In a joint initiative with City in the Making and Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto we have been delving into mutual support structures and economic spaces that can lend our lives a different basis and more resilient horizon. The resulting UNIDEE module Carving Out the Spaces for Our Commoned Life is an explorative two-week “training ground” aimed at the particular precarious conditions of artists, designers, curators and other cultural producers.

Carving Out the Spaces for our Commoned Life

It is the paradox many of us encounter: while we dedicate ourselves to initiatives, projects and proposals that aim at a ‘better’ future (more resilient, fairer, more inspiring…), we experience to be operating from a present we increasingly feel alienated from. And there we find ourselves: continuously in the search for a resilient context for our practice and production. Looking around, sharing experiences with fellow souls, it is evident that this vulnerable position undermines the reach and impact of that future (and life) we care for.

However, if present is such, it is high time to use our capacity to disrupt its unfolding. In this desire, we are not alone. Over the last years, a vast number of initiatives have sprung up to take matters into common hands and re-design the very reality from where we work, how we live and how we exchange among each other. It may not come as a surprise that imagining, designing and constructing such different ‘existential’ and professional realities to a large degree entails working on their (different) economic groundings.

The double-module Carving Out the Spaces for Our Commoned Life: A Training Ground therefore takes different economic principles and workings at its core. In the two weeks we have explored whether we, as artists, designers or cultural practitioners can envision a novel mutually supportive economic ‘space’ for our lives and work. A daunting task, to which aid we will call some of the forerunners that have already started the transition. But equally a formidable challenge that demands we break down some of the assumptions and workings concerning the economy, delve into areas we usually experience as ‘outsiders’ and start re-creating them on our terms. Money, debt, insurance, time, services – to name a few.

The module took a five-day journey at Cittadellarte-Fondazione Pistoletto (Biella, from 14th to 18th of November, 2016) into a/o Ons Geld, Positive Money, the book “Debt: The First 5,000 Years” (by David Graeber), the Spanish housing crisis and the PAH (Platform for People Affected by Mortgages), the history of the co-operative movement, banking alternatives like ebanka, complementary currencies, mutual credit systems like Sardex, the mutual income insurance Broodfonds, the book “Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work” (by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams) – and much more, after which a subsequent five-day line of exploration at the Stoking House of City in the Making (from 21st to 25th of November, 2016) took us to the very practices that are set to emerge from here. A day long 5-course dinner/seminar around mutual support structures has rounded up this exploration in a rather “fulfilling” manner …