By Marc Garrett. 2022.
The “capitalist totality” only exists in our imagination. I do not think there is a capitalist totality. I think there’s capital, which is extraordinarily powerful and represents a certain logic that is actually parasitic upon a million other social relations, without which it couldn’t exist.  (Graeber, 2012)
If the early part of the 21st century has taught us to believe anything, it’s that we all live in a dystopian movie with a script we cannot change. A disaster movie where capitalism and man-made climate catastrophe exist hand in hand, and we only ever get to play the bit parts. In this lived-through, nightmarish movie, exploitative technology continues to dominate our networked online activities, consciousness, and behaviours with its various forms of libertarian-backed accelerationism. On top of these already troubling dominations, we’re caught up with the constant distress of austerity, low wages, loss of decent jobs, poverty, racism, sexism, extractivism, colonialism, collapsing healthcare systems, Covid-19, right-wing populism; it goes on and on. We explore art practices that disrupt systematic, hegemonic-based, mythologised geniuses. To counter these disasters imposed by self-serving elites, the question is how to evolve beyond imposed institutional and historical protocols and defaults that act as gatekeeping mechanisms.
In 2014 artist and writer Lucy Lippard concluded that ‘the ultimate escape attempt would be to free ourselves from the limitations of preconceived notions of art, and in doing so, help to save the planet’ 2. Lippard’s approach is echoed in other artists’ networked practices and artworks. These operate within the ecosystems of lived experience, typically outside of formal art world contexts. However, they may use “the business of art” to connect with artists and art audiences, exploiting networked infrastructures and art world contexts to lend power to the transformations they want to see. For example, Heath Bunting, Pirate Care, and Cassie Thornton  use networks, infrastructure, and decentralisation to critique and replace violent and extractive systems. Bunting currently runs artist’s training workshops in artist resilience. He covers outdoor skills such as clothing and equipment, bushcraft and urban survival skills. These activities provide a backdrop for discussing the subversive, autonomous and collective aspects of practising the arts in the context of “Artist Resilience”.  Meanwhile, Pirate Care is a collective syllabus organised by Valeria Graziano, Marcell Mars and Tomislav Medak, which uses technology and digital resources to build solidarity and rapport with a network of activists, scholars and practitioners who stand against the criminalisation of solidarity and for a common care infrastructure. 
In 2018 I interviewed artist and activist Cassie Thornton about her ongoing project, The Hologram, which examines health in the age of financialisation and reveals the connection between the body and capitalism.
The hyper-individualism produced by indebtedness allows us to look away from a much more in-depth story of our collective debts, financial and otherwise. We don’t know what to do with these much bigger debts, including sovereign debts, municipal debts, debts to our ancestors and grandchildren, debts to the planet, debts to those wronged by colonialism and racism and more.  (Thornton, 2018)
One part art, one part activism, and one part science fiction Thornton’s Hologram develops the skills and relationships we desperately need to tackle the anti-capitalist struggles of the present and the post-capitalist society of the future.  During the Covid-19 pandemic, Thornton, Lita Wallis and Ruth Catlow (at Furtherfield) collaborated online with many worldwide on developing The Hologram peer-to-peer health system through workshops. These were well attended by artists, art audiences, and individuals and groups working across different health practices, such as NHS workers in the UK. Many became long-term collaborators in the project.
The Hologram is now a viral four-person health monitoring and diagnostic system practised from couches worldwide. Three non-expert participants create a three-dimensional “hologram” of a fourth participant’s physical, psychological and social health. Each becomes the focus of three other people’s care in an expanding network.
Donna J. Haraway re-emphasized the importance of dealing with contemporary contexts of the patriarchy, politics, and climate change in the Anthropocene age, arguing that it ‘cannot be a futurist affair’.  Haraway uses the concept of worlding to recognise the role of cooperation and conflict in a generous set of ‘world building’ ecologies that includes other species, technologies, and forms of knowledge, rebalancing away from innovation that crowns technology as the king of the future.
What is Living the Proposition?
We need to build on, reevaluate, and relearn from the already progressive and insightful enrichments that art, technology and activism have generously produced and given us through the years – into more personalised, informed, shared, grounded disruptions and critically engaged, interdependent systems and activities of mutual alliances. Rather than proposing images or technologies of better futures, we must live the worlds we propose to bring about. This requires the inclusion of others where otherness becomes mutually affirmed as part of our social being, allowing us to reflect from within our production.
This is about mutual aid, helping each other become the people we wish to be through our working conditions and creative endeavours.
How can we nourish our artistic and imaginative needs from the ground up without making the elites stronger? Who can we trust to collaborate with to enhance our: art processes and contexts, ecological and socially engaged practices? How can we create the necessary intuitively based platforms, and create open safe spaces on the ground with continuing, life-changing projects? How can we set up friendly systems to develop nourishing decentralised and local situations beyond lip service and the usual tech industry bias and institutional hierarchies that intentionally or blindly repeat damaging patriarchal blueprints? We are the answer, and we’re already here, and we have the tools and systems that our peers have built to help forge mutual and social aid on our shared terms.
By living the proposition, we build better presents and futures that allow our artistic production and activist intentions to exist in ways that are closer to our visions and needs. It’s about reconnecting to our battered core values, what we wanted to be before funding requirements, and work or life situations diverting our desired adventures.
Art worlding allows one to live the propositions of one’s art and ideas. It is radical, creative liberation. It is emancipation as part of our daily life using DIY skills and critically in-tune social contexts that arrive through tools and platforms and meeting with others we trust to make it happen. Enacting and being the dream rather than a simulation or theory. It is joyful action. The values and methods in The Hologram, art worlding and living the proposition act as a triangle to keep us critically focused, freeing us up to examine our personal proposals with each other and see how they connect and what new worlds can unfold.
- Graeber, D., 2012. The movement as an end-in-itself? An interview with David Graeber [Interview]. Ross Wolfe Platypus Review 43. February 2012. https://thecharnelhouse.org/2012/02/01/the-movement-as-an-end-in-itself-an-interview-with-david-graeber/
- Lippard, L. R., 2014. Undermining: A Wild Ride in Words and Images through Land Use Politics in the Changing West. The New Press, Volume 9. Litvin, D., 2021.
- The Hologram. A viral four-person health monitoring and diagnostic system practised from couches worldwide. https://thehologram.xyz/
- Heath Bunting. In the Field: Artist workshops and technical support. http://irational.org/heath/out-door_survival/
- The Pirate Care Project. https://pirate.care/pages/concept/
- Thornton, C., 2020. Art, Debt, Health Care: An Interview with Marc Garrett. The Hologram: Feminist, Peer-to-Peer Health for a Post-Pandemic Future. London: Pluto Books.
- Haraway, D. J., 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. 1st Edition ed. Durham: Duke University Press Books.
Main image. One of Zad’s two bakeries continues to churn out bread. The Revenge Against the Commons. Furtherfield. By Jay Jordan. 2018
This text is a smaller version of a larger academic document with the same title. I intend to turn the research exploring the issues and contexts into a publication of interviews and essays featuring various artists, theorists, techies and activists.