On Tuesday June 18th, Pro Arts COMMONS in collaboration with non-profit organization Shareable hosted a community gathering featuring a series of sundry cultural producers and activists. These Oakland-based movers and shakers operate in different nodes of the contemporary art world but function under the same guiding principle; collaboration and radical sharing. The event was inspired by the book Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons; a veritable manual that lays out specific strategies and subsequent case studies for community resource reallocation and urban grassroots activism. The burgeoning global movement towards “sharing” focuses on real-world, people-powered solutions to society’s most pressing problems. Each of the presenters are working actively to create a sustainable and collaborative art economy model and offered a glimpse into how sharing economies operate in a real-world context. As opposed to the presiding art market economy that benefits the privileged, one operating on competition, scarcity and individualism, these groups use the democratic self-organization found in the community commons platform to reframe the value of art and art labor.
Co-editor of the book and keynote speaker Tom Llewellyn is the Strategic Partnerships Director at Shareable.net, and a lifelong sharer, commoner, and storyteller. He manages organizational, editorial, and events partnerships and has coordinated the global Sharing Cities Network, and other community sharing campaigns, in addition to speaking internationally about real, equitable sharing.
Since its inception in 1974, Pro Arts has served the Bay Area community by providing a space for artists and community members to collaborate, experiment, produce and engage in critical dialogue about pressing social issues. This year marks a change in the Pro Arts identity; it has ambitiously restructured itself to fit the commons model. Led by Executive Director Natalia Mount, Pro Arts COMMONS is actively working to break down traditional hierarchical art world relationships (gallerist/artist, curator/artist, inside/outside, etc.) in favor of communizing art resources, art spaces and intellectual property. Tuesday marked this transformation officially. You can read more about Natalia’s new model for the arts at the Journal for Aesthetics & Protest and Shareable.net.
On view at the gallery is the work of collaborative artist John Law, an urban prankster and prominent member of the Bay Area’s counter-culture. Against a backdrop of neon, radical photography and culture-jamming periodicals, Mount organized a group of people that don’t just talk about making a difference but in a rather Sartrean fashion, ARE making a difference.
Let’s begin with the Project Kalahati, a collection of young writers, philosophers and revolutionaries intent on publishing under-represented and marginalized artists. Their grassroots community-driven approach to publishing breathes new life into an industry monopolized by behemoths. Specializing in print material covering metaphysical traditions, radical political theory, and anarchist thought, this is a press where people are at the center or production. Just this month, Project Kalahati moved into the space of the Pro Arts COMMONS with the goal of sharing resources and collaborating and co-creating literary art events, vibrant publications, poetry slams and readings.
Also part of the Pro Arts COMMONS is Safer DIY Spaces, a nonprofit founded in 2016 to support at-risk live/work artists and community spaces in the Bay Area. Created in response to the tragic Oakland Ghostship fire, the organization assists with core safety improvements, full legalization, construction financing, and public policy initiatives for low-income working artists. Founder David Keenan works with property owners, lenders, investors, land trusts and foundations to put vulnerable, culturally-critical properties firmly on the path towards self-ownership. He is heavily involved in community sharing initiatives (see Omni Commons) advocates for artists in the DIY community who otherwise are without representation.
Ratskin Records is headed by artist, activist and self-proclaimed rabble-rouser Micheal Dadonna. The local progressive recording studio represents experimental musicians from a wide variety of genres including punk, electronica, hip/hop, post-industrial funk and dub. Dadonna is the Curator and Events Manager at Pro Arts and has been working for the better part of two years on a collaborative installation/performative project entitled the Hybrid Series. The series aims to push the boundaries of art and music to redefine societal norms, disrupt current power structures and provide a space for avant-garde musicians to create, flourish and collaborate without fear of exploitation.
While Pro Arts has always been at the forefront when it comes to the intersection of art and art world politics, other local galleries have adopted the commons model and are actively working towards dispelling outdated exploitative art world practices. Mercury Twenty was one of the presenters last Tuesday as well Dream Farm Commons, for which Pro Arts is the fiscal sponsor. Inspired by Oakland Art Murmur in 2006, Mercury 20 is an artist-run collective space with twenty-one members who share the cost, labor and responsibility of showing their work. This includes installation, generating publicity/sales, rent & operations and of course, the creation of artworks. As artist and Mercury 20 member Joanna Poethig puts it, “For the artists it’s not about paying to show just our own work but it is about creating a collective, creative project for ourselves and the public.” The gallery prides itself on the collective/sharing model and is thus able to provide high quality shows and art objects at a reasonable price.
