[-empyre-] The Commons

linda carroli lcarroli at optusnet.com.au
Sat Jun 18 06:06:54 EST 2011

Final text. All texts available online starting from here:

The Commons

Taking cues from the examples and critics cited here, the idea of the
commons has emerged as a networked space of creative and generative
possibility and risk. To recover is to reclaim. In shaping the commons, Jay
Walljasper states that we "recognise some forms of wealth belong to all of
us, and that these community resources must be actively protected and
managed for the good of all. The commons are the things that we inherit and
create jointly, and that will (hopefully) last for generations to come. The
commons consists of gifts of nature such as air, oceans and wildlife as well
as shared social creations such as libraries, public spaces, scientific
research and creative works." http://www.onthecommons.org However, there's
never just one commons - the commons itself is multiple and complex, in
process and becoming. Artists actively keep the commons alive in the face of
all kinds of opposition, censorship and antagonism.  

So what kind of art and art event is integral to this becoming or emergence?
Several essays in Empires, Ruins + Networks: The Transcultural Agenda in
Art, edited by Scott McQuire and Nikos Papastergiadis, also explore the
possibility of a new network of global cultural dialogue and the
construction of a global common. What I see happening in post-disaster work
of the three examples cited earlier is a sense of the 'becoming commons'
emerging from ruins and loss in a situation of what Ross Gibson might
describe as 'changefulness'. It's what I am inclined to think of as practice
based, as 'changescaping' (work in progress at

How do we reconcile the sometimes exclusive and exclusionary cultural
practices with this call for 'the commons' and emergence? Whose
responsibility is it to do the bridging (politics, art or, as Papastergiadis
proposes, the "politics of art"), generating those relationships or draw
those connections? What should we risk? The very idea - the possibility, the
assumption - of the Biennial itself. Ultimately, there's a question of
governance and stewardship. As Brenson says, "we have to talk about art in
ways in which everyone has something to lose". If critical art, as McQuire
and Papastergiadis write, "increasingly take an active role in constituting
new social relationships" - or as Richard Rorty proposes, "speaks
differently" - curators have a pivotal role to play in cultivation and
caring (curare), politics and poetics. We all have a role to play in the
poiesis of the commons.

Thanks so much ... look forward to your comments.


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