A Socially Anti-Social, Dialogically Autonomous, Psychedelic Social Practice


Occupy Everything because everything has already been occupied.
Occupy Everything because everything is a site for contestation.

Now is an era of fracture. We are standing surrounded in constant collapse, trying to gather a meaningful life for ourselves.
Capital attempts to claim more and more for its own and is seemingly A-OK with letting what is outside of its sphere collapse. In this era of “the state” seemingly retreating from a “civic function”, when what was “public space” is more and more privatized, social practice becomes interesting because it can fill in that space of “the public” and meet “public needs”. In this era, social practice becomes interesting to radical practitioners because of its ability to organize its own reception within complicated and ambiguous spaces.

Thus, this essay proposes how a different social practice might do more then patch up around the edges of this constant collapse.

In saying that social practice “organizes its own reception” I am identifying social art that can organically build its own fan base. It disseminates and reproduces and (partially) interprets itself through how it is composed – by how it happens. Social art happens when an an artist’s concept is realized through the public’s labor. This “artform” might occur in a museum or a front yard.

I call these times complicated and ambiguous. Here I am referring to the general spaces which people encounter on a daily basis. Our homes and offices, stores and cafes are a collection of intentionalities and histories. Within these spaces, there is the intention to make profits, but also to love, to grow, to pray, to act rebelliously etc., ad infinitum. In other words, our days are rich texts that naturally contain the whole contradictory nature of contemporary life.

Currently, social practice risks being drowned in its own generosity. This essay bases itself in some of these critiques below not to resurrect social practice, but to suggest radical praxis. I propose here how an unrealized social practice might work as a self-critical machine to directly participate in the constitution of a radical movement-machine. Imagine a social practice that manages to keep its most generative elements while building a critically autonomous fuck you to all those fuckers.

This essay pulls from the essay-based insights of Brian Holmes, Marc J. Leger and Chantel Mouffe and Lane Relyea regarding “relational aesthetics” (see the bibliography at the end).

This essay is realized with help of conversations with Christina Ulke, Cara Baldwin, Michael Wilson, Jannon Stein, Adam Overton, Solomon Bothwell, Gerald Raunig, and Nils Norman’s students of the MUR OG RUM School of the Royal Danish Academy among others.

Socially anti-social practice
What would a social practice be like if it worked hard to refuse the normalizing power of a smile and instead worked through more complex emotions? What if instead, social practice argumentatively though playfully built what was to be done.

Dialogically Autonomous Social Practice

The goal of this autonomous position is to maintain the possibility for a position in competition with accepted institutional logics and rules. A social practice that maintains the classically theorized autonomy (Kant and Shiller… I guess) of fine art while concurrently allowing for dialog and exchange. In other-words, a quasi-autonomous practice. An art that maintains an autonomous position vis-a-vis the rest of society but has a porous border with its viewers because its own production is social.

Psychedelic Social Practice
Similar to the socially anti-social practice, but here more focused on creating collectively mind-bending social constructs among viewer-participants. And with the viewer-participants gathered from an open script. Once the socially anti-social practice gets legs, it creates movement. This movement, if built around schizoid energies bends the direction of the social relations that construct it in wild manners. It also creates a wild interface to the outside. Thus, with the unique interface it gathers participants in unique ways. See Gerald Raunig’s A Thousand Machines (Semiotexte).

Body: The promise of Social Practice
When Fallen Fruit or Future Farmers helps us utilize hidden resources, we are gathering power. This is the power of a group of people unhinging themselves (ideologically, at least) from a capitalist market. They facilitate a culture of people coming together to find localized power. Remember, food gives us power to go through the day.

When Re-bar invents Parking Day and disperses it nationally, we are gathering powers. Parking Day provides a concrete tactic by which to actively re-imagine and demand new relationships within the city. They facilitate a culture of people coming together to find localized power- remember, controlling property gives us power.

When Adam Overton explores relationships through massage and group-work, we are gathering power. When we orient ourselves, and when we focus on health away from normative regimes of domination and discipline we reclaim ourselves. He facilitates a culture of people coming together to find localized power – remember, the personals are political.