In 2018, Dream Farm Commons opened the doors to its multi-use space in Downtown Oakland. Also an artist-run gallery, they operate with horizontal conversation and consensus and are part of the larger Oakland creative commons. Featuring bi-monthy exhibitions, pop-ups, workshops, performances, social practice projects, and residencies, Dream Farm is intent upon sharing a site where “radical imagination, art-making, social change and creative production” are not just possible but readily accessible.
International creative consultant, story engineer and Ted Fellow Benjamin Burke was also a speaker at the event Tuesday. His work usually manifests as poems, performances, or junk-automata but recently he has started to work with engineers, cultural conservationists and architects to create sustainable communities from the ground up. These massive building projects area testament to the power of collaboration, as witnessed by the decade-long project in the middle of the Indian desert entitled Dhun. Here, Burke and his team are working “to redesign outdated systems related to education, workplace, commerce, and recreation in order to build a living environment that provides people with the freedom, inspiration, and resources to discover and develop their own potential.” His first project of this nature was the hard-fought preservation of the Oakland creative space Shadetree, which has been home to working artists and musicians since 1979. Under threat of eviction and demolition, Burke and fellow residents started non-profit Shade, which raised 2.5 million dollars to purchase the space, thus preserving not only Oakland’s oldest live/work space but a key component of the city’s cultural history.
It was truly inspiring to witness such an outpouring of energy, enthusiasm, and action for post-capitalist modes of production in an art world context. Against the odds, the aforementioned groups are participating in sharing economies and thus reevaluating cultural production and art labor practices. A precedent has been set in Oakland and in other parts of the world; we can rely on each other for the things we need if we are willing to operate under the guise of collectivism and abundance rather than scarcity and individualism. The question remains, despite this positive push towards a sharing economy, self-governance and resource reallocation: are we isolated in the liberal enclaves of the world? How viable is the restructuring of cities by people for the people when we live in a society dictated by individualism? Can America shift the paradigm away from reliance on big government and a market economy in favor of smaller, community-driven approaches?
Written by Mallory Wilson
Pro Arts COMMONS
Energy Plan for the Western Man: Art after Capitalism, round table discussion with Keith Hennessy (artist), Sylvie Denis (author), Praba Pilar (artist), Andrew Mount (artist/educator), and Elizabeth Thomas (curator) at Shaping San Francisco, Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics (518 Valencia St, SF.)
This round table discussion centered on each of the participant’s practice and individual work with an accent on the future/post-capitalism. Largely drawn on themes that are present in Joseph Beuys work, and to be more specific his pioneering concept of social sculpture, money and universal basic income, we used his figure to discuss the future of art and the future of art/artist/author/
The first step toward a post-capitalist practice involves the redefinition of art itself. Art after capitalism starts right now. Is the promised future artist’s emancipation providing only a contemplative respite from the exploitation, hierarchies and conflict present in the art world today? What does the future hold for artists, authors, performers? Will the artist abandon the authorial form? Will there be massive exodus from the museum/from the bookstore/from the performance venue? Will art finally merge with our lived experience? What new avenues can lead us toward an exit from our failed artistic paradigms? Will the rules of competition and money remain alive in the background and it is important to learn how to struggle absolutely for changes that are still only partial? Can we build a truly inclusive adequate, equitable and decentralized system that puts the artist/author/performer/
Video Documentation of “Energy Plan for the Western Man: Art After Capitalism” HERE
About the Presenters:
Keith Hennessy, MFA, PhD, is a dancer, writer, choreographer, activist, and ritualist. Raised in Canada, living in San Francisco since 1982, he tours internationally. Keith’s recent collaborators include Peaches, Meg Stuart, Scott Wells, Jassem Hindi, J Jha, Annie Danger, Gerald Casel, Blank Map, and Turbulence. 2017 awards include the Guggenheim and the Sui Generis. Hennessy directs Circo Zero and was a member of Contraband, 1985-1994. 2017-18 gigs include VAC Foundation (Moscow), Impulstanz (Vienna), L’Artère (Québec), Warsaw Flow, Blackwood (Toronto), Movement Research (NY), FRESH (SF), and the colleges San Diego State, UC Riverside, St Mary’s, and Hollins.
