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Commoning part II

By Thom Donovan

light_industryI am still wrapping my head around what happened at Lower Manhattan Cultural Counsel this past weekend. Clearly, it was one of those conversations that needed to happen because everyone had something to say about the topic of “commons.” In attendance were no less than twenty people, many of whom participated in the discussion including Alan Davies, Andrew Levy, Brenda Iijima, Lawrence Giffin, Evelyn Reilly, Bruce Boone, and a number of people who I didn’t know, but who had wonderful things to say regarding the necessities of their own practices as artists and culture workers. Daria Fain and Robert Kocik have a “space” grant through LMCC until June so we are hoping to have more talks and conversations in upcoming months which I will post about here. For my part, I presented the following at this past weekend’s gathering. A very inchoate talk about how art historical practices may benefit the creation and maintenance of a commons:

It is incredible to be writing this talk devoted to commoning on the day after the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of corporate capitalism’s rights to advance unlimited campaign funding. It makes the title of this presentation all the more ironic because it is the absolute wrong direction for the United States. As Stephen Colbert says wittily, “Corporations are people too.” And it is as if the laws of the commons have been turned upside down. Especially when actual people are denied the right of Habeas Corpus—a right which originates with the Magna Carta—via the policies of Bush and now Obama. How to mark this occasion? How to reverse this terrible destiny with which we are complicit as US citizens?

In this talk I am going to address art and poetry because art and poetry provide us with tools, I believe, for talking about commoning. Personally, for me, they mediate what a commons is. Art and poetry are not removed from our experience (though there are countless ways that art in particular is alienated from us through its becoming commodity), but what gives shape to our lives. How can art and poetry provide us with tools for addressing, rethinking, and transforming commons?

Some weeks ago I was meeting with a visual artist to start sketching out an interview we are planning to do later this spring. The artist—someone very interested in contemporary poetry—lamented that the art world (or at least his corner of it) was not like the poetry world (or at least the corner of it I consider myself to be part of). In terms of poetry, we both agreed that poetry’s lack of commodity value often makes poets more likely to work with one another and to make work out of sites of community. Whereas art tends to exist through commodity (whether at the level of museum or gallery or biennial/festival) poetry exists through gift/courtesy. Rosmarie Waldrop has a wonderful essay about poetry and gift economy which I have taught for the past three summers at Bard College, “Alarums and Excursions.” In that essay she is saying something similar to what I want to say here. That in the small press, small magazine, reading series, list serve, blog, and even workshop exist structures that could be usefully applied to other cultural locations. Something I often wonder is what would happen if poets outsourced their skills and labor power to other cultural locations (a topic I address in an essay about to come out in Kristen Gallagher’s and Tim Shaner’s WIG vol. 2). The point is, how to think about poetry as a kind of marsh for larger social responsibilities and personal conduct? How to use the experimental, sub- and extra- institutional environments of poetry to model commons elsewhere? What would happen if such models were taken up by other culture workers and applied faithfully?

On the other hand, I think poets are well served by paying attention to conversations and discourses outside their field. Art is one such field where I think poets have a lot to benefit from, and this beneficial relationship between art and poetry has obviously been proven in the history of poetry, especially in the 20th century. So I’m going to try to think the commons through art and poetry interchangeably here, even though I realize art and poetry are not on an equal footing culturally, and certainly not economically.

Attending the Performa 07 and 09 live art biennials, I have noticed two emergent forms for art: reenactment and the parade. Seeing Arto Lindsay’s art parade in Times Square during this past Performa, the parade reminded me of the importance of bodies coming together in actual space. Does the art parade not express a desideratum for collective action, demonstration, and protest? Following the parade as it danced/marched down 7th avenue, one could not help but witness and interact with countless side events and attractions. While the parade itself was rather bland—consisting of a line of about fifty marchers in tan trench coats—witnessing random passersby interact with the marchers was not. If art expresses a desideratum for being together eventally, how to reappropriate art’s appropriation of the parade for communing? Occupying space, and witnessing the fruits of being with numerous others in space, one observes what develops, what becomes, from bodies being in space in semi-organized ways. Art is good at organizing things in this way. It is a means of organization—so why not use it more to this end? If the legacy of live art instructs us about one thing, it is the radicality of live interaction. Despite many problems that I have with Performa as an organization, one of its great contributions to recent art discourse is to make evident the radicality of bodies being together through participatory, live interaction.