Body: The problem of Social Practice.
As is now often discussed, it is notable that social practice rose to the fore in this era of urban neoliberal regimes. I am not saying that social practice is complicit with these regimes. However, what I claim is that these regimes have profited ideologically and financially from our work. Neoliberalism blatantly profits financially from social practice through marketing schemes, crowd sourcing and the direct marriage of social projects to development and redevelopment.

Neo-liberalism ideologically profits from social practice in a less direct manner. It is this ideological mechanism that we must be aware of to realize the radicalizing potential of social practice.

Neoliberalism and new forms of capitalist extraction (post-fordist production etc…) feast within the fluff of the creative city. From Wikipedia (December 2010), “The term “neoliberalism” has also come into wide use in cultural studies to describe an internationally prevailing ideological paradigm that leads to social, cultural, and political practices and policies that use the language of markets, efficiency, consumer choice, transactional thinking and individual autonomy to shift risk from governments and corporations onto individuals and to extend this kind of market logic into the realm of social and affective relationships.” (link)

Thus, while certain social practices have a liberatory potential in the immediate, their actions and forms often end up unwittingly reinforcing the status quo – creating an illusion of freedom, of solidarity, of collective action.

Yet often, this social practice, this particular cause of hope, has not actually completed the necessary work here to create solidarity (for real solidarity, the ability to work together to solve issues is the basis for any non-metaphysical hope). Instead, contemporary social practice relies on the potential for social organization that is already distributed through the current economic arrangement.

Social Practice: A metaphor as Interlude:

The cacophony of the 90’s globalization movement was built concurrently with the world wide web as a near pitch perfect metaphor to facilitate the movement’s deterritorializing idealism of an international solidarity beyond borders. The webbed network facilitated cross-platform exchange while necessitating semi-autonomous infrastructures of collectives, cells, media labs, and websites.

Today, neoliberal and neoconservative economics run full-bore past any facsimile of the deterritorializing model which the movement presumed while disciplining (through legal and extra-legal action) and normalizing (by introducing price competition into its creative practices) its social structures.

Today’s web serves as a metaphor now for the near-antithesis of the globalization era’s hopes. The web now serves as a metaphor for what partially has captured this movement’s potentiality. Today the web is an always-on-machine, privileging us us to give our near-cost-free labor (in the form of myriad near-unique expressions) to a possibly global audience machine. The network is now always present while the autonomous cell has been leveled and replaced by a myriad of almost equal interfacers. The profit of this machine is extracted 24 hours a day, however it can, and this profit is almost gifted to a forever shrinking pool of people whose profiles might appear just like yours.

The potential for profit is immense, and is made potential by its mere presence. To be present, willing to exchange, to stand at the door of the network with a welcoming smile is today’s most notable affect. It is a smile that gambles, “I can fuck you before you fuck me.” Or it is a smile that says, “together we can get ours else before we’re all screwed.”

Standing on a corner, wanting to help carry people’s bags across the street for an art project ,this come-and-get-it smile is also one of social practices’ most common affects.

Body (continued): The problem of Social Practice.

So despite the very effective down-sourcing of power that results from the collective project of Fallen Fruit, Future Farmers and a thousand other projects on 127 Prince or the Groundswell Blog or the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest, neoliberal markets have the capacity to ideologically re-appropriate these down-sourced potentialities back up into the market. In that both neoliberalism and our social practices are both facilitated by that smile, neoliberalism’s come-and-get-it smile is reinforced almost every time a social practitioner strikes that pose. 🙂

That smile, that shit eating, come have fun with me smile. It’ll be OK, we’ll have fun! Come have fun while we imagine how we imagine how we might live in a post-oil world!

That smile of the open network that opens up public space to social space is the same smile that neoliberalism likes within its creative cities, its self-realized contract workers, its glad to be hear immigrant labor, its virally-marketed, crowd-sourced production capacitors. 🙂

Marc J. Leger’s outlines this with delightful precision in his essay “Welcome to the Cultural Goodwill Revolution: On Class Composition in the Age of Classless Struggle” for the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest #7.

This affected smile is the cruel tool of capitalist discipline that maintains this extended cultural moment.

Social Practice has (often unwittingly) facilitated this exploitation and is also uniquely positioned to end it.

