[NetBehaviour] invitation to share

Paula Crutchlow paula at blindditch.org
Wed Nov 4 14:35:39 CET 2015

Hi Annie and everyone

Thanks so much for inviting me to share some thoughts about working 'on 
the ground' at Furtherfield. I've tried to answer all the questions and 
give a bit of background to the project before describing what we've 
been up to in Finsbury Park. So it's a bit of a long response. I hope 
this is interesting to some of you, and I will respond to any questions 
as promptly as possible. I've also put links to various things I've 
mentioned at the bottom of the narrative.

The Museum of Contemporary Commodities (MoCC) is a collaboration with 
human geographer Dr Ian Cook who researches in material culture at 
University of Exeter, in Devon, UK. His website Followthethings.com 
collates activist actions, films, events, commentaries and discussions 
that attempt to shift attitudes around trade justice issues. His focus 
is on making more visible the hidden lives in things through critical 
pedagogy. I also live in Exeter and met Ian in 2012, as I was finishing 
the performance project make-shift with Helen Varley Jamieson, which as 
you described Annie, tried to unfold and discuss attitudes towards 
consumption and disposal in late-capitalism through the lens of plastic 
marine pollution.

When Ian and I started working together I was thinking about how 
perceptual shifts happen to such an extent that peoples' behaviour 
changes. Helen and I had spent two years staging conversational events 
in peoples homes in different parts of the world using the UpStage 
cyberformance platform. The accumulative thought processes and 
discussion with so many different groups of people around what to do 
about that stuff that's whirling 'out there' in the pacific gyre, and 
its relation with our domestic lives and the systems we are subject to, 
contributed in quite a deep shift in my own attitudes towards 
consumption. Tracking back from the disposal of the stuff we don't want 
anymore to the construction of the commodity as fetish and the 
overwhelming subsumption of everything into a state of capitalist 
realism as Mark Fisher describes, it seemed like an interesting next 
step. Digital connectivity, surveillance systems, data production and 
associated predictive analysis are of course essential to draw on to 
consider and how we perform with/in/from contemporary commodity culture.

I make performance events for formal settings such as theatres and 
galleries, and also participatory works which are heightened moments of 
public dramaturgy ie. participants are very much aware they are taking 
part in the making of something performative together even if it does 
not occur in a formal performance space.
My work has always been group based, collaborative and 
cross-disciplinary, and increasingly I am working with all kinds of 
people who wouldn't usually engage in performance making to make 
dramaturgies that need social participation through a combination of 
place based physically sited activity and digitally networked engagement 
to succeed. I also work a lot with social science methods - 
questionnaires, interviews, focus group type activities and different 
types of mapping and modelling as research, presentation and performance 

MoCC is drawing on all of these things to facilitate a public curatorial 
process that will eventually take place between an online interface and 
a gallery/sited exhibition space. The work asks people to consider how 
ordinary things they might buy every day are valued, and produce value 
in different ways. How do the values held in these things shape the 
everyday spaces we live in and our actions within them? How do our daily 
actions contribute to shaping wider global processes, and how can we 
intervene in global systems in empowered and sustained ways that might 
contribute to different types of shapings? There is an emphasis in the 
project on everyone being in the 'same boat', and being experts in their 
own consumption experience. No moral high ground, no guilt. I hope that 
the accumulation of materials in the process will form and archive a 
discussion that anyone can contribute to, or delve into.

I think we are about halfway through this process. We began in a 
residency from April this year funded by ESRC and Islington Council 
where I did some ethnographic work going on accompanied shopping trips 
with Finsbury Park locals to find out about how people consume, what 
their priorities are and what drives their actions. This surfaced a 
number of themes that are relevant beyond the immediate locale that 
formed the basis of our prototype value categories for the museum: 
processes of gentrification, distrust in consumer information, lack of 
common space where its possible to be without consuming, a feeling of 
constructing particular types of consumption spaces through just buying 
stuff we like.

In addition to this we ran a series of lab type events with data 
activist Dr Alison Powell that mashed up the rapid 'flash mob' 
ethnography method she uses to find out more about the data culture of a 
particular site, with Ian's interest in political LEGOing. We ran a two 
day workshop with MA students in Narrative Environments from Central 
Saint Martins that developed prototype public engagements. These were 
some great events with a wide range of participants that again 
contributed themes and strategies to what we are making. We felt we 
needed an initial testing of a number of objects/activities that will 
form part of the museum assemblage. In July we ran a three day event 
called MoCC Free Market at the Furtherfield gallery where we gathered 
people's responses to how our prototypes were shaping up. This included 
a paper version of adding things to the museum and the possibility of 
asking a 'Commodity Consultant' (Ian's former research students in 
material culture) questions about the provenance or materiality of their 
commodities. Participants were people who came specifically to the event 
informed through digital channels, and people passing through the park 
on the way to somewhere else. We worked with a number of park based 
organisations to make things happen, and purposefully made the event 
feel accessible to draw people into the work who might not usually 
participate in gallery based or digital art. There is a slide show of 
the Free Market on the Furtherfield flickr site (link below). There will 
also be a short video soon giving a feel of what happened that's nearly 
edited :)

