8 essays
Compiled by Ryan Hughes

Covid-19 has provided evidence of how our current structures are woefully inadequate. While isolated we have an opportunity to do the groundwork towards building something new, something optimistic, something for tomorrow. The texts gathered here state the need for change, provide brief insights into proposed or existing alternatives and then ask the all important question. How? How can we build? What are the ways forward and how do we take them? The collection then concludes with a reminder of the value of labor on one's own terms and towards goals with collective benefits.

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Not An Alternative
Institutional Liberation
Originally published in November 2016

Some on the Left respond with refusal. Advocates of neo-primitivist lifestyle politics retreat to the forests and mountains, to DIY off-the-grid living that abandons the millions in the cities. This “not my problem” individualist survivalism reflects the ideological orientation of neoliberal capitalism. Survival-themed reality television has been big for over a decade. Others on the Left side with the things. They advocate horizontal relationships with rocks and nonlife, shift to deep time, and celebrate the microbes and weeds likely to thrive in a posthuman world. Here the genocidal mindset cultivated in the sixteenth century’s colonization of the Americas expands and turns back in on human life as a whole. The failure to value black and brown life, the inability to conceive living with and in diverse egalitarian communities, becomes the incapacity to value human life at all.


Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, and Anton Vidokle
Editorial—“Alternative Economies”
Originally published in September 2011

We can now say with some certainty that one advantage of the Cold War was that it placed many of the complexities and contradictions of economic problems within a clear and singular binary between capitalism and communism. On top of that, arguments in favor of one or the other had massive geopolitical blocs backing them, and the sheer scale alone was enough to draw any economic argument into the tide of one side or the other. This made it only natural for dominant narratives following the dismantling of communism to profess the triumph of capitalism. However, it is only now that the logic of global capitalism has begun to collapse from within that we are forced to consider the fact that economic value and actual worth have actually been floating on parallel tracks this entire time.

Gean Moreno and Ernesto Oroza
Learning from Little Haiti
Originally published in May 2009

It is at work everywhere, functioning smoothly at times, at others in fits and starts: an urban process in which things designed for one particular function are used for another. A standard stock of materials suddenly confronts a logic of construction that reinterprets it completely in uses and contexts that were never imagined for it. At times, this combinatorial propensity—even promiscuity—lying dormant in various artifacts and materials is fired up to such a degree that the apparent inevitability of established typologies and uses are undermined completely.

Nicolas Siepen and Åsa Sonjasdotter
Learning by Doing: Reflections on Setting Up a New Art Academy
Originally published in March 2010

Ane Hjort Guttu
How to Become a Non-Artist
Originally published in March 2014

In the winter of 2006, I started observing my son Einar’s experiments with form. Einar was creating small arrangements around the house, combining objects or moving them to new places. I documented the arrangements, wondering if a four-year-old related more freely to objects and meaning, or if he had any concept of composition.

Pierre Bal-Blanc, Ferran Barenblit, Alexandra Baudelot, Binna Choi, Eyal Danon, Maria Lind, Pablo Martínez, Sanne Oorthuizen, Emily Pethick, Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez, and Tadej Pogačar
How to Begin Living in the Trees?
Originally published in March 2014

Cluster is a network of eight contemporary visual arts organizations located in residential areas on the periphery of European cities (with one member organization in Israel). Each is highly invested in engaging with its particular locality. The network was formed in summer 2011 with the goal of facilitating an exchange of knowledge on how the different member organizations operate and how they relate to their local contexts, to funders, and to the media. Most of the organizations are situated in underserved or impoverished areas with large immigrant populations, and where many languages are spoken. It is the first network of its kind.

Denise Ferreira da Silva
Originally published in December 2019

Without time or space, a when or a where, without references to moment or place, the various versions of the question of how that inspire this conversation alleviate the task; they gather us under the assertion that weand, I mean, black women—do, or rather create. Without asking for a program or a method, it is a statement.

Liam Gillick
The Good of Work
Originally published in May 2010

Art is a history of doing nothing and a long tale of useful action. It is always a fetishization of decision and indecision—with each mark, structure, and engagement. What is the good of this work? The question contains a challenge to contemporary practitioners—or “current artists,” a term I will use, as contemporary art no longer accounts for what is being made—that is connected more to what we have all become than to what we might propose, represent, or fail to achieve. The challenge is the supposition that artists today—whether they like it or not—have fallen into a trap that is predetermined by their existence within a regime that is centered on a rampant capitalization of the mind.

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