How to bring bodies together? How to recognize conditions of possibility in the way we are already together? While it is essential to use the spaces we have to create events in which people can be in common, the preservation of our ability to common is absolutely essential too. What would live art had been without the struggles of Civil Rights activists in the 60s and 70s. The development of live art, I would argue, would not have occurred the way it did without the inspiration of Civil Rights actions, and the sharing of resources between artists and activists. Another art work featured in the 09 Performa biennial was Anne Collod’s “replay” of Anna Halprin’s Parades and Changes. This beautiful historical reconstruction of Halprin’s original performance reminded me of another work by Halprin, in many ways far more radical. City Dance, by Halprin, features continuous dance performances throughout San Francisco and other cities. The idea of the piece, anticipating the strategies of the Critical Mass bicyclists and other contemporary activists, organizes dancers in such a way that their performances will be continuous in public spaces without violating laws of public assembly (thus obviating the need for permits). Artists and poets increasingly need to work with lawyers to challenge laws of gathering, land use, and public speech in order to draw attention to the erosion of Civil Rights in the US and elsewhere, if not to teach about the law, which for too many citizens is above their comprehension rather than part of their popular imagination. How to teach the law through live art? How to demonstrate within the limits of the law and push the law when necessary? While the evental nature of all assembly is important and the gathering of bodies key, so is a framing of events dynamics through questions and problems of the law.

If I take anything away from Peter Linebaugh’s brilliant book on the history of The Magna Carta and accompanying Charter of the Forest, The Magna Carta Manifesto, it is that commons must be struggled for both within the realm of culture and within the realm of the law. While the Magna Carta is currently eroded by violations of Habeas Corpus, the Charter of the Forest’s demand for usufuct—the lawful enjoyment and use of the land by all—is threatened by land expropriation practices which began in the 15th century and continue ubiquitously to this day. These practices, which created an urban proletarian for the first time in history, happened through the deliberate efforts of proto-capitalists to erode feudal law and grant new powers to landlords over feudal lords. At the beginnings of our modernism are the seeds of two global crises which have nearly played out their course: ecological unsustainability and the expropriation of labor. The two crises happen together, they go hand in hand, and are accompanied by women’s oppression and race-based oppression, as Linebaugh’s excellent work has also traced.

Two art movements that may provide tools for thinking anti-expropriation and ecological sustainability in tandem are those which follow the “Land” and “Earthworks” artists of the 60s, 70s, and 80s; they are also those which follow after Mierle Ukeles’s notion of Maintenance art, a notion of art mirrored by some land art practices. Building on Ukeles’s performances in which she engages social service providers such as garbage men, more than ever there is a need to draw attention to service as part of a social infrastructure. The problem is one of looking at function, and presencing ways that social functions are withdrawn from us—from our knowledge and attention. If art can often do nothing else, it can frame our attention in concise and certain ways. Maintenance art does precisely that; it attends how things work, and shows how art is complicit within social processes and practices. Likewise, it shows how art can be used to make things work differently. A great example of Maintenance art is Robert Smithson’s “mud extraction sculpture,” which he proposed to build out of a clogged drainage pipe in Manhattan’s Central Park. What if the “art work” became the act of moving the mud elsewhere? The drained mud would become sculpture; the sculpture would be what remains from a maintenance process—a process which serves the upkeep of a commonly shared space, namely Central Park. Such projects abound at the Center for Urban Pedagogy, a New York City based education and arts organization I can’t recommend to you enough.

Maintenance art, in the best possible way, is consciousness raising as well as practical in the ways it proposes to shape (or sculpt) a commons. The legacy of Land art is also instructional for how it teaches one to be critical of land use practices and unsustainable economies. Take Agnes Denes’ Wheatfield, for instance. Through Wheatfield—a veritable work of Maintenance art—Denes raised 5000 lbs of wheat upon a blighted urban space, namely a landfill at Manhattan’s Battery Park. Yet, through the site-specificity of her project, Denes was also able to presence an aporia surrounding Wheatfield, which has to do with the value of real estate vs. the value of commons.

