Big Ideas

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Head to Big Ideas 2011

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 a stimulating context in which to practice 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. We started the ball rolling at our Annual Picnic on the 26th June in St Jame's Park London. Seven people met, bringing food, drink and three Big Ideas each. We plucked each other's suggestions out of a blue fedora (one Big Idea arrived by text message) and discussed their connections, alternatives, feasibility, and possible figurations. Notably, two broad categories of activity emerged:

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

See picnic photos

Enthusiasm We reconvened on the 10th July at 7pm in the foyer cafe, Royal Festival Hall, London to decide how to develop the big ideas. The Enthusiasm index emerged, a means of gauging the level of commitment among Critical Practitioners to see an idea through to completion, to actually make it happen - Enthusiasm with responsibility. Low numbers do not necessarily indicate a lack of interest. Rather, they signal more a lack of will to develop the project proposals. It will be interesting to see how closely they relate to what transpires (see Prediction Markets).

Several of the Big Ideas morphed into Parade

Long Term


Is art reproduced through a competitive market sustainable?
How can art be subject to the discourses of sustainability? (energy, resources, materials, but also things like generosity and volunteering)
How can we/do we sustain best practices?
How to sustain the activity that makes Critical Practice what it is - a reflexive structure for collaboration?
Should we strive to maintain Critical Practice, if it's based on 'free' work?
Self-organising groups tend to run on generosity and good will, often leading to exhaustion and 'burn-out'. The question is, how can self-organising groups take responsibility for the things that sustain them?

Significantly, these issues seem to turn on calibrating resources to objectives and not the other way around.

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. 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

A gathering of cultural and other organisations: galleries, museums, auction houses, artists, agents, NGOs, charities etc. to explore the more equitable distribution of resources.
What's unfair about the way things are? What do people owe?
In other 'disciplines'(science, engineering, design) the financially successful invest time and money in the 'institutions' to whom 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? Disclosure may challenge the competitive advantage and therefore viability of some organisations.
How do they re-invest? How do these dynamic compare with the redistributing efforts of food and resources for survival? How does this link with questions of sustainability?

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

Found a political party

Stand for election at local level - this would be Westminster.
We would need a Manifesto, the RAQS Media Collective has a better word than manifesto i.e. a negotiable statement of intent. Tent States as a form of 'flash politics' in need of a location. Could this be incorporated into the 24hr retreat, and/or Deschool. Would the party require a uniform? - Critical Practice clothing?

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 models of surplus labour such as [ ReCAPTCHA]. This could be a co-ordinating wiki-like site. Take care in identifying these spaces not to drive increased productivity. Focus on new uses for (public) spaces. The interests here overlap with Sustainability: seeing buildings and spaces as organic, rhythmic and be mindful of the energy of these spaces. When it comes to skills and people's downtime, be mindful of necessary pauses, don't increase the risk of burn-out. Think "benign squatting" in both time and space. Think of downtime as a form of multitasking/(re)purposing/sharing.

Enthusiasm: 32/42 (5,6,5,5,6,5)
Seen as a component of Sustainability and the emergent Care of the Self' - how to recouperate.
Useful in determining the identification of 'resources'. Worth linking to O+I's recent proposal to reanimte Betweens

CP and the Institution

CP as a "virus" in temporary occupation of a museum/gallery/business/other - institution.
How do we articulate our relationship with the academy or art institution?
What is the 'biology' of collaboration?
Should we select a host rather than react to an invitation to be hosted?
Symbiosis comes to mind – a virus consumes its host, perhaps something benevolent such as a phage is a better metaphor?
An exchange of mutual benefit rather than destructive self-interest. Neil offered the example of sourdough bread; Trevor proffered the idea of the phage (see link above). These examples of "occupation" hinge on optimizing conditions, conditions which are constantly renegotiated.

Enthusiasm: 33/42 (6,5,6,5,5,6)
Been there, done that. Although in discussion we began to develop the term the The Biology of Collaboration. We then proceeded to
reposition this discourse within Sustainability whereupon The Biology of Collaboration gathered considearable enthusiasm.

Deschool or Self-School

A project inspired by deschooling ideas of Ivan Illich and FLOSS approach to learning and cultural production - a counter instrumentalization tactic, or self-instrumentalization at least - advocating and embodying self-directed learning. The idea needs a context.

