[NetBehaviour] Fwd: <nettime> Aesthetics of the Commons. Book Launch and Review

marc garrett marc.garrett2 at gmail.com
Sat Mar 6 22:16:48 CET 2021

Via nettime :-)

Dear nettimers,

please excuse the self-promo, but I'm very proud to announce our new
book, Aesthetics of the Commons. It aims to reassess the concepts of the
commons and of aesthetics from the point of view of some of the most
radical and consequential projects of (post)digital culture, from
shadow-libraries such as monoskop, aaaaarg.fail, memoryoftheworld and
0xdb, to institutions such as Furtherfield, MS Balthazar's Lab, the
école de recherche graphique (erg) in Brussels, and beyond.

With contributions by Christoph Brunner, Daphne Dragona, Jeremy Gilbert,
Olga Goriunova, Gary Hall, Ines Kleesattel, Rahel Puffert, Judith
Siegmund, Sophie Toupin, Magdalena Tyzlik-Carver.

The book is available as softcover print and OA digital.

On that occasion, we would like to invite you to join us for the online
launch of the book, this coming Tuedsay, March 9, 7 PM (CET). All the
details, including the link to join, you can find here:


For a sense of what the book is about, beyond the claims of one of the
editors, below is a very recent review by Agnieszka Wodzińska, Institute
of Network Cultures.

all the best. Felix

Imagining Possible Worlds with “Aesthetics of the Commons”
By Agnieszka Wodzińska, March 5, 2021 at 6:39 pm.


Part of a series by the Institute for Contemporary Art Research at the
Zürich University of the Arts, Aesthetics of the Commons investigates
the fruitful intersection between the idea of the commons, and the
aesthetics of practices that relate to the concept. Overall, the
publication ponders how to enact a shift in academia, arts and
humanities away from private ownership and individualism towards
collective sharing and care through tangible actions and approaches.

Rather than providing a streamline argument and a neat list of aesthetic
characteristics, Aesthetics of the Commons proposes “a series of
propositions on how to think about practices that try to respond to some
of the crises that make up the present moment.”[1] Its strength lies in
the broad understanding of the commons, as well as the wide spectrum of
expertise from ten contributors: Olga Goriunova, Jeremy Gilbert, Judith
Siegmund, Daphne Dragona, Magdalena Tyżlik-Carver, Gary Hall, Ines
Kleesattel, Sophie Toupin, Rahel Puffert, and Christoph Brunner.

Together, they offer different lenses through which we observe
initiatives that demonstrate ways of widening access to resources and
practices. They all build on ideas of care and collaboration rather than
privatisation and commodification, operating somewhat outside of the
capitalist market and, inevitably, entering into conversation with its
inner logic.

Each essay is self-sufficient in its own right, so readers and/or
researchers seeking a specific perspective can engage with just a part
of the publication and walk away from it with needed resources. However,
considering them together allows for a deeper understanding of the core
issue the book addresses: how to recognise and learn a variety of
approaches that allow for a more accessible and collectively-shared pool
of not only knowledge, but also other resources and meaningful
relations. Its structure proves its very point, showing that a variety
of perspectives is the most effective way to facilitate discourse and
extract meanings.

Third in the sequence, Judith Siegmund’s “Which Aesthetics of the
Commons?,” would have made an excellent opening essay. It considers the
classical concept of the arts as parallel to the commons, since both are
often defined and categorised by their “otherness” to politics and the
economy. Siegmund adds nuance to this understanding, proposing that
aesthetic independence and freedom do not exactly define the commons.
She calls on readers to recognise the interdependency between commons,
social structures, and economic hierarchies, as well as the potential
the commons possess in shaping future relations:

“[…] It is productive and sustaining in any case to interpret commons as
economically organised projects – indeed, as economies of their own –
that are able to comment on (if not correct) the leading principles and
convictions of today’s (commercially-driven) economy.”[2]

“Which Aesthetics of the Commons?” provides an insightful overview of
the complex relations between (the creation and upkeep of) commons and
contemporary power structures that govern based on a largely different
set of priorities. Placing it at the start of the book would have
provided a stronger base for readers who are relatively new to this mode
of thinking. It certainly gave me much-needed context, which helped me
engage with the remainder of the texts.

Aesthetics of the Commons provides an in-depth look at initiatives that
demonstrate how the arts, academia and socially-engaged practices can
blend to produce much-needed perspectives of futurity and hope. It
features topics ranging from the politics of open-source digital
libraries (Olga Goriunova’s text) to offline communal agricultural
spaces that seek to preserve and activate cultural heritage (Daphne
Dragona’s text). Throughout, authors refer to each other’s research and
build on it in their own considerations, which constructs a network of
mutual interest and, in a way, care. Again, the content of the
publication confirms its ethos – to consider context, recognise
difference, and construct strong bonds through these acknowledgements.

After reading Aesthetics of the Commons, I felt compelled to reconsider
my relationship to ideas of care and solidarity. Even though they are
practices that many people (like myself) identify with and valorise, we
rarely act on them outside of the realm of what seems feasible and
low-effort. Gary Hall and Daphne Dragona both identify the commons as a
potentially transformative response to the escalating political,
environmental, and social crises. We are under immense stress as we
observe the world turning in a threatening direction. We are anxious
about our financial situations under an unsupportive system that values
wealth above all else. We look for community but struggle to find it due
to online distractions, echo-chambers, paywalls, or offline limitations
that keep meaningful projects from flourishing.

This publication shows that utopian world-building can take place, in
archives and libraries built with consideration and care, and amongst
communities in networks that share much in common, or share very little
yet still choose to support one another, envisioning a better future. I
am now compelled to consider how these networks of solidarity may look,
and whether I came across them recently. Knowing more about how they
manifest, I feel informed to join an effort to help them strengthen and
persevere, pushing against commodification and privatisation. What is
your object of care? What happens when you apply the idea of the commons
to it? Aesthetics of the Commons offers a glimpse into how to mediate
the relations between your object of care and its complex, changing
surroundings, through practices that are open, radical, and hopeful.


[1]Felix Stalder, Cornelia Sollfrank, Shusha Niederberger, eds.,
Aesthetics of the Commons, (Zürich: Diaphanes) p. 32

[2]Judith Siegmund, “Which Aesthetics of the Commons?” in Aesthetics of
the Commons, p. 96

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Wishing you well



Dr Marc Garrett

Co-founder & Artistic director of Furtherfield & DECAL Decentralised Arts

Furtherfield disrupts & democratises art and technology through
exhibitions, labs & debate, for deep exploration, open tools & free
thinking. http://www.furtherfield.org

DECAL Decentralised Arts Lab is an arts, blockchain & web 3.0 technologies
research hub for fairer, more dynamic & connected cultural ecologies &
economies now. http://decal.is/

Recent publications:

State Machines: Reflections & Actions at the Edge of Digital Citizenship,
Finance, & Art. Edited by Yiannis Colakides, Marc Garrett, Inte Gloerich.
Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam 2019 http://bit.do/eQgg3

Artists Re:thinking the Blockchain. Eds, Ruth Catlow, Marc Garrett, Nathan
Jones, & Sam Skinner. Liverpool Press - http://bit.ly/2x8XlMK
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