We are currently waiting on a funding decision to move to the next stage 
of development of an online interface for MoCC. What we are showing in 
Furtherfield Gallery as part of The Human Face of Cryptoeconomies is a 
series of prototype interactions: a responsive doll who acts as a guide 
to the Museum of Contemporary Commodities. She is the google product My 
Cayla Doll which technologist Gareth Foote and myself have re-scripted 
to speak about commodity culture, the museum, socio-material 
assemblages, the value of labour... and also skateboards, ponies, 
shopping. There is a buzz feed type quiz that is intended to be a type 
of thinking 'warm-up' to the process of adding something the museum 
(www.moccguide.net/take-our-quiz) which also extends into a twitter 
interaction/conversation. There is a visual documentation of what people 
added to the museum in the summer in the paper prototyping session and a 
paper version of the Add to the Museum interaction.

In relation to working in the physical spaces in Finsbury Park that 
Furtherfield offers:
I make participatory performance and actions in everyday spaces and I 
think that the increasing ubiquity of networked objects, IoT and 
phone/tablet based interactions in daily life demands that they be 
included as an integral part of that dramaturgy. I experience online 
spaces as channelled, curated and as speedy as our increasingly 
corporatised public spaces - such as city squares, leisure areas, and 
parks... To engage a wide range of audiences outside of formal gallery 
spaces in the kind of work I make I think requires interventions that 
involve people into different types of relationships with their media - 
to upset, disrupt, resist or re-channel the flow. The growing assemblage 
that is MoCC will hopefully do some of that between many different types 
of space and place and forms of encounter. MoCC is a collaborative 
project and ideas from all of the people on the www.moccguide.net/about 
page and participants in the events have been instrumental in growing 
the interaction. This includes an incredibly supportive working 
relationship with Furtherfield involving using the commons as a workshop 
space/base for discussion, access to local networks, critical feedback 
and curatorial support.

In relation to Kate Rich's project I think that Feral Trade tracks the 
labour and resources involved in the mobility of things, drawing 
attention to these invisible facets of trade systems and infrastructures 
by finding ways to bypass or move outside them. It resists these aspects 
of commodity culture by gifting logistics to people; celebrating and 
personalising the effort involved in that gifting through documentation 
and social events. It was really great that Kate came to the first 
outing of the MoCC idea in January 2013 which took the form of 
Thinkering Day to construct a manifesto for the project. So her work has 
definitely informed the development of MoCC.

At the moment I think that MoCC tries to expose and question how 
commodity culture is constructed by asking people to excavate and 
interpret the hidden values in things in order to share what kind of 
heritage they are leaving in the world. The project is a collaborative, 
critical pedagogy which attempts to think through the relations between 
the trade systems we live in, are subject to, and consciously or 
un-consciously contribute to shaping (including those constructed 
through data processes), and how they affect what we value and how we 
are valued ourselves. It should in the end, be an accessible way for 
anyone to think through what our stuff is and does and ask together what 
we want it to do and how.

That's probably enough for now :) Links below.

Ian Cook - www.followthethings.com
make-shift - www.make-shift.net
This City's Centre - a project using networked technologies as 
performance modes in Exeter City Centre made by the collective I work 
with, Blind Ditch.
Dr Alison Powell - 
LEGO blogpost - http://www.moccguide.net/category/blog/
Free Market Flickr link - 
Video of MoCC Thinkering Day and collaborators - www.moccguide.net/about

> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Hi all,
> Some time ago we discussed the relation between furtherfield on the
> "ground"  and this mailinglist. Personnally I wanted to be closer, to know
> more of what and how things happened in the park, so I could have a better
> understanding of how ideas developped by a former mostly online community
> translate in a venue in a public park.
> At that moment I also volunteered to introduce someone new, someone not
> familiar with this mailinglist.
> I know Paula Crutchlow from Remote Encounters in Cardiff in 2013, where she
> presented *Makeshift* an online performance project she did with Helen
> Varley Jamieson.
> Now she is participating in Furtherfield's exhibition *Art Data Money*.
> With cultural geographer Ian Cook she presents *The Museum of Contemporary
> Commodities* (MoCC). In this project they treat everyday purchases as if
> they were our future heritage, says the website.
> When I tried to get my head around the project, it made me think of Kate
> Rich's *Feral Trade Cafe* exhibition shown by Furtherfield in 2009. The
> projects are asking questions about where, what and when you consume and as
> in Makeshift also what could be the impact of this consumption on society.
> Here the artists ask the visitor, participant (?) to take the viewpoint of
> a museum curator. How does this  change the process of thinking about
> consumption? Does it? What can "art" reveal about consumption?
> Paula, can you please tell us a bit more about what you are showing in the
> exhibition? (are there any photos?) Is there some archive (anything that
> would make it more lively to me) of the related events : the Walkshop and
> or the Commodity Consultation, you organised ?
> I hope you can find some time Paula
> Annie
> www.moccguide.net
> http://www.digicult.it/news/the-museum-of-contemporary-commodities/
> www.make-shift.net
> http://furtherfield.org/exhibitions/feral-trade-cafe

The Museum of Contemporary Commodities will be opening soon atwww.moccguide.net
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