[-empyre-] OSW: open source writing in the network

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Mon Jan 23 23:55:08 EST 2012

Hi Simon & all,

A warm thanks to Simon for the introduction, and also thanks for 
inviting me to share a dialogue with others on the Empyre list.

The discussions have been excellent. Even though I had written various 
responses during the last few weeks, in the end I did not post them. One 
reason was because I wanted to rethink some of the ideas (I originally) 
proposed in response to some of the discussions taking place. The other, 
is because we have just been far too busy. This has either involved 
editing a large backlog of reviews, articles and interviews for 
Furtherfield - getting particular projects and new publications off the 
ground, dealing with immediate tech needs on the server, as well as 
working at things for the new Gallery & social space 
(http://www.furtherfield.org/gallery). A jam packed month already, it 
feels like four months worth all rolled into one.

So here I am, wondering how the hell I can explain, as Simon says "how 
communities of shared-value emerge through such initiatives and how 
their members are able to identify themselves to one another and others."

An important ingredient is the blurring of (and critiquing of) 
mechanistic structures and bringing about the facilitation and chaotic 
nuances of imaginative experiences that feelings and ideas around 'free 
will' gives us, in actions which (hopefully) relate contextually to the 
practice or field you are part of. The Culture(s) I am part of, are not 
necessarily kept alive through the means of efficiency and canons alone 
(it really isn't). It is kept alive through the sharing of mutually 
beneficial ecologies, which harbour a healthy understanding and respect 
towards self and collective autonomy. Distance, is only an occasional 
option - for it involves total immersion if one is to appreciate the 
'raw' grass roots context of a community's subtle nuances and everyday 
needs. This is where the nourishment is, where the heart of things are. 
A constantly 'lived' process of 'being' in touch with the fluxuation of 
emerging ideas and initiatives - they formulate and grow as we breath. 
Engagement in individual explorations and antics, with peer production 
consisting of 'conscious' reflection - and a respect for sharing 
knowledge with others goes both ways.

It is the idiosyncratic nature of the human imagination and its 
uncontrollable spirit against all odds of oppression and top-down 
standardization which attracts us (in Furtherfield), we learn much about 
ourselves and others when playing with and working with others beyond 
our own 'singular' and centralized mind-hubs. "A culture that does not 
appreciate the character of anything eccentric to its model tends to 
homogenize and standardize its definition of the good citizen". James 

Out of these frameworks of creative production emerges various forms of 
creative endeavours. Whether they be from individuals, groups or the 
collective itself. From our own perspective, we hope to share and 
support a wide spectrum that can allow across the board an engaged art 
which explores technology, ecology and social change. Through this 
process of constant change and discovery we ask, in what ways can art be 
critically minded and progressive, in order to contribute, reclaim and 
(potentially) build productive actions and routes that point towards 
social and cultural strategies opposed to the dominant paradigm of 

A large part of Furtherfield's focus, has been to question contemporary 
art's reliance on market driven ideology. We experienced as artists in 
the early 80s, and well into the 90s, a UK art culture mainly dominated 
by the marketing strategies of Saatchi and Saatchi. The same company was 
responsible for the successful promotion of the Conservative Party (and 
conservative culture) that had led to the election of the Thatcher 
government in 1979. We felt that it was time to make a stance against 
such corporations controlling the art scene. Where many equally 
interesting artists and their ideas were being pushed aside, whilst the 
overpowering corporate needs of Saatchi and Saatchi, exploited their 
connections with art education institutions, galleries and press, 
promoting just a few individuals over others, based on their 
personalities alongside their depoliticized artworks.

We live in an age where the very technology and systems that have 
supported progress, through its worldwide channels of production and 
prosperity; are now the very same tools threatening the survival of our 
species, contributing to climate change and 'of course', the emergence 
of the global economic crisis. Neo-liberalist strategies have 
successfully dismantled collective institutions who were once able to 
challenge the effects of its global dominance; especially the 
organisations sharing values associated with social needs in the public 
realm. This “is the imposition everywhere, in the upper spheres of the 
economy and the state as at the heart of corporations, of that sort of 
moral Darwinism that, with the cult of the winner, schooled in higher 
mathematics and bungee jumping, institutes the struggle of all against 
all and cynicism as the norm of all action and behaviour.” Bourdieu.

It is with this background deeply lodged in our minds, in which we at 
Furtherfield have acknowledged (for years in fact) that social change is 
urgently needed. Unlike most art organizations, we have an active remit 
of exploring an art context which changes the world we live in, rather 
than merely supporting privelage and (already supported) hierarchies. At 
heart, we are anti-establishment, not necessarily anti-institutional, we 
are critical and political about those who exploit from their high-end 
positions in holding others down. And we feel that it is the 'duty' of 
any 'conscious' and concerned arts organization; to actively find ways 
in combating such top-down and mind numbingly shameful domination over 
our imaginative freedoms, and general well being. We not only reflect 
creative dissent by interviewing, reviewing high-lighting various 
individuals and groups engaged in similar issues in their work, but we 
ourselves also make art work, initiate projects and write about these 
concerns ourselves - whether they are personal or collective contexts, 
academic or not.

Anyway, I'll catch my breath and let users of this list ponder on the 
subject at hand, before I delve into any specific areas, ideas and 

Any questions, please ask :-)

Wishing you well.


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