Documenta 14, Public Program February – May 2017
Economic and social relations can be fair, equal, and collaborative, transferring ownership back to the collective through cooperation. The Cooperativist Society was a platform to facilitate fair economic relationships between documenta 14 artists, visitors, employees, volunteers, and local grassroots initiatives in an economy that goes beyond the “there is no alternative” mantra of neoliberalism.
The Cooperativist Society attempted to fully grasp and exploit its paradoxical or contradictory relationship with documenta, a powerhouse of the contemporary global art market, to become a pragmatic place of action. The Fair Coop, Artists’ Cooperative and other projects within the society attempted to use the high profile position as a means to strengthen the fabric of social pluralism.
Closely tied to the commons movement and the development of post-capitalist cooperative ecosystems, some of our shared values were redistribution and economic exchange between equals, open political participation, decentralization of organizational forms, production of commons and the sharing and distribution of knowledge. The Cooperativist Society facilitated resources and tools based on these values in order to activate cooperative economic connections within Athens.
“The Artists’ Cooperative was a tool for another form of artistic production. We believe that the place of art is social cooperation. The labor of artists struggling to sustain themselves is often precarious. Although artists are connected as part of a network or community, ultimately many work as individuals, in competition with each other. Often, artists have to invest their own money to produce their work. They enter into debt in order to be visible. Art institutions often play into a speculative logic similar to that of financial markets that takes advantage of both the artworks and the artists.
Within a cooperative structure we can create mutual aid funds that collect resources from those who have more to be used by those who have nothing. The Artists’ Cooperative can be part of a wider ecosystem, a system of independent structures of solidarity supporting economic management and communication between its members.”
The Artists’ Cooperative began with an open call, to shape the collective through a process of discussion, organizing meetings to design the tools and the structure of this organization. Local and international artists were invited to join and give a form to Artists’ Cooperative, establishing fair and mutual aid relations amongst each other as well as with the broader society. The Artists’ Cooperative tried yet ultimately failed to create an open process of collaboration between artists to last beyond the end of the exhibition.