Artists tend to be finely attuned to subtle vibrations of our culture. They hear and see things, and intuitively know what needs to be amplified.Then they come out with creative, sometimes shocking interpretations that often make us realize, “Oh wow, so that’s what I’ve been sensing all this time!” I think that’s one reason for the upswell of artistic works about the commons these days. Something's going on.
This topic is very much on my mind because of ongoing collaborations with a number of American performing artists and cultural workers who see the commons as a template to creating a new future. The group’s members include the Hinterlands and PowerHouse Productions in Detroit, Michigan; the Ethics and the Common Good Project at Hampshire College; the Schumacher Center for a New Economics in Amherst, Massachusetts; Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield, Massachusetts; and the HowlRound Theatre Commons team in Boston.
The Arts, Culture and Commoning working group is interested in using commons-based approaches “to transform the landscape of arts and culture toward equity, abundance, and interdependence as part of a social movement engaged in and in conversation with this urgent moment. Cooperation, collaboration, mutuality, and co-creation bring us together.”
The group recently released a statement explaining its vision and ambitions. One paragraph reads:
“It is our belief that art can and must play a significant role in shaping culture….Art and artists play an important role in helping people process and grieve inevitable collapses of our current systems and institutions in a culture of disempowerment, disconnection, isolation, disembodiment, distraction, and anxiety. Art is a powerful antidote as a force for social cohesion, embodiment, sustainability, and mutuality. Art catalyzes imagination, creativity, and cooperation in any culture, informing the character of social, economic, and political realities. In recognition of the destructive nature of capitalism, we seek to make art that questions the prevailing capitalist framework and looks to the commons for alternative forms.”