How, after raising a landscape from its blighted state, could the wheatfield possibly be bought? How could it be sold as property in New York’s downtown real estate market? For those who watched the work of art come into being (that is, the wheat grow on waste land) the thought was unthinkable and participants cried when the land was bought. Following Denes, and the artist Gordon Matta-Clark, who, in his work “Fake Estates,” bought up odd properties in Queens, documenting their purchase and noting their location, how to draw out the false equivalences between land use (the use value of land) and its exchange value (the value placed on land as property/commodity)? In the case of Amy Balkin’s work, how to draw out the aporias of land use, and the rights of element—rights to clean air, clean water, clean earth. If the atmosphere (and other elements essential to human survival) is one of the last frontiers of expropriation, how to site the aporias of global liberal pluralism and ecological sustainability (of which there are of course many). Balkin’s solutions in her Public Smog project are two-fold: the first involves buying up tradable smog credits to make a public park in the atmosphere, which parodies the logic of “cap and trade” in order to critique it; the second, proposes that the atmosphere be made an International preservation site. By wading through United Nations bureaucracy to make her proposal, Balkin proposes that which would throw our senses of international law completely out of wack, imposing an international law on the extra-national law of corporations. The enforcement of such a preservation act would obviously have a devastating effect on how corporations behave, and would raise the much needed specter of climate reparations—a specter the earthquakes in Haiti have provided us our most tragic reminder of so far.

There is so much else to say. But I wanted to end with just a few thoughts about information expropriation. If elemental expropriation—expropriation of a free people’s rights to element—presents one front of the battle against expropriation, another is obviously in the realm of information. What does it mean for art to intervene in this realm? One example I’ll provide (though I suspect there are countless others at digital communities such as Rhizome and Eyebeam), is the work of Cory Arcangel. As in Maintenance art, Arcangel’s work often focuses on simple digital technologies in order to reveal how they are made and partake of processes. As such, he is a poet, someone concerned with craft or making. The built worlds he dismantles are video games, as well as archaic video and design software. In college, I will never forget Arcangel teaching a live audience how to hack into an obsolete Apple software called LISA. The demonstration was simple and elegant. It appeared that any one could do this. By simply going “into” the software code and switching a binary switch to the “off” position, Arcangel enabled the software to be copied.

In a recent work, Born to Run Addenda, Arcangel adds glockenspiel to the tracks of Bruce Springstein’s Born to Run, and makes these tracks into MP3 files which now travel, replicating themselves, around the internet. While many view Arcangel’s work in the tradition of the artist’s joke, I think this assessment of his work neglects the fact that many of his works can potentially provide us with tools to analyze how information functions as property, that is, ways that it is expropriatable and ways to counter its expropriation. And that’s where the educational component of Arcangel’s work comes in. Teaching around these experiments and demonstrations of his. Talking explicitly about how he did what he did. Disseminating knowledge. How, Arcangel’s work begs, to use art as a tool of analysis as well as aporia? If the information age represents a new era of primitive accumulation, how may artists along with software programmers, coders, and hardware engineers teach civil disobedience in preservation of a digital commons? How, what’s more, can struggles for digital and elemental commons happen in tandem?

Comments (16)

  • On January 27, 2010 at 10:07 am Bhanu Kapil wrote:

    Even the tags perform an ecstatic function. Your notes, Thom, are not “inchoate.” They are generous; they are more than what you are. Like quawaali. Notes that do not stop. They stream. And part of this, I think, is that you open yourself to this streaming. Thank you. [Mineral or water access…a terrible image from the drought last year in India comes forward…a family hacked to death at the hole in the community “pipe” they had illicitly cut, higher up on its “route.”] Your notes make me think, in other words, about aggression and community. I’ll continue them in another place. Your post switched my brain on!!! (Which is circuitry; in what sense is the brain a kind of commons?) I don’t mean so rapidly to branch away from the kinds of practices and reports you have made here. I don’t know what just happened. I was just having my morning cuppa, read your post, and the bones of my forehead started to melt inside their governing structure!

