Caveat is a collective research project initiated by Jubilee, reflecting and acting on the ecology of artistic practice. Emptor continues along the methodology and efforts of Caveat. It actively applies the practice-based approach to 'property', a concept that highly defines the economy of visual arts.

Report of Caveat Reading Room #13: Commons or Commoning?

Sound recording of Caveat Reading Room #13: Commons or Commoning?

People present:
Ronny Heiremans
Julie Van Elslande
Michiel Reynaert
Elisabeth Lebailly
Dries Van de Velde (reactivating empty buildings, commoning)
Els Silvrants (Community Land Trust)
Marie Moreau (artist working with asylum seekers among other things)
Else (MA Philosophy, interested in artistic research)
Grace Ndritu
Katleen Vermeir
Marjolijn Dijkman
Katrien Reist

00:00 Introduction on Caveat by Ronny Heiremans

Serge Gutwirth invited Caveat to some of his VUB working groups. With Isabelle Stengers, he has approached the commons as a research interest. Stengers is a chemist and started thinking about the position of science in society. She was involved in activist causes, also at the Notre-Dame-des-Landes Zone à Défendre close to Nantes. We are reading a text that takes the shape of a dialogue between them.

Michiel Reynaert reading from "The commons are seen as..."

About 'metastasis'

Katrien reading from p 8: "In their Green Governance..."

About "commoning" as opposed to "the commons"

About "the right to commoning"
Bureaucratic / imperial ways forbidding people to share things
Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
Daniela Ortiz
Katharina Pistor, The Code of Capital, 2019

Els reading from p 9 "Resurgence implies eradication"
Garrett Hardin wrote 'The Tragedy of the Commons', arguing that the commons are bound to fail because no one would take care of something not exclusively theirs. Stengers here argues why he is wrong.
Anna Tsing, Mushroom at the end of the world

Michiel: Redistribution of means that goes towards taking care of common property.
Dries: I always compare commons with normal cooperations, normally making products using a recipe that they have to protect from competitors. Commons require sharing in order to make things work, to have the knowledge needed.

Katrien reading from p 9: "But neither indigenous"
Elinor Ostrom
About traditions, commons in the west and and other cultures

Dries comparing running a building 'traditionally' like a manager, with a building run as a commons.
Grace: Commons in the west is 'a thing', like "wow, we've invented commoning", while actually it's just life. In many traditional cultures, there's not such a thing as the commons because that's just the way things are and go.
Dries on traditions: In the west we try to structure everyhing in boxes, and within those boxes do everything as efficiently as possible. That's what has become the tradition here. Grace on affect and animism as something that seems to be missing from western discourse on the commoning.
On relationships between humans and animals
Commons as a label from a framework (Grace compares with 'organic' as a label applied from the a framework).
On animism and paganism

Deep: Common ownership of ideas can backfire on indeginous people, pharmaceutical industry has an interest in their knowledge being "public domain"
Wim and Katrien on preservation
Gosie & Els: instead of making the extraction economy more fair, the extraction economy should be eradicated.

Galit on cultivation in Bedouin culture, produce in a way of preservation.

Rachel questioning the relevance of agricultural discourse

Els and Rachel on the commoning urban working & living spaces. Taking property off from the market.

Ronny: in Napels, the water economy is developed as a commons, in Rome there's a theatre. Anecdote about Flemish activist who sued communities who didn't maintain their walking paths and got them in enormous trouble.

Rachel's anecdote of not getting a building permit for a privately owned shared residency because the city official had other personal opinions.
Rachel, Els, Ronny and Katrien on our laws as capitalist.

Katleen on group of lawyers who changed the law in order to commonize the water, and changing a private company into a public company. Protected by constitution.
Ugo Mattei

Els, Ronny, Katrien and Rachel on Community Land Trust

Katleen reading from p 9 "We would propose"
On generativity and private (property) law

Dries: Central question of commoning: How to keep the structure open?

Katrien and Dries about risks within commoning communities.
At PAF a certain equality is practiced: the doer decides, leave no traces and make it possible for others. Now a new one: mind assymmetry.

Ronny reading from p 10: "The commons demand"
Ronny: How can we apply this to the arts?
Dries: in arts, everybody accepts that there is no one truth. Maybe that also goes for the commons.

Els: commoning can be pertinent to arts, maybe especially in relation to the conditions in which we operate. Develop alternative modes that are more in line with commoning.
Rachel: Commoning at its best is contentious, argumentative.

All the caveats on this topic will be filled with common sense.