Big Ideas: "Crunched" Version for Publication

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Summary coordinated by Marsha Bradfield. Co-authored by Cinzia, Trevor, Neil and Marsha

Throughout the past year, Critical Practice has responded with enthusiasm to a number of invitations and opportunities to contribute to art, its discourses and organization. From Systems Art at the Whitechapel, to the London Festival of Europe and on to Disclosures, these engagements have provided stimulating contexts for practicing critically. Although undoubtedly invigorating, the downside of this close attention to the immediate 'event-in-hand' has often left us feeling challenged in terms of commitment, good will and responsibility.

While we intend to remain engaged for the coming year, it feels important for Critical Practice to develop some self-initiated projects, like our founding event OpenCongress is indispensable to the cluster’s sustainability. We started the ball rolling at our Annual Picnic on the 26th June in St Jame's Park London. Seven people met, each bringing food, drink and three Big Ideas. We plucked one another's suggestions from a blue fedora (one Big Idea arrived by text message) and discussed their connections, alternatives, feasibility, and possible figurations. Two broad categories of activity emerged:

  1. Short-term focused events
  2. Longer-term research projects

See picnic photos

We reconvened on the 10th July at 7pm in the foyer cafe of Royal Festival Hall, London to decide how to develop our Big Ideas. The Enthusiasm index emerged as a means of gauging the level of commitment among Critical Practitioners: their dedication to seeing an idea through to completion - enthusiasm with responsibility. Low numbers do not necessarily indicate a lack of interest. Rather, they signal a lack of commitment to realizing the proposed project. It will be interesting to see how closely these scores relate to what transpires (see Prediction Markets).

Long Term


How can we sustain the activity that makes Critical Practice what it is - a reflexive structure for collaboration? Should we strive to maintain the cluster’s basis of 'free' work? Self-organising groups tend to run on generosity and good will, often leading to exhaustion and 'burn-out'. In what ways can art be subject to the discourses of sustainability? (energy, resources, materials, but also generosity and volunteering)

Enthusiasm: 38/42 (7,7,7,5,5,7)

Our interest in sustainability resonates with other themes and ideas, like wellbeing. It also links to an emergent interest in Care of the Self (Michel Foucault). We will wrestle the term away from New Ageism and Green Capitalism by widening the scope of what is perceived as productivity.

'World' Cultural Summit

What's unfair about the way things are in the “world(s) of culture”? What do people owe? In other 'disciplines' (science, engineering, design) the financially successful invest time and money in the 'institutions' to which they feel indebted - schools, universities and research institutions. To what extent does culture (latterly the Cultural Industries) succeed or fail in this? Do commercial galleries, art dealers and wealthy artists 'skim' profit from the public domain, expropriate its creativity and resources?

The proposed gathering of cultural and other organizations (galleries, museums, auction houses, artists, agents, NGOs, charities, etc.) will consider the more equitable distribution of resources. How do/might/could these organizations (re)invest? How would this (re)investment promote sustainability?

Enthusiasm: 13/42 (2,2,2,4,3,0)

Found a political party

Stand for election in our local constituency of Westminster, London. We would need a manifesto. The RAQS Media Collective offers a useful alternative i.e. a negotiable statement of intent. Tent States It’s a form of 'flash politics' in need of a location.

Enthusiasm: 0/42 (0,0,0,0,0,0)
A little too demonstrative and without any real need.


To make use of downtime: office space, galleries, space, time, goods (cars, laptops, tools) services and skills, expanding on the Between) and surplus labour such as [ ReCAPTCHA]. Our interests here overlap with Sustainability and relates to O+I's recent proposal to reanimate Betweens.

Caution: avoid driving increased productivity when identifying these spaces. When it comes to skills and people's downtime, be mindful of necessary pauses to avoid an increased the risk of burn-out. Think efficiency rather than productivity.

Enthusiasm: 32/42 (5,6,5,5,6,5)
Seen as a component of Sustainability and the emergent Care of the Self' Also useful in identifying 'resources'. How to individually/organizationally recuperate? 