Sylvie Denis, a former English teacher, was born in 1963 and lives in Cognac. A short story writer, novelist, essayist, anthologist, editor in chief of Cyberdreams magazine, she is also a translator of science fiction and of fantasy authors, namely Greg Ewan, Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds, among others.
With so many strings to her bow, Sylvie is often considered as the “Grande Dame of French science fiction”! Her novels and short stories (awarded the Solaris and Rosny Aîné prizes) are clearly written with emphasis given to the theme of new technology and its impact on human society. After Jardins virtuels (Virtual gardens) (Folio SF), published in 2003, Atalante published her Haute-°©‐École (High School), awarded the 2004 Julia Verlanger prize, and La Saison des Singes (Monkey Season) in 2007. In its collection “Autres Mondes” Mango has also published two young adult novels: Les Îles dans le ciel and Phénix Futur.
She also likes to draw and creates digital collages and illustrations under the name of Magmaplasma.
Praba Pilar is a diasporic Colombian artist keen on disrupting the contemporary ‘Cult of the Techno-Logic.’ She creates live art, performances, digital and electronic installations, participatory workshops, and experimental public talks. Her projects have traveled widely in all kinds of spaces around the world, and include the NO!!!BOT, the Church of Nano Bio Info Cogno, the Cyborg Soap Opera, and the Nano Sutra of Mathturbation. She has a PhD in Performance Studies from UC Davis, is currently Co-Director of the Hindsight Institute and Disinterpellation Technologies, and is online at https://
Andrew Mount is an English artist and educator whose artwork has been shown in the UK, Germany and USA. Participatory, or socially-engaged art practice has become a central motivating element in Mount’s work; participation in art constituted his doctoral focus which blended historical precedents (such as Joseph Beuys and Fluxus) with contemporary practitioners (such as Superflex and Anton Vidokle). Current artwork includes paintings and screenprints that meditate upon the repurposing of signifiers within the empirical structure of finance (such as greek glyphs); an investigation into the assumption of divine rights, royalty and the dawn of capitalism; a collaborative work that uses custom software paired with anachronistic hardware to present an installation that recodes the aesthetic profile of current political events. Mount gained a BA(Hons) First Class in Painting from the University of Reading (UK), an MFA in Combined Media from Hunter College, CUNY and an EdD in Interdisciplinary Studies in Art & Art Education from Columbia University. He has been living and working in the USA since 1997, and currently lives and works in Oakland, CA. andrewmount.com
Elizabeth Thomas is Director of Public Engagement at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, where she produces participatory, performative, site-specific, and discursive projects at both the de Young and Legion of Honor Museums, including upcoming commissions with Ana Prvacki, Jace Clayton, and Anthony Discenza in collaboration with Skywalker Sound. Most recently she served as curator-in-residence with Philadelphia Mural Arts to research and propose new forms of public practice, realizing projects with Josh Macphee, Megawords, and Temporary Services in addition to Michael Rakowitz’s Radio Silence, a radio series and podcast made in collaboration with Iraqi refugees and Iraq War veterans in Philadelphia, recently launched and available on iTunes and PRX. Previously she directed the MATRIX program at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum, using the university as both a site and a context for projects considering central questions of research, interdisciplinarity, experimentation, and political and social engagement, with artists such as Omer Fast, Futurefarmers, Mario Garcia Torres, Jill Magid, Ahmet Ogut, Trevor Paglen, Olivia Plender, Emily Roysdon, Tomas Saraceno, and Allison Smith, among others. She has served as faculty in both Curatorial Practice and Graduate Fine Arts at the California College of the Arts, was previously associate curator of contemporary art at the Carnegie Museum of Art and curatorial fellow at the Walker Art Center, and has organized exhibitions independently for the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Mass MoCA, and the Andy Warhol Museum, among others.