Climax: Where the peasant throws off the overlord

For social practice to fulfill its radical potential, it just has to stop smiling.

There are so many emotions we need to work through together besides “happy!”
For starters, how about dominated and dominator?
Or how about sadness?

Anchoring group explorations in clearly productive projects creates a safe and extremely meaningful way to collectively process the discipline we encounter as capitalist subjects.

For social practice to fulfill its radical potential, it must stop using the affective communication tools which normalize interpersonal exchanges in order to create seemingly conflict-free social contracts.

Working through social conflict is a part of a movement. At least on the movement’s onset.

The radical social practitioner can also use an autonomous position from their audience to provocatively challenge audience-participants to build critical distance from their own collectivity.

This is key. Social practice must learn how to socialize an engaged criticality of how institutions and movements constitute and utilize social power. Neoliberal abuse of social practice is case study #1 of this utilization.

A radical social practice must facilitate the potential for its own critical deconstruction by its participants. Though this should smack of 90’s style institutional critique (see Art and Contemporary Critical Practice, Reinventing Institutional Critique, Gerald Raunig and Gene Ray editors) it isn’t. This criticality intends to model a critical practice outside of established institutions, and within the expanded field.

A critical social practice is aware of the enthusiasm and interest it builds in relationship to its own success. Yet instead of avoiding representation, it artistically moves to problematize its own performance and use this problematization as further medium between itself and its audience.

This project would then work in a two-fold manner. Within the traditional mode of social practice, it organizes people through desires to produce collective experiences or resources. Concurrently, the more critical element works to create a dialogical distance between participants and organizers so that the collective experience is not normalized as the result of a smoothing affect. Instead, the work becomes an act of negotiation and dialogue while autonomous power (in the form of food gathering, protest/performance, or healing) is produced.

Socially anti-social practice. Psychedelic Social Practice. Dialogically Autonomous Social Practice.

Creating a movement in exchange with broader society is an occupation.


Check out these essays:

Brian Holmes
Schizoanalytic Cartographies

Marc J. Leger
Welcome to the Cultural Goodwill Revolution: On Class Composition in the Age of Classless Struggle

Chantal Mouffe
Artistic Activism and Agonistic Spaces

Gerald Raunig
Instituent Practices, No. 2 :Institutional Critique, Constituent Power, and the Persistence of Institutional Critique,

Art and Contemporary Critical Practice, Reinventing Institutional Critique, Gerald Raunig and Gene Ray editors.

Lane Relyea
Your Art World, Or, the Limits of Connectivity



Towards a Post-Fordist Shop Floor Ethic or, ‘What the Fuck Was That?’

The publicity suggested the event would focus on a project that works off of notions of antiwar activism and media. The expectant crowd was hungry for something. When the artist playfully shared candy as part of a pre-screening quiz, it seemed curious. But by the time the self-indulgent reel began playing, the audience saw clearly that they’d been had.

I left early mumbling under my breath, “what the fuck was that.” I was angry because I had the sense that I’d been robbed. Not only was my time stolen, but also a little of my capacity to make meaningful anti-war artwork, to do detailed and philosophical media projects.

This essay is not about cultural criticism. Instead of looking at what is, this essay leans forward to posit what could be.

We should demand more from our scenes.

Often, when we go out to an art event, we are going to work in the office known as “our scene.” Our scenes gather around public wellsprings of ideals. Though impossible to specifically define, I do know that I’ve meditated with 200 people around the possibility of expanded human consciousness and more just and pleasant societies at the Hammer Museum. With 1000 others, I have gazed upon the collective expression of the desire for borderless states – on display at a Culver City gallery. In Chinatown, I joined a small group of thinkers drinking from the fountain of liberatory possibility for intellectual culture when tied to criticism of specific capitalist regimes.

And though each instance draws from its particular tap, I am pretty sure that our scene’s visionary infrastructure is broad and finds release at multiple spigots. This water metaphor is useful – our scene is constructed from pre-histories (extant water sources and geography or general wider social histories) infrastructures (aqueducts or funding sources and venues) and distribution points (spigots or exhibitions).