CP and the Institution

CP as a "virus" in temporary occupation of a museum/gallery/business/other - institution.

How do we articulate our relationship(s) with art institutions? Is the 'biology' of collaboration a useful metaphor for exploring these interactions? Should we select a host rather than accept to an invitation to be hosted?

Symbiosis comes to mind, an exchange of mutual benefit rather than destructive self-interest. Neil offered the example of sourdough bread; Trevor proposed the idea of the phage phage. These examples of "occupation" involve optimising conditions through ongoing negotiation between the host and hosted.

Enthusiasm: 33/42 (6,5,6,5,5,6)

What emerged from our discussion was the term/concept The Biology of Collaboration, an idea that gained considerable enthusiasm when aligned with Sustainability.

Deschool or Self-School

A project inspired by the deschooling ideas of Ivan Illich and a FLOSS approach to learning and cultural production. “Deschooling” is a counter instrumentalisation tactic (or at least self-instrumentalization) that promotes self-directed learning in contrast to the production of “willing workers”. Moreover, taking responsibility for one’s own education raises awareness about A) the choices one makes and B) the implications of these choices.

Reportedly 80% of what goes on in the classroom is discipline and control. Is this the main lesson of school? What’s the difference between schooling and learning? Illich suggests that learning is more effective when learners learn what they want to, but is this really practical?

Home schooling, Rousseau's Émile, Maria Montessori and Rudolph Steiner are all mentioned.

Enthusiasm: 8/42 (0,1,1,2,2,2)

Market of Organisations

A convening that borrows the structure of the Market of Ideas, itself modeled on Modes of Organization.
Invite groups to exchange knowledge and experiences about their logics of internal organization - eg. art organizations (public museums and galleries, commercial galleries, auction houses, independent spaces, research groups, academies, Mute and other publications, self-organised groups, etc.) commercial enterprises (corporations, family businesses, cooperatives, legal studios, etc.) political associations (parties, unions, public bodies, alternative associations, communes, squats, flash mobs, lobbies, 'movements’, etc.) and others beyond our present imaginings. Think institutional critique: pragmatic research to unmask the dynamics of power, bloodlines, cliques, Guilds, mutual societies and so on.

Enthusiasm: 30.75/42 (7,6,3,5,4,5.75)

Free Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS)-inspired Actor Network Theory (A-N-T)

Develop a context for exchange between a few distinct communities (possibly international) with a view to exploring social(ising) technologies (e.g.,,, Gasworks, Timebank). Through self-documenting and self-mapping, we might model a FLOSS-inspired culture.

Enthusiasm: 7/42 (1,0,0,4,1,1)
We’re already trying to do it.


Have we done what we set out to do? Have we done what we think we have done? The Critical Practice wiki contains many valuable resources. Could an audit transform these into assets and if so, then what?

In our general cultures of audit, (finance, audience figures, etc) we often focus on quantity rather than quality. But are we accounting for the “right” values?

This audit would be part self-reflection and part critique of cultural, immaterial, or knowledge economies. Cinzia's personal economy - in particular, her attempt at a personal balance sheet (an audit of all incomes and expenditures), and the ResourceCamp exemplify a deep and meaningful auditing process. The benefits of such models include shifts in perspective enabling us to make better decisions about CP's value(s).

Enthusiasm: 16.5/42 (2,2,1,4,4,3.5)
Might be a component of Sustainability

Open Source festival

Festivals are generally 'in aid' of something and celebrate their content. To go beyond these two facets and celebrate the means as much as the benefits could be a productive rally, we propose something that convenes cultural practitioners and prosumers around an open source approach to life in general. Longer and more productive than a conference, in a relaxed setting (or commons) - part ResourceCamp, part OpenCongress, part retreat.

Enthusiasm: 7/42 (0,0,3,2,0,2)

Too similar to Open Congress; already explored at Open Source City.

Short Term

How to publish your own book

Publish a book on how to publish your own books.

