Lightning Talk
Creating Commons

Short thesis

In my talk I will present the ongoing research project Giving What You Don’t Have and discuss the presented art projects with respect to the concept of art they are representing.


Giving What You Don’t Have is an ongoing artistic research project exploring the relationship between art and the commons. Focus and methodology have been shifting in the course of the project according to new insights and evolving requirements. The idea for GWYDH has grown out of my PhD research, in which I explored artistic practices which are based on the reworking of existing material and thus generate conflicts with copyright. During this research, I realised how limited the discourse on appropriation is and shifted the question from what artists can TAKE, to the question of what artists can GIVE, in the sense of what they can contribute to the free circulation of art and culture.

My exploration of the relationship between art and the commons starts with the identification and introduction of relevant projects. On the basis of filmed interviews, GWYDH collects and presents statements from artists whose work contributes to the production and preservation of the commons and reflects complex copyright-critical attitudes. ‘Artists’ in this context are cultural producers of various backgrounds, who may or may not collaborate with institutions for the realisation of their projects. The resulting works are not artworks in the traditional sense, but rather are concerned with infrastructures such as platforms, archives, or free software such as tools or fonts. The projects may also be educational, as with independent schools, workshops for knowledge and skills transfer or simply handbooks. They may also thematise the changing relevance of knowledge and culture within the knowledge economy through conceptual and symbolic approaches. In any case, they are about the free circulation of knowledge and culture which is not just for the profit of the individual artist but for the general public. In that sense, the projects can also be seen as related to utilitarian aspects of intellectual property, which have been pushed into the background for quite some time now due to the increasing dominance of private and corporate interests.

The artistic practices introduced in GWYDH involve the development of forms of authorship and work concepts that are able to elude the dictatorship of private property in the realm of culture and clear the space between life and art to become a habitat for all. Questions addressed in GWYDH include: What forms of organisation do these artists suggest? What forms of social relations do they enable/activate/produce? What forms of agency do the projects exemplify? What do the projects produce? What values do they represent? What external economies do the projects depend on? Whose labour are they based on? What are the working conditions? Who profits from the projects? Where are the projects located? What role does technology play? What are the property relations involved? And, last but not least, what inherent conception of art do they express?

The project is ongoing, i.e. more interview will be uploaded in the next months. For the next round projects will be considered which bridge the gap between digial and on-digital commons.

project website: http://artwarez.org/projects/GWYDH/