Never Work, Symposium & Provocation at Beneficial State Bank, 1438 Webster St., Suite 300, Oakland.
50 years ago, in May, a general strike paralyzed France for nearly a month as modern capitalism was directly assaulted by a broad cross section of society that included workers, students, and the unemployed. The streets, schools and factories were filled with people passionately raising profound social questions among them…why work? Who does it benefit? Is it fulfilling? 12,500 days of tedious employment later, we will revisit those questions in a context that has evolved with automation, human resources management, debt, pseudo participation in decision-making and surveillance technologies masking this social truth: the whole system of work as it exists today has only one purpose: to grow the wealth of our global rulers at the expense of the rest of humanity.
The community was invited to toast friends and frenemies with Molotov-style cocktails and binge on let-them eat cake.
About the Presenters:
Marina Gorbis is Executive Director of the Institute for the Future (IFTF), a 50-year old non-profit research and consulting organization based in Silicon Valley. She has brought a futures perspective to hundreds of organizations in business, education, government, philanthropy, and civic society. Marina’s current research focuses on transformations in the world of work and new forms of value creation. She launched the Workable Futures Initiative at IFTF with the aim of developing a deeper understanding of new work patterns and to prototype a generation of Positive Platforms for work. She has introduced the concept of Universal Basic Assets (UBA) as a framework for thinking about different types of assets and the role they play in economic security. The UBA framework also highlights at a variety of approaches and tools we can use to achieve wider asset distribution and greater equity. Marina’s book The Nature of the Future: Dispatches from the Socialstructed World explores many of these themes and draws connections between the changes in our technology infrastructure and our organizational landscape, from education to governance and health. She frequently writes and speaks on future organizational, technology, and social issues. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in public policy from University of California, Berkeley.
Guillaume Paoli is the author of “Demotivational Training” (Little Black Cart Books) and co-author of the Happily Unemployed Manifesto. In 2008, he was hired by the Leipziger Town Theater as a “resident philosopher” a position no one else in Europe has held so so far. In this role, he created an “External Audit for Meaning and Purpose” and ran a “philosophical office” where city dwellers would come and discuss the topic of their choice. In 2014 he ran a similar project at the renowned Berliner Volksbühne until this theater was taken over by the art market , provoking a huge resistance which he heartily supports. About his latest book “Metamorphosis at Night – On the Gentrification of Culture” (2017) the Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote: “Anyone who really wants to know what kind of times we live in and how to reflect about them should read it. Many times.” In January 2018 it was rated among the “ten best nonfiction German books”.
Isaac Cronin is one of the founders of the Situationist movement in the Bay Area. He co-translated “Demotivational Training,” which was nothing like work. He promises to reveal the secret of how he has made himself unhireable but still gets the big bucks with which he funds The Fish Tank.
This event was made possible with the generous support of Beneficial State Bank.
Beneficial State Bank is a B Corp Certified and community development bank whose mission is to build prosperity in our communities through fair and transparent beneficial banking services. We serve individuals, nonprofits, and businesses in California, Oregon, and Washington. Beneficial State Bank is owned by a nonprofit which means we have no private shareholders seeking to maximize profit at the expense of our communities our planet.
We believe that banks should nourish our communities, not extract from them, and so we commit at least 75% of our loan dollars toward a new, inclusive, and just economy. None of our loan dollars can work against our mission. Join the movement by aligning your money with your values. Visit beneficialstate.org/impact to learn more.
Short VIDEO documentation HERE
Intentions. Transfer and Disappearance II by Eva Davidova was a short animation loop, addressing a post-capitalist future in which our future techno-centric identity, constantly manipulated by computers and ‘cold’ data, has the potential to expose the power relationship of control between the powerful and the powerless. This form of a synthetic freedom, largely based on the latest technological advances, is constructed rather than natural. What if we employ the digital tools available to us and use the failure in representation to our own end, as a means of protest? Will we see the emergence of non-dualistic, perhaps even primitive, early version of ourselves? Can this dystopian future be subverted through a software glitch, one that exposes the limitation of technology to authentically represent humanity?