Like water, the greatest constituent parts of our scenes are made of elements whose real ownership is next to impossible to define (imagine clouds as social history, cultural formations, and socio-political archipelagos). Secondarily, water like our scenes are a large public work (remember, water is serviced by the historic social movement known as the DWP.)

The scenes we participate in are our public resources. The accretion of intellectual dialogs and practices are among our finest collective tools.

Inside urban planning, cartography, public practice, sociology, cartography and curatorial studies, the nature of our scenes are generally discussed in terms of “public space.” Through these disciplines, we say that public space is in crisis within the current regime of the neoliberal “creative economy.”  This economy hungrily searches for previously public or non-valued resources to privatize and or/monetize. Our scene – this public space – is in crisis when its constituent balance between private and social interests gets tipped too far towards the private.

When “blue chip” artists sell the image of collective history without giving back, this is theft. When theorists publicly poo-poo our collective potential to give comfort to power or stasis, this is a theft of our potential for collective dreaming. When academics sell radical theory while being complicit in structurally conservative departments they sell all our radicality short.

Our scenes are our collective resource. They generate continuing streams of potential. Yet in our neoliberal economy, the scene works double. It is now even more – both a collective dream and a mundane workshop floor.

We use our public space to forge new identities and to egregiously crowdsource for cheap labor

Our scenes are public space. Yet in neoliberal economies, the scene has become a human resource office. From networking with peers to find exhibition spaces to procuring space for employing (often younger, often less-educated) skilled laborers to work as assistants.

Our scenes are public space – a location to present and discuss meanings. Historically, the role of discourse served public ideals. Either as a space of presentation at a project’s fruition or as an ongoing discourse. Yet in this neoliberal economy, public space has also become our propaganda office. Here I use the balanced definition of propaganda – the act of spreading a message as advertising or overt political messaging.

When our art scenes are overwhelmed by these (often necessary) neoliberal realities, that public resource, our scenes, are threatened. When the participants on a panel are chosen for institutional networking potential instead of the ability to hold a meaningful conversation, our scenes are threatened.

Today, more than ever, art and cultural workers do have the ability to harness institutional voices to raise the social and philosophical questions at the hearts of our scenes. The (collectively forged) language and rhetorics, iconography and social practices we employ around our works have the potential for deep resonance within a broader society. Amid collapsing social systems, we stand on stage – for the possibilities that our scenes maintain.

So the quite common act of drawing from the scene without paying back is unfortunate. Employing popular ideological aesthetics and rhetorics (“collaborative”, “activist”, “socio-economic”, “critical”, “open sourced”…) to sell their work. Employing historic strategies collectively scripted behavioral patterns, etc… without crediting the history and legacy in order to individually “advance”. These actions poison the well.

Let me be clear, I am not specifically focusing on artists with “successful careers.” Collaboration with capitalist institutions is an unfortunate necessity for many people. Collaboration with institutions currently provides a louder tool for propaganda, access to social relations, etc..

Our scene imagines itself as an autonomous sphere that can balance mutual collaboration and mutual aid with individual expression. Our scene desires us to actualize this potential. It calls upon us to imagine what is possible when we devote enough time and love to its beautification and adornment.

But Los Angeles doesn’t look like this today.

The ethical worker in Los Angeles’ art scene – no matter where they operate (within or outside of capitalist institutions) – protects the interest of the scene first. The ethical artist understands that the scene’s idealisms are their source of real value. The scene drives them to work and compels others to get to know the work. It messages desire. It provides meaning. The ethical worker does not fuck with this.

Protecting our scene from undue privatization has parallels with the struggle of the Bolivian people in protecting their water from privatization.

Hyper-capitalism wants our meaningful symbols to be emptied. But our strength as individual workers lies in our collective struggle – in our collective attempts to maintain meaning and to construct a collective legacy. Our scene is a non-human accretion – a highly socialized aggregate of collective anger, collective history, collective understanding that beauty (or ugliness) does matter. That which provides for what we call LA’s art scene – this is our strength. When someone empties this out for a byline in some lame blog, they cheapen our resource. This is serious business.

Cultural movements like San Precario have struggled to successfully socialize a post-fordist ethic of values. People have rights that lie outside of day-to-day income. San Precario holds this knowledge together as the source of strength, as a fountain of the possible.

