Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts
The Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts is a radical experiment in art and education. It is radical in that it resists, in its conceptualization, design and implementation all paths of least resistance to producing stuff in an art gallery setting. In this way its goal is to avoid the forces of normativity, lassitude, and entropy that have rendered spaces of art, education, spirituality and social justice ultimately toothless in their most contemporary American histories. It asks the fundamental question: What would artists do if Drawing I and its derivatives ceased to exist? The Co-Work Space thinks itself Virgil, and Gagosian the seventh circle of Hell.
The Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts is an experiment in that it has no performative identity to cite as antecedent. The color of its walls is a hopeful guess, yet a guess nonetheless; the arrangement of the space is hopeful, yet a guess nonetheless; its video, sound piece, catalogue, website and this very text itself are hopeful expressions, but ultimately just guesses. What the Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts guesses is that the languages of advertising, the legal-juridical battles of sovereignty for the rights of the environment and for dying species, and the infrastructures of the 21st century such as scalable platforms and co-work spaces are the materials at hand for art making, the way pigment and ground glass were those of Titian. This is guesswork. The Co-Work Space asks the fundamental question, What would art be if it exited the indeterminate, stuff-making paradigms of Contemporary Art?
If since the 13th century, when financier Scrovegni colonized the pagan spaces of the mother-goddess with his chapel and sought out Giotto’s craftwork to absolve him of the sins of usury, art has had social utility as the valuation of value, as the material ordination of financial power, then the Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts asks the question: what would art do if it ceased to be the secret in money and was instead a promise to the world?
This desire is not new. One sees in the persistent references to polytheistic, non-western, non-heteronormative modes of spiritual technique and artistic practice in the Co-Work Space Course Catalogue a deep yearning for art’s separateness to cease and for the practice of art to vacate the gallery, the studio, and its very own rules of engagement. This desire is not new, of course, though the strategies mapped out here may very well be different from those that made Dream House, Spiral Jetty, Lightning Field, General Idea, Ocean Earth Development Corporation, Monument to the Third International, Black Mountain College, EGS, and Temenos such exceptional projects at the end of the twentieth century.
Each of the projects listed abrogated to themselves the right to set an ambitious trajectory in large-scale projects whose duration extended years. They aspired to be alternative universes, let alone alternative spaces. A consequence of such ambition is a strangeness that in effect undermines a sense of reality. And what today is the reality that ineluctably encroaches upon us but that of capitalism, the endless agricultural mess of the anthropocene and global warming, with all of their diverse and expanding algorithms.
The Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts considers itself a vehicle of interstellar and intertemporal travel that seeks to beat the present reality-machine to its ultimate endpoint, and to carve out space for the future before the future is eliminated. That endless grey, timeless world without beginning or end has a name: ecofascism. It is being discerned by activists such as Micah White and intelligence operatives at the Pentagon, who are composing speculative training videos to prepare for it. Both art and politics need to reorient themselves so that their visions are as ambitious as that of their enemies.
Such a reorientation will have a number of consequences. It will create an alternative space; in the language of trauma recovery, a healing vortex. Who will be enlivened? Every single being and body that feels the need to move beyond capitalism and the anthropocene as both a mode of survival and liberation. One only needs to drive past Abilene, Midland, Odessa and smell the sulfurous fumes of oil rigs and hydraulic fracking at 70 miles per hour to realize that Big Oil is Sauron, Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick are ringwraiths, and the whole topography of Central Texas is turning into Mordor. To recover from this mass trauma, to escape the ceaseless repetition of the traumatic event both consciously and unconsciously in the central autonomous nervous system, the Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts is a form or resource generation.
Over the course of this installation and its future iterations, participants will use the Co-Work Space platform to create an abundance of resources and projects–all speculative, hyperstitional, and post-contemporary–an abundance that will operate within an ecosystem in permanent toxic shock syndrome yet unable to lift in flight from its own diseased repetitions. The Co-Work Space is a poem performing Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy on the vision of the world so that it can see beyond Ivanka Trump’s cleavage.
This process takes place all at once, in the central autonomous nervous system, the Amazon rainforest and the George Bush Turnpike, accelerated, expanding, and iterative.
The Co-Work Space for Potential Dropouts combines elements of both horizontal and vertical political platforms. Though it is a highly structured environment, and though the way one may flow through and experience the Pollock Gallery has a highly narrative framework, participants are highly encouraged to follow their inspiration where it leads them. Sit down, peruse the Course Catalogue, and pursue authors and subjects of one’s interest in the Co-Work Space library. Should one have the time and the inclination, one can watch the promotional videos, read the Course Catalogue and listen to the sound installation; or, likewise, one could gather with friends to perform a seance and invoke the queer spirits and spirits of color through shamanic ritual following the guidance of artist AA Bronson’s course. Then one might form a think tank that seeks to create, perform and iterate seances that encourage hybrid identities such as bisexuality in deep red states, using the instructions from ICA Miami Curator of Programs Gean Moreno’s course on think tanks. That’s not all. One could then try to link to legal frameworks and get the federal government to fund experimental residencies for shamanic research in locations as exotic as Spokane and Northampton. The possibilities for modular combination of course-pursuits and lines of flight are limited only by the participants’ own vision.
It is important to say at this point that the Co-Work Space is not an incubator space. It is not promoting “equity” or “representation” or any other neo-liberal buzzword of “social practice art” that puts the wolf’s work in sheep’s clothing and promotes social stasis. The Co-Work Space is not a closed loop but an expanding cone, whose base intends to incorporate a greater and greater majority of users (the logic of capitalist growth) but whose apex is not the creation of surplus value, but rather a strategy that may explode the terrifying eco-fascist future we seem to be so horrifically hurling towards. Additionally, we want our users to get credit for the projects they create and to build verifiable portfolios. To this end, the Co-Work Space, in March, will begin an experiment in blockchain certification for participants who have dedicated their time and energy to visionary projects. It will grant digital certificates. This is a radical step. Typically only major institutions such as MIT and the European Union have attempted to do the same.
This use of blockchain as a method for certification validates the work participants will do into greater and more global perspectives, above the constraints of the university as we know it.
The politics of the Co-Work Space is in its form and not its content. It is seeking to re-orient art, education, spirituality and justice away from a cyclical and ineffective reactivity towards the obvious and logical endpoint of the neoliberalism (eco-fascism) as it transforms into green-zone demagoguery. The movement for the future needs to be 4 steps ahead and not 3 steps behind if it wants to win. As Nick Srnicek describes, our current de facto response to overwhelming social injustices is invariably a “folk political” one: reactive, humanistic, local, small-scale, paltry, failing. It has no proposal for the future, and it fails to address the problematics of global, complex systems at large. Rather, folk politicians create a circular logic within the problem, whose boundaries they cannot escape.
The future is happening in the present and it is accelerating. Yet its very speed is its vulnerability. The Co-Work Space is not static, it is a project in motion, changing, evolving, truly progressive, in a motion that creates gaps within the establishment. It uses their resources–flexible labor and the university– in order to hack into the common sense of how we see and act within the infrastructures that are already in place.