With the flavor of Ballardian science fiction, Eva Davidova uses photography and 2D animation to construct two identical images of a human face. These mirrored images act as a visceral reminder of the failure in representation when reliant on cutting-edge digital tools. The first image remains intact when observed, while the second, a 3D model, in which all gestures and emotions are perceived as mistakes by the software, does not result in the same image. The ‘stranger’ in this case, inhabiting the digital spaces (and behaving on our behalf) acts as a gate through a new type of “otherness”. Welcome to the future!
Intentions. Transfer and Disappearance II was produced with the help of Fan Feng (SF) and made possible by the Zellerbach Family Foundation.
About the Artist
Eva Davidova is a Spanish/Bulgarian multidisciplinary artist based in New York.
The issues of her work—behavior, cruelty, ecological disaster and manipulation of information emerge as paradoxes rather than assumptions, in an almost fairy-tale fashion. Her practice involves drawing, performance, installation, computer generated 3D sculpture and photo-based animation.
Eva Davidova has exhibited at the Bronx Museum in New York City; Everson Museum, Syracuse; Albright Knox Museum, Buffalo; MACBA, Barcelona, CAAC Sevilla; Instituto Cervantes, Sofia; Contemporary Arts Center La Regenta and many others. She received the 2008 M-tel Award for Contemporary Bulgarian Art; the 2009 Djerassi Honorary Fellowship; fellowships for many artist residencies programs; and support from the Shearwater Foundation. Davidova was an artist in residency at Residency Unlimited, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts / Art Works Grant.
Recent shows include Intentions at ZAZ 10 Times Square billboards, Collapse of Vision at Equity Gallery New York, Birds Birth at the ASU Emerge Festival and at the PhotoEspaña Festival in Madrid; the curatorial project Happenland at Radiator Gallery in NY; Playground for Drowning Animals; and Transfer and Disappearance at the Media Center by IFP in New York.
Intentions. Transfer and Disappearance II by Eva Davidova at Frank Ogawa Plaza on May 3, 2018 (Part of our Imagining Post-Capitalism Festival).
Posted by Pro Arts on Friday, May 11, 2018
The Body as Resistance featured the work of two radical local performance artists and cultural practitioners: Titania Kumeh & Jade Ariana Fair. Both Kumeh’s and Fair’s work deals with deconstructing our relationships with the body and it’s role within the capitalistic system of oppression. Through amplifications of their own histories and ancestries, they are actively and systematically subverting the agents of oppression, which spearhead the erasure of black female narratives of struggle, history, healing, and documentation. Capitalism serves as an agent of destruction against the already violenced bodies of the oppressed citizens of earth, and these artists seek to imagine a future beyond violence, beyond erasure, beyond white supremacy, and thus beyond capitalism. In a capitalistic world, radical self care is a revolutionary act of anti-violence and anti-capitalism. Envisioning a post-capitalism within an artistic context is the first step towards better future for us all.
About the Artists:
Titania Kumeh’s performances are meditations on her family, ancestry, and experiences as a first-generation, Liberian-Bahamian American maneuvering through the world in the body of a black woman. Kumeh has performed with the Brontez Purnell Dance Company and in productions by Lisa Rybovich Cralle, Sophia Wang, Wura Natasha Ogunji, and Tropic Green/Adee Roberson. She was the lead singer in the punk rock band Ugly.
Jade Ariana Fair is a multidisciplinary artist living in Oakland, CA. She works across the genre of painting, performance, sound, and installation. She is a socially engaged artist whose social practice extends to arts education with youth and a healing arts practice. She has been making art for as long as she can recall as a form of healing, guidance and self-recovery. She emphasizes resourcefulness in her practice, both her own and that of her ancestral legacy. Her arts education is a populist, community education derived from her own planetary exploration. She counts her influences from such diverse sources as the prophetic science-fiction of Octavia Butler, the body art of Ana Mendieta, and outsider artists such as Bill Traylor and Sister Gertrude Morgan. Her art praxis is both research-based and heavily guided by intuition. She paints what she sees in visions, dreams, and from visceral responses to her study of personal and generational histories. She is a 2017 artist-in-residence at The Center for Afrofuturist Studies in Iowa City.