The Escrache Movement in Argentina hold tightly to the collective ideal of justice outside of history. Justice is the driving force in Escrache’s workers’ attempt to return Argentina to history.

The Anti-Deutch autonomist-Marxist movements in Germany hold on to a post-humanist ideal of anti-Semitism as a necessity outside of rational discourse from which to anchor their actions.

In this globalized capitalist world, I am astounded that so much writing on public space does not hold out for a pragmatically ideological construction of public space. No, much of the writing does one of four things- 1) It usefully critiques the traditional notion of public space as innately exclusionary 2) It naively imagines the possibility of escape from a public, as if there was another space for pure interaction 3) It strategizes (in curatorial studies or business classes) ways to best reach and use publics 4) It acknowledges public space to be a complicated subject and makes nothing of it.

What the hell!? As our agency, health and security go down the tubes, is it too much to ask for a useful and reasonable fiction? A collectively narrated fiction that imagines our collective responsibility to nurture our ideals?

Through the socializing of our scene, we begin to gain practical political agency together. By expecting one another to respect the highest (or lowest if you’re a pagan) spirits of the LA Art Scene in a workerist mode, we will find a political language that amplifies even our most abstract projects. Our scene can discover ways to materially, aesthetically and intellectually support it and us.

What does this look like? It would start with a clear statement of expectation – to be treated fairly – in the way that Wage Artists and others articulate.   But beyond this – into speculative economies – it is the honoring of the scene by publicly and privately holding true to ideals in thought and action. Ones work (paid and especially unpaid) as fabricator, designer, theorist, curator, organizer, participant, viewer will not be sold out. We will not be ignored, fail to be credited, gloss over each other’s labor and legacies for a cheap capitalist buck. We must honestly assess our work and use appropriate language to characterize it, avoiding outrageous claims when outrageous goals are attempted. We will honestly appraise our work and how a given project’s dance between the scene and the institutions affects its reception. Ethical workers do not allow institutional desires to recklessly muddy the scene’s ideals for the institutions private profit.

This is not a call for infighting. Instead, I see the potential for socialization of the scene. I understand that this involves a lot of conscious (and half-conscious) socializing. This sensibility takes its time to build.

We cultural workers have far bigger issues.

What I am proposing is that through a collective raising of expectations and a socializing of the spheres of our production and reproduction, our hand as workers will be improved.

Thank you Michael Wilson, Christina Ulke, Cara Baldwin, Robby Herbst, Temporary Services and many others for inspiration and energy in writing this essay. I’m done now.


Our Art World: Toward Actualizing a Post-Fordist Bohemia

This is not a rant.


This is not a complete document, it mustn’t be.

It is my reflection upon a slice of LA’s “art scene” between the years 2006 and 2010. Though I have been a participant in LA’s art worlds since 1999, 2007 marks the general emergence of an ongoing commitment to a distinct and discursive social practice in the region.

The aim of this essay is to look at the social rules under which this specific scene operates. It is written as an open, public analysis of this cooperative social creation. It is sloppy. It also aims to help towards getting stuff done, effectively. Only through honest critical analysis and dreaming do we have perspective.

As Brian Holmes writes in Artistic Autonomy and the Communication Society,

My belief is that you can lonely have a real democracy when a societal concern with the production of the sensible is maintained at the level of a forever unresolved by constantly open and intensively debated question. This is why I like to work with Francois Drake, because he has developed a method, a kind of artistic trick- the “question banks” and associated procedures- that allows him to explicitly bring the sensible world into collective questioning. What we really need is to spend a lot more time asking each other whether our cultural fictions- our architecture and images, our hierarchies and ambitions and ideas and narratives- are any good for us, whether they can be used in an interesting way, what kind of subjectivity they produce, what kind of society they elicit.

In order to occupy everything, we must also constantly and realistically re-imagine how to best occupy our own perch.  I write to reflect on the ground from which our individual and collaborative projects might be strengthened. So as to see who we really are and help us imagine who we can be.

I write in general terms, that is the nature of this essay. It glosses over individual practices and distinct collective projects to gather a mist of generalities, a tone of discourse.

