needs to be permanently open, fundamentally non-hierarchical and welcome to change. Malik and Phillips emphasise how Rancière’s emancipatory principle of the ‘distribution of the sensible’ lies precisely in the realisation that a true consensus, or a definitive arrangement between parties, can never be reached; permanent dialogue and exchange are thus required.</p> <h2>Practice as life / articulation</h2> <p>The importance of this autonomous field as a structural counterpart to the official field cannot be overstated. It is all of these issues bound together that demonstrate the central role of the autonomous field, and demonstrate it to be the most sustainable within art production as a whole. It is here that the closeness between art and experimental life is given shape through different practices. The autonomous initiatives Conversas and Upominki, for example, show that art is not about producing art objects, but is rather about developing an <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> practice, as a practice of dialogue, communication and hospitability – a practice of the possibilities of life as art.<br /> Within initiatives such as these, the aforementioned three-way partitioning of professional practices into commercial (or commissioned), social, and autonomous – which provides the basic framework for the WdKA’s curriculum – is short-circuited: instead, the work commission is formulated through an exchange between the participants in the conversation, as a social practice on its own (autonomous – or perhaps it would be better to say: sovereign) terms. Here the value of the ‘autonomous’ would not be understood as the leading principle, but rather as the means for aligning production according to a more natural and reciprocal approach, thus bridging the distances and the alienation between producer, audience and object of transaction.<br /> Both Conversas and Upominki thus wish to maintain as much as possible their independence, while minimising the perceived negative effects of any inevitable dependence. Yet they remain in dialogue with the field, and constitute a continuous presence and influence within this field. It is here that the alternation between the institutional and the autonomous fields provides its function of heterogeneous agency. This demonstrates how foundational values of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production continue to find their way through the filters of the institutional, where they otherwise risk becoming diluted, rephrased and misrepresented. In their article Peripheral Proposals,<sup>4</sup> Mark Fisher and Nina Möntmann observed and analysed the potential of such small-scale <a href="/subject/institutions" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">institutions</a> for the entire cultural ecosystem, but also warned of the risks of being rendered powerless by the absorbing powers of capitalism. It is here that the possible integration into an academic context becomes of paramount interest: how should one articulate the desired characteristics and modalities within an institutional context? As an inescapable manifestation of the institutional, this represents the engaged position of the institute within the debate. How can an art institute such as the WdKA articulate such qualities and needs on an institutional level?<sup>5</sup></p> <p>The value of mapping this field for the first time, and of having it recognised as the most persistent, basic and durable form of <a href="/subject/artistic" class="keyword-link" rel="nofollow">artistic</a> production, can hardly be overstated. Recognition by an educational institute expands the dialogue by which the potential of this field can be channelled and increased to a more structural level, and its agency amplified.<br /> The urgency for such a dialogue-based model was perfectly worded by Geert Lovink during the introduction to his Network workshop. Here he highlighted the urgency of formulating a restructuring of our world in a spirit of cooperation, in order to counter the all-encompassing ecological and political catastrophes of our times, resulting from the unchecked expansion and destruction of the liberal order. Such a task can only stand a glimmer of a chance in the context of a dialogue, never in a continuation of the system as it is.</p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-subject field--type-entity-reference field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">Subject</div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/education" hreflang="en">education</a></div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-date-written field--type-datetime field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">Date written</div> <div class="field__item"><time datetime="2018-02-05T11:00:00Z" class="datetime">2018-02-05</time> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-author field--type-string field--label-inline"> <div class="field__label">Author(s)</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item">Jack Segbars</div> </div> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-keywords field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Keywords</div> <div class="field__items"> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/positions" hreflang="en">positions</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/institutions" hreflang="en">institutions</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/contemporary" hreflang="en">contemporary</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/artistic" hreflang="en">artistic</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/autonomy" hreflang="en">autonomy</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/practical" hreflang="en">practical</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/interrelationship" hreflang="en">interrelationship</a></div> <div class="field__item"><a href="/subject/intersubjective" hreflang="en">intersubjective</a></div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix text-formatted field field--name-field-literature field--type-text-long field--label-above"> <div class="field__label">Literature &amp; Footnotes</div> <div class="field__item"><p><em><span>1. Despite major efforts to develop modes of presentation that emphasise the notion of artistic practice as determining the outcome being exhibited, it is very difficult to capture a full understanding of the time investments or the day-to-day living aspects involved with these efforts. Institutional formats that wish to address this mode of production, usually struggle to represent these within their prevailing mode of operation.</span></em></p> <p><em><span>2. Rancière’s notion of the ‘distribution of the sensible’ has become an important and popular philosophical framework for discussing the political dimension within artistic production in our age, and was first proposed in Rancière’s books Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics, Continuum, 2010, and Le partage du sensible: Esthétique et politique, La Fabrique Éditions, 2000.</span></em></p> <p><em><span>3. In this article, Malik and Phillips chose to translate Rancière’s original French ‘partage du sensible’ as ‘partition of the sensible’ rather than the usual ‘distribution of the sensible’, in order to stress the dual meaning of the French term ‘partage’, indicating the communality as well as the division of the aesthetic. Aesthetics is thus a matter of an ongoing agreement to disagree, the recognition of the plural as well as the singular, of the autonomous as well as the heterogeneous.</span></em></p> <p><em><span>4. Mark Fisher and Nina Möntmann, ‘Peripheral Proposals’, in: Binna Choi, Maria Lind, Emily Pethick, Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez (eds.), Cluster: Dialectionary, Berlin, Sternberg Press, 2014.</span></em></p> <p><em>5.<span> Following up on the idea of reciprocity and dialogue, the educational institute should ask itself: Who is being educated? Who is being ‘produced’? What kind of artists are being produced? And how can the institute know the answers to these questions? It can only know by opening up to the field and engaging in dialogue with its students. </span></em></p> </div> </div> Thu, 11 Apr 2019 11:38:52 +0000 Rop 53832 at https://autonomousfabric.org