  • On January 27, 2010 at 1:20 pm Vivek Narayanan wrote:

    Thanks for this, Tom. Am really excited that you bring in Linebaugh, to bracket a scene mostly obsessed with textuality, and am excited to see this unfold. But I have a question: are you sure you’re not romanticising or sugar coating the poetry world’s current relationship to the commons, and to commoning? I would like more unpacking there. Of course you do qualify with, “at least the corner of it I consider myself to be part of…”– and indeed perhaps the ultimate answer is to move away from (visualish) “art” and “poetry” as unified entities tendencies or modes of thought–but still, of the numerous examples you give above of artwork engaging the commons, not one comes from the poetry world. I can’t think of many either. Ubuweb would qualify–if one thought of ubuweb as a single vast (beautiful) act of poetry, which I do–but not, I think, any of Kenneth Goldsmith’s solo works, which even in their immateriality are resolutely packaged and sold as his.

    Mostly poets–and experimental poets as much so as anyone else–seem deeply regressive or at least unimaginative on the idea of the commons, copyright, etc, very closely tied to authorship, ownership of their lines and stanzas, even to a chain of being that binds author and self as one. At the worst end of it are the author estates, but we shall not speak of them. There’s been a trend of collaboratively written volumes, but something about it often feels too self-conscious to me. Some poems claim to be “eco-poetry”, say they explore the nature of ecology or are ecological by virtue of being shaped on the page like a rock or a river, or perhaps because they’ve been written on a rock. Whatever. Almost entirely, avant garde or mainstream, quiet or loud, poems are not in their very process exchanges of gifts or energy but objects, acts of individual expression, you make it and serve it up for admiration. Readers participate, of course, but only to the extent of readers. I have no objection to any of this, I make lots of it myself, but my point is that so little else has been explored. And my point is, and has been, that poetry’s status on the margins of capitalism has *not* allowed it to be more progressive or exploratory or ecosystemical on these questions, in fact the opposite, the inability to turn poetry into a commodity has not been an opportunity but grounds for an often pathological fetishism. Whereas art’s inevitable commodification has perhaps led to many restless rebellions against the commodity within it. (Even if I wouldn’t justify the art world, mind you, it seems full of scoundrels, dictators, power mongers and complex military maneuvers, people who could run rings around even the most savvy writers, but I digress.)

    I dunno, perhaps I’m just rehashing the discussion that happened at the event you mention at the beginning? Or perhaps I’m not looking in the right places. One last point, which is not much of a point, about place. As a locational ousider, I often find myself very envious of the communality of many US underground poetry scenes, but disturbed by how completely insular and inward looking they become, as if the world did not exist. There again I think things may work a little differently in the art world.

  • On January 27, 2010 at 5:55 pm Thom Donovan wrote:

    thanks for your comment Vivek. it’s funny, I don’t get into poetry and commons here, even tho I say that I will, and focus more on art as a tool for thinking/enacting/modeling commons. maybe I am being too romantic, and I agree poetry communities can be/tend to be too insular. that insularity is something I am trying to work against by creating a more cross-disciplinary conversation. the trouble is getting people to work with poets across fields. there is a lot of confusion and misconception, on the one hand, about what poetry/poetics is/does/can do. on the other hand, poetry is so marginalized in many ways. consider the money that goes to art or science/math. what would possibly be the use/benefit of these economies/cultures mixing it up with poetry? but what I’d most want to do through curation, say, or editing is attempt to bring poets into conversation with others to think about problems across fields of knowledge. and against the insularity of poetry’s marginalization, and the perception of it being “underground” (and not just a particular discipline working on its own problems and lines of research, and seeking many of the same social transformations that others would seek). I’ll be thinking through this stuff throughout my time at Harriet, so will be curious what you have to say abt upcoming posts… thanks for chiming in here!