There is much writing about creative cities. There is much writing about post-fordist labor and its relationship to the new social practice. I write to reflect a little of that community within Southern California from the inside.


This is about WE in Southern California. We who enrich our region’s intellectual and cultural life by committing to participate in cultural and political conversations at spaces like The Public School, LACE, Sea and Space, G727, FOCA, Outpost (which I rarely attend), and a host of other temporary and more long term galleries, project spaces, initiatives, and conferences. It is written for the artists, writers and thinkers who generally talk in order to create something together here somehow.

Within the creative world, and specifically within our sphere, it is possible to suggest that all of our work, whether done alone in a dusty studio or together as a collaborative – is cooperative. While Southern California’s geography is isolating, its constellation of ideas, its intellectual life, is rich. This case can be made for any milieu, so I repeat it here over and over: Southern California’s rich soup of intellectuals, visionaries, inventors, visual artists and  project spaces constitute a collaborative creation. This is our scene. It is a collective project created by many.

Didactically again, we are a we. We are a we, albeit a we constructed from the actions and thoughts and creations of mostly independent individualities.

So in this together bounded by geography, interest and degrees of participation, our thoughts are challenged in these social contexts and settings.

Individually here present, our contributions are limited by our schedules (that zone of conflict between bodily needs, income needs, speculation, the search for joy etc…)

But when together, our possibilities are expanded in context.

We occur in dialog and on Facebook and at small non-profit spaces. We care about the political life of our city, state, country and world. In this desert south of the Tehachapi it is also us who have carved a specific niche in the art world for political practice.

Thus construed as a something, I now qualify what I perceive as the basic operating assumptions of this creatively radical culture we participate in down Los Angeles way.


When we are actively together among peers, there is a general assumption that we agree on what is said in total. This is my first point.

It is also my first point that this working assumption allows for the socialization of our group, thus constituted. There are squabbles and debate, sometimes we’ll attend an outside where the content is way off the map. But our space is constituted on a general agreement of a set of unspoken principles – this is standard for any sociological group. What is curious here is that we are a discursive grouping that never makes clear its ideological principles. In practice we censor ourselves not through ideology but through socialization.

This is notable. Do we miss an opportunity for self-constitution if we generally clarify what we do agree upon? Would the act destroy what is central to our lightly rigorous commons? I would argue that if we are not ideologically rigorous, let us name this and embrace this generative position for all its potential!
This is funny!

But this process does not occurs because we don’t have the time or place- the motivation really, to really understand our and our peers’ goals.

Why is this? This comes to a second important point. We participate generally in this collaboration for individualized political reasons. Here I use the gross definition of individual politics; including in this definition games of positioning that are idealistic and pecuniary. So then, to presently clarify our personal reasons and goals would be difficult. It could reveal schisms between action and word – or better – between the act of speaking and the potential for (future) individual gain. Remember, we are a multi-generational body of cultural workers who often bring collective knowledge and practice into privatized channels for profit (these channels are of course academic jobs, curatorial work, writing gigs, gallery jobs, lectures and speaking fees, the sale of artwork.)  This is a contradiction, though perhaps is not so different from the rest of our culture… a culture just learning again that to be poor and in need is normal. It is a contradiction perhaps unique to our milieu but perhaps even more unique to our era. To recognize and collectively and honestly evaluate this conflicted position might constitute a path through this moment.

Due to this general culture of collaborative obscurity, we have rarely worked rigorously together on a singular political project.

Though our topics (insurrection, student unrest, prisons, public space, labor, open access, environmentalism, post-marxism, etc…) easily suggest focused ideologically based activist/art hybrid projects like “Picture the Homeless,”  a creative contingent for a major anti-war march, or the invention of a creative approach to precarious labor like San Precario. How about a collective revisioning of space like “The Midwests Radical Cultural Cooridor.” We have not done this.

(Yet, it should be noted that we have have organized a few big umbrella projects- Beyond the UC Strikes (Continental Drift), Publico Transitorio. Their nature clarifies further the individualized nature of our collaboration. Both projects acted as social umbrellas or frames for individual voices. The collective voice of the projects’ organizational perspective and structure was consciously obscured to facilitate the individualized voices of singular participants.)