Enthusiasm: 1/42 (1,0,0,0,0,0)

We already have quite a few resources on publishing.

24 hour retreat

A 'generative' experiment in human behaviour: 24 hours together without food, sleep, computers, phones, books, newspapers or radios and develop research using only pens, pencils, paper and our collective and embodied knowledge/intelligence.

What are the possibilities of doing this as a kind of squat in public space? What about camping on the new "landing strip," the green space in the Chelsea parade ground? Would it be interesting to "retreat from the world" by making an exhibit of ourselves in an art institution?

Concerns: Is going hungry really desirable - or even ethical given our access to food? Also, in what ways does this project affirm the stereotype of the artist as a tortured soul who embraces discomfort in the name of inspiration?

Enthusiasm: 26/42 (0,0,7,7,5,7)

A (temporary) Critical Practice shop

Explore ideas of exchange and value in a Critical Practice shop by using a form like the Market of Ideas. We could mine Critical Practice – its knowledge, experience, skills, resources and wiki - for 'goods' and seek to realise their value through forms of exchange.

Enthusiasm: 12/42 (0,3,4,1,4,0)

A call for proposals

A call for proposals from artists interested in collaborating with Critical Practice.

Enthusiasm: 0/42 (0,0,0,0,0,0)

Pay people to delete web content

This year, more data will be produced than in the last 40 years combined. Much of this results from the ease of producing and sharing content through digital delivery. This has implications for the value ascribed to so-called "cultural content." This value could be tested by inquiring at what price (of course this is only fiscal value) people would agree to delete a portion of their content forever.

Enthusiasm: 0/42 (0,0,0,0,0,0)
A bit cynical/futile and almost impossible to implement.


Interested members of Critical Practice should "creatively" run a marathon.

Could this public activity provide a platform for alternative forms of engagement? We could stage a situation/intervention in this public event while wearing a CP tracksuits...

Enthusiasm: 5/42 (0,0,3,0,0,2)

Testing Budget Guidelines

Critical Practice might calibrate its draft budget guidelines by identifying relevant organizations and play-testing these recommendations for best practice. This could be performed as a Between/Between. Additionally/alternatively, we could explore the idea of a total "profit" and "loss" account of a year's activity. This relates to auditing.

Enthusiasm: 29/42 (7,5,4,4,5,4)

More Pecha Kucha

Do more with the Pecha Kucha form. Pecha Kucha is a mode of presentation that originated in Japan, and asks 20 people to show 20 slides (about their interests) for 20 seconds a slide; Pecha Kucha is Japanese for ‘the sound of conversation!’
This could be useful for forging links with other organizations.

Enthusiasm: 10/42 (0,0,3,2,2,3) 

Self-organizing Big Brother

Ten people commune for ten days with ten video cameras. Each day each person makes a ten-minute video diary.

Enthusiasm: 3/42 (3,0,0,0,0,0)
Ahm, no thank you.

Portrait of CP

A reflexive, complex and carefully considered portrait of CP (in print or otherwise), within which we all, individually at first, follow Robin's example and unpack our own different relationships and positions in Critical Practice.

Enthusiasm: 35.5/42 (6,7,7,6,5,4.5)

This resurrected interest in an Elevator Pitch workshop, a previous proposal of the Social Relations working group


A short series of short email "declarations", fragments of a manifesto, etc. A format of 1 of 10 has proved effective for SwarmTV. This could be a tool for Social Relations. Supporting technologies include Pageflakes, RSS feeds and other means of aggregating cluster activity, references and interests.

Enthusiasm: 31/42 (7,6,6,4,4,5)

We appear to be well intentioned towards a few Big Ideas, but we are committed to taking forward:
In the long term

  • Sustainability
  • Downtime
  • CP and the Institution refocussed as The Biology of Collaboration
  • Market of Organisations

In the short term

  • 24 hour retreat
  • Testing Budget Guidelines
  • Portrait of CP
  • Declarations

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