    PS: there is a lot of interest in institutional critique, especially around conceptualist (poetry) discourse (as opposed to Conceptual Art). I think I am interested less in institutional crit (which has been kind of played out, and in many ways seems hypo-critical at this point–both its proponents and antagonists) than in trying to use poetry as a tool for thinking the commons, and poetry community as a model for commons. many poets have been able to access anti-expropriational practices through their poetry. in terms of scholarship, or merely by way of discourse, I want to put energy there too. the Nonsite Collective is one such org that I think is working on organizing this conversation. also Robert Kocik’s and Daria Fain’s Commons (currently at LMCC). parallel orgs in non-poetry worlds include 16 Beaver and Center for Urban Pedgaogy (here in NYC). Center for Land Use Interpretation in LA. many many others for which it wld be useful to make a links site. in poetry discourse Factory School has done a lot of very good work thinking about poetry and education through an anti-expropriation politics. currently Juliana Spahr and Joshua Clover are attempting to establish a free school in the Bay Area. utopias pop up again and again; just as soon as they’ve appeared they’ve disappeared. to most, they never appear at all, and remain submerged until someone starts poking around in the historical dustbin of poetry’s diverse social ecologies. this is often the nature of poetry community/history–from margin to center (or merely to staying in a different margin). what to do with this historical pattern? existing institutions are only as good as what we do with them. realizing one’s complicity is key in approaching them (and in anything we do for that matter). but I think institutions can be used, and we should use them, if only parasitically, as temporary autonomous zones (or something like that–I don’t feel committed to Peter Lamborn Wilson’s term per se). but we need to build new spaces. this is super important. and this is why it is cynical to perceive forming a magazine or curating a reading series as careerist (tho it can of course be part of a career move). magazines, blogs, etc. can form new models/spaces. they also extend ongoing conversations, conversations which might be completely submerged and illegible otherwise. desperately I want to create new spaces and work creatively within existing ones. the commons, quite frankly, has never existed. or if it did, always at the limit of the law where its visibility/legibility was very uncertain. how can we locate those indiscernible points where the commons may exist? such temporary, fragile, infra-thin places. how can we free up property. challenging copy write is not enough. nor the discourse of the readymade, which Kenny Goldsmith has effectively appropriated. I am just as interested (if not more so) in the countless books of poetry, many read by a VERY small number of people, that actually have ways to radicalize our thinking about commons, or access somatically conditions of possibility to be in common. gestures of institutional critique simply aren’t enough, and they tend to happen within a context which has become too confining, too exclusive. which is to say, poetry needs to be more generous and have a wider circle than it has been able to have recently. more inclusive of other cultural problems, discourses, knowledges, technologies, etc. I wonder if this would not put an end to some of the insularity that you rightly identify with current poetry discourse/community…

  • On January 28, 2010 at 2:15 am Vivek Narayanan wrote:

    Indeed!!! (That’s all I can really think to say right now in response to your response, but look forward to your continuing lines of thought…)

  • On January 28, 2010 at 6:39 am Chris Hosea wrote:

    Thanks, Thom, for this provocative and thoughtful post. I wish I had been at the LMCC for your talk, but am glad to read it here. Your comments on the expropriation of public spaces remind me of an installation I visited after moving to New York City the first time in 1998. That following summer, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise hosted Rirkrit Tiravanija’s “Untitled, 1999 (Tomorrow can shut up and go away).” (There is an early, not very flattering review here: http://www.villagevoice.com/1999-07-06/art/resident-alien/ ). Tiravanija had transformed Brown’s old space on 15th Street near 10th Avenue into a rough replica of his apartment using plywood. There was a functioning kitchen, with stove and refrigerator. A rec room, with a foos-ball table and chairs. A bedroom with a (grotty) bed. That summer, the gallery was kept open 24/7, and all sorts of people, from art students to poets to musicians to drunks to gallery-goers, wandered through. Some stayed and wrote, or had band practices, or cooked and shared meals, wrote on the walls, whatever (and more). I returned and returned to this space. In the spirit of Tiravanija’s installation, it occurs to me that now more than ever it’s urgent that New York residents find creative ways to claim and use spaces. These might be private spaces (an art gallery). But so much conversation has been virtualized! I share your hunger for embodied sharing of gesture, thought, breath. How can New Yorkers (and residents of other cities) activate pre-existing spaces? What would happen if an “invisible” university held a seminar in a Barnes and Noble or a the lobby of the Modern museum? What if the concept of the “flash mob” were used on a smaller scale to create instant gatherings of poets and artists (who haven’t necessarily already met) in spaces like libraries and cafes. Speaking of libraries, are there libraries that freely loan seminar rooms for purposes like these? Perhaps there are folks out there who are way ahead of me on this train of thought–and I’d love to hear from them! There is an essay by computer programmer (and propagator of the phrase “virtual reality”) Jaron Lanier in the new number of Harper’s (Feb 2010), in which Lanier writes, “At the end of the rainbow of open culture lies an eternal spring of advertisements. Advertising is elevated by open culture from its previous role as an accelerant and placed at the center of the human universe. Advertising is now singled out as the only form of expression meriting genuine commercial protection in the new world to come. Any other form of expression is to be remashed, anonymized, and decontextualized to the poet of meaninglessness. Ads, however, are to be made ever more contextual, and the content of the ad is absolutely sacrosanct.” While I tend to disagree with Lanier on a number of particulars, and wonder exactly how he would define the word “advertisement,” I think his remarks advance a necessary warning. I don’t think poets and artists must imitate advertising strategies in order to make themselves and their art audible and legible in public spaces increasingly dominated by ads (though many do). But we can be wary of how creative work can fuel or be co-opted by economies dominated by advertising and marketing, if only to preserve spaces for non-commercial thought. Finding public spaces where embodied, noncompetitive, generative, shared discourse is freely available strikes me as an urgent task, and I thank you for raising this issue here!