Our interests are too fickle for concerted collective creative focus. Together we are generalists. We act in an apparently casual manner toward the things we care deeply about. Our public culture tracks this tendency with a calendar that remembers a broad range of topics. Our calendar, our public space is bottle rack, a capturing vessel to share privatized creation. It allows a space where we do not have to suss out a collective goal, while allowing for the resemblance of general agreement.

When we do create something, these somethings are art, a text for a singular and carefully curated event, discourse or website. Rarely are these projects emerge from a concurrent social movement (be those movements political or cultural).

And when we display specifically our artwork (the highest commodity form of our collective labor) in our common contexts, it is as often at the behest of an outside curator. An outside curator acting invited as an interloper between our practice; between our practice (though often the curators share similar assumptions as our own). And as I get older, I am pressured to only share work with curators who would pay me, and thus money and the curator fall between us.

We know then that a deeply critical engagement is thus meant to be practiced in isolation. We are light in our analysis. We are light on rigor. Even The Public School models the learner as an individual self-guiding through through a collective drift of a structure. This is a school with no prerhequisites or entrance exams.  Its multiple curriculum allows for equal part intellectual achievement, equal part attainment of social status through hobby, socially-responsible consumer patterns, and smart art production. This is not an ironic statement, it is the marker of our day.

For the privatized artwork that is critically engaging and/or smart– what are their intended political results? Here I do not ask about the more mundane business truths of capitalization. Our works (in performance or sculpture) are generally effective in two ways.

One, they act to map complex emotions and thoughts through socialization. When viewed or engaged with via participation, the work leaves an impression, a memory.

Two, the work models possible behaviour patterns – interpersonal behavior, behavior between ourselves and our unique SoCal urban space, between ourselves and (potential) resources (social or material) and technologies. This work shows possible futures.

These two effects idealize the notion that consumption of work by viewers contributes to an edifying, exemplary or more responsible relationship to the world.

What I am trying to do in this article is another effect… as mentioned in the Artistic Autonomy and the Communication Society essay by Brian Holmes. I am stating that an intimately reflective mirror can successfully ground the creation of realistic but outrageous possible futures. Currently, we are limited by our lack of self-visioning.

We are involved in important work here. What is our culture of criticism? Is there any? Studio visits? Gossip? Public conversations? Someone elsewhere who writes about your work? We do not have a system to analyze our works within the framework of our own ideals – that critically views what has been done and whether the desired political effects have been achieved. This too is left in the private realm.


Our scene is self-selecting. “Come if you are interested.” A conversation around its constitution, in terms of race, gender and class is rarely engaged.

One more thing, how might we build an institutional memory for this scene despite the obvious limitations? How do we lessen redundant projects so that the generations moving through our scene are able to build off of other’s work? What sort of institution could financially and structurally facilitate the most audacious projects that are totally in line with the highest ideals of the scene?

What we really need is to spend a lot more time asking each other whether our cultural fictions- our architecture and images, our hierarchies and ambitions and ideas and narratives- are any good for us, whether they can be used in an interesting way, what kind of subjectivity they produce, what kind of society they elicit. But to do that effectively, we also need to invent new fictions, to shake up the instituted imaginary with what Castoriadis calls the “radical” or “”instituting” imaginary. Only by actively imagining different possible realities can we engage in the operations of desymbolization and resymbolization, or in what Bureau d’Etudes call “the deconstruction and reconstruction of complex machines”- taking the notion of machines in the strong sense whereby it denotes the symbolic, technological and human assemblages that configure ourselves and our societies, and make them work in specific ways they do.

Our scene is a complex machine we have so far scarcely analyzed from within. Let us own a rigorous analysis in order to reconstruct it in a way to more effectively launch our already amazing fictions – our privatized works. Let us critically analyze the intricacies and conflicts of our post-fordist bohemia. Let us understand it for what it is so that we can better understand how it might become what it (larger society) could be.

As an author of this piece, I have my vision for how I would analyze and reconstruct. But it is far more productive to do this together. Also, I’m currently in Germany.

Thank you Michael Wilson for your motivation and Christina Ulke for your contribution of ideas.