Power and self-actualisation in opposition to the production of willing workers. Thinking through the differences between schooling and learning seem critical. Reportedly 80% of what goes on in class is discipline and control - is this the main lesson of school? Take responsibility for education. Illich suggests that people learn more effectively when they're learning what they want to. (But is this really practical? Is it about what we "want" to learn or what we "should" learn? Perhaps that's too Puritan.) There's also the issue of learning styles and rhythms. Though learning is a social process, autodidactisim can be more efficient. It can also be more responsible insofar as decision making comes to the forefront; one may perhaps be more aware of A) the decisions one makes and B) the implications of these decisions. 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

An extension of the Market of Ideas form; which takes as its starting point Modes of Organization.
Invite various groups to exchange knowledge and experiences about their structures/models of internal organisation - eg.
art organisations (public museums and galleries, commercial galleries, auction houses, independent spaces, research groups, academies, Mute, self-organised groups, etc.)
commercial enterprises (corporations, public bodies, supermarkets, cottage industries, family businesses, cooperatives, legal studios, etc.)
political associations (parties, unions, alternative modes of association, communes, squats, flash mobs, lobbies, 'movements, etc.) and others we cannot even imagine right now.
A pragmatic research into institutional critique with an insight into dynamics of power, bloodlines, cliques, Guilds, mutual societies...

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 framework or 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, self-mapping we might model a FLOSS-inspired culture.

Enthusiasm: 7/42 (1,0,0,4,1,1)
Been there done that, or, we are already trying to do it.


Have we done what we set out to do?
Have we done what we think we've 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. Are we trying to account the right values? Perhaps "auditing" comprises a shift in perspective, an alternative point of view? After all, audits are often performed by 'experts' external to that which is assessed. In part self-reflection, in part feedback and review, and in part a 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 provide inspiration, and indicates the potential depth of the process. The benefits of auditing may include being able 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 Sustainibility

Open Source festival

Something that convenes cultural practitioners and prosumers around an open source approach to life in general. Longer and more productive than a conference in the relaxed setting (or commons) - part ResourceCamp, part OpenCongress, part retreat. Many of the BIG ideas can be accommodated.

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. There is a similar well-being value present in the 'convening' and 'retreat' ideas present here.

Enthusiasm: 7/42 (0,0,3,2,0,2)
Too similar to Open Congress and its kind of happened already with 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

Critical Practitioners conduct a 'generative' experiment in human behaviour: spending 24 hours together without food, sleep, Internet, phones, without books, newspapers or radios - without computers - and attempt to develop research using only our collective and embodied knowledge/intelligence.
Blank paper, pens pencils and other props might b useful to prompt or creative output.
A somewhat cathartic exercise - "Let's see what we're made of."

This would be a physical experience, to be sure. But is going hungry really desirable--or even ethical given our access to food? Also, in what ways does this exercise affirm the stereotype of the artist as a tortured soul who embraces discomfort in the name of inspiration?

In a different vein: What are the possibilities of doing this as a kind of squat in public space? What about camping on the new "landing strip," the grassy 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?

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.
We could adopt the form of the Market of Ideas? We could mine Critical Practice - 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)
The Big Ideas are an invitation.

Pay people to delete web content

This year, more data will be produced than in the last 40 years combined. Much of this is as a result of the ease of producing and sharing content with digital cameras, blogs, etc. This has implications for considerations of value when ascribed to so-called "cultural content": Perhaps this value could be interrogated by inquiring at what price (of course this is only fiscal value) people would agree to delete a portion of their content forever. We would then employ our funds to invest in the best value deletion options.

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


Interested members of Critical Practice should "creatively" run a marathon, such as the London marathon. We could do it as a relay. We could wear costumes--or CP tracksuits. We could stage a situation/intervention.

Could this public activity provide a platform for alternative forms of engagement? How might sport/leisure comprise a critical practice? Consider Sister Madonna Buber, a nun whose spiritual practice involves triathloning [1]. 'She's run "about 33" Ironmans. At age 75, she became the oldest woman to finish the Kailua-Kona Ironman World Championship, and she did it again a year later.' Impressive, certainly.

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

Testing Budget Guidelines

We are developing draft budget guidelines, so we could identify relevant organizations, and play-test the guidelines.
This could be performed as a Between/Between. We could explore the idea of a total "profit" and "loss" account of a year's activity.

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!’
We could use the form as a way of forming links, and developing collaborative projects with both nomadic and grounded organizations around London/UK/Europe. Experimenting with Pecha Kuchas provides an opportunity to testing ideas as well as technologies, presentation methods and so on.

Enthusiasm: 10/42 (0,0,3,2,2,3)
Format might be useful, but forming links is what we are already conscious on needing to be better at.

Self-organizing Big Brother

Ten people commune for ten days with ten video cameras. Each day they make 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 long term proposal of the Social Relations working group


Critical Practice short email announcements
A short series of - "declarations", fragments of a manifesto, etc
Perhaps useful narrative for a project (a summarizing newsletter?). A format of 1 of 10 has proved effective for SwarmTV. This idea is discussed in terms of Social Relations. We talk about Pageflakes, RSS feeds and other means of aggregating Critical Practice activity, references and interests.

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

The chosen

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

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

The Market of Organisation and sustainability and the Biology of Collaboration morphed into Parade

In the short term

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

See the development of Parade or return to content or publication or Main Page - or head on over to Big Ideas 2011