  • On January 28, 2010 at 11:01 am Thom Donovan wrote:

    I respect your non-compulsive posting Vivek. needs to be more of that around here…

  • On January 28, 2010 at 11:13 am Thom Donovan wrote:

    thanks for such a generous response Chris. Matt L. and I were discussing the possibility of starting a school or education org last summer. the ball is in my court since I am supposed to draft a kind of mission statement to send to possible benefactors/supporters. The Tiravanija piece is interesting because it proposes occupying a space reserved for art/discourse/art as commodity, namely the gallery. and it is part of a now long tradition of artists telling slant their relationship to the gallery. I wonder what would happen if a gallery gave artists the space of a gallery to hold a free school–how that would work? on the other hand, what you’re saying about using spaces already available to “us” is crucial, because by not exercising our rights in public space that space becomes more and more encroached upon and threatened. whoever says virtual actions will suffice–I believe they are wrong. wither second life. bodies need other bodies to activate them; we are not just images (despite our Berkeleyian age of YouTube and Skype). how, likewise to use space tactically. the most radical kernel of our talks Sunday, I believe, involved the law, and art’s relationship to the law. because one of things art is equipped to do within a tradition of tactical media is locate sites of antinomy and put a frame around the law’s limits/contradictions. Amy Balkin, who Rob barely got to discuss Sunday, is doing precisely this; setting up these experiments in which one can finally see the limits and contradictions of the law in regards to land and atmosphere (the air that we breathe). Sunday night Rob and I were talking and I was thinking that along with “Maintenance art” there should be “Regulation art,” an art purely concerened to make visible the functioning of the law. anyhow, setting up shop in Starbucks is one thing; but setting up shop in such a way that it dramatizing the contradiction of holding a “free” school in Starbucks is vastly another…

  • On January 28, 2010 at 3:57 pm Chris Hosea wrote:

    Thanks Thom! Your ideas are really valuable. I appreciate that a coherent critique of Starbucks might well be a necessary component of any “free use” of their commercial space for study and discussion. At the same time, I agree with you that “institutional critique” need not be foregrounded so much as the very work of embodied learning, sharing, and making that the dearth of public spaces endangers. In other words, I am less interested in using a corporate space like Starbucks to perform opposition than I am in finding out whether the local Starbucks would allow us to practice discourse and learning there. A nonviolent action that flies under the radar. Even if we talked about a topic hard to avoid: the incongruities and obscenities of attempting free discourse in a Starbucks, we would want to move on to the topic that drew us there in the first place: poetry, magic, politics, gardening, whatever. How can we share strategies for using commercial public spaces (university lobbies, park buildings, cafes, hotel lobbies, etc.) not to stage a theater of subversive opposition, but rather just to use them for learning and sharing in embodied ways, such that these obscene places become unwitting hosts for our parasitical embodied learning and sharing activities.

    There are excellent examples of artists who have convinced large institutions to host free schools. Take Anton Vidokle, the wunderkind behind e-flux, who set up Night School at the New Museum. See http://www.newmuseum.org/event_series/night_school

    Or another project, a traveling free school called unitednationsplaza, with which Vidokle is also affiliated: http://www.unitednationsplaza.org/

    These are exciting ideas. I’d love to meet with you and Matt and others to talk more!

  • On January 28, 2010 at 4:02 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Thom,

    Interesting stuff.

    thought I’d mention (and for others interested in the free school movement) that my son Brooks and numerous of his friends have founded a free school in Chicago, now in its second *very* successful semester. Many of the people involved in it are poets and artists of various stripes. They’ve got a wide offering of classes. One of their most lively, popular ones is on poetics. It meets right after the class on Lacan! Which is preceded, in turn, by a class on Korean cooking, I think.

    Vivek knows Brooks, spent good time with him in Chicago, and he can tell you he’s a good guy.

    If you’d like me to put you in touch with Brooks (and his friends in this commons project–Brooks hangs out with the House Press gang), drop me a note and I’ll give you his email: kent.johnson@highland.edu

  • On January 28, 2010 at 4:19 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Here’s the School’s website, had meant to include it:
    http://midcoastfreeschool.blogspot.com/

  • On January 28, 2010 at 6:02 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Sorry, I posted the link above to the Chicago Mid-Coast Free School blog, not knowing that the school (just found out from my son) has a spanking new website, with much more info/news:
    http://midcoastfreeschool.com/

  • On January 28, 2010 at 8:38 pm thom donovan wrote:

    thanks for the links Kent. what your son is doing looks super interesting and important. there are also some really great resources at his website.

    and Chris, perhaps you and me and Longabucco shld shake things up at Starbucks one of these days? really like the ways you are talking here.

    oh, and you should come to Robert’s and Daria’s thing at LMCC next time it happens. I think you wld enjoy it! I’ll make sure you get on the mailing list for the next event…

  • On January 28, 2010 at 10:39 pm David Buuck wrote:

    Hi Thom–
    Lots of work on the connections between poetics & the commons coming out of Vancouver as you no doubt know. Two links:

    Stephen Collis’ excellent “Of Blackberries and the Poetic Commons”: http://www.forumonpublicdomain.ca/files/Of_Blackberries.pdf

    Aaron Vidaver’s amazing Woodsquat pub:

    http://www.econvergence.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/AaronVidaver-WestCoastLine.pdf

    (the latter a great instance of activist editing under real-time battle-conditions: the squat as another, more confrontational, attack on private property)

    also, I’m in the process of writing up notes on a recent BARGE action – “Groundbreaking” – where we jumped the fence & began work on a ‘public’ Matta-Clark Park on a privately-owned vacant lot – some pix at http://www.flickr.com/photos/24889946@N08/tags/soex/

    oh, and finally, re le perruque: Brandon Brown’s press OMG makes (or made, at least initially, not sure if it’s still the case) chaps only out of materials he’s liberated from his workplace, which is why I put the (Margaret Tedesco’s) wig on the front of my OMG booklet “Paranoia Agent”–

    DB

  • On January 28, 2010 at 11:06 pm Henry Gould wrote:

    The legal structures that protect private individual property rights – as an extension & expression of human rights – were fought out in tremendous political battles against the tyranny of autocracy, by the likes of Edward Coke (see Catherine D. Bowen’s bio, “The Lion and the Throne” – or Ezra Pound’s late poetry).

    These structures are part of the fabric of English COMMON law. It’s this much-maligned legal structure – offering protection to life, liberty & property of persons – which forms the basis for all the liberation movements & extensions of rights of the last 300 years.

    But when you politicize it, & polarize it – into good guys & bad guys – private property and “commoning” – you also trivialize it, because you divorce it from history, & from your own foundations. You repeat the slogans & hype of the previous generations, which waver back & forth between radicalism & conservatism… believe me, I’ve been there, & I’ve heard your pitch before (since the 60s).

    I understand the intoxicating joy of commons & communion. I’ve been there, too. But don’t turn it into shallow rhetoric. Have the humility to recognize the common history of your own culture, which includes & welcomes a lot of dissent & baroque difference – & has for the last 300 yrs or so (since my ancestors were kicked out of Boston, for following Anne Hutchinson).

  • On January 28, 2010 at 11:55 pm Thom Donovan wrote:

    I’m well aware of these histories. thanks Henry. maybe address the substance of my post next time…

  • On January 29, 2010 at 12:08 am Henry Gould wrote:

    I did, actually. The substance of your post was a paean to the “commons”. My comment was a reminder of the historical background & legal foundation for that term – which represents a continuity, & a balance between “private” & “common”, that your polemic tends to elide. I am a voice from the other side of the field.

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Posted in Uncategorized on Tuesday, January 26th, 2010 by Thom Donovan.