“Rather than just making a finished work about sustainability, the furniture I produced for the café is made sustainably. I did not want to privilege stories and lore about art projects from the past over lived experience and ongoing practices of mutual aid. I did not want to privilege representation over life.”
— Caroline Woolard, 2013
May 21, 2013
Dear Forest, Amelia, Carla, Kenneth, Lauren, Ryan, and Tychist,
I’m honored to be working with you all. My ambition is for this Exchange Café to change the way museums think about education, art, and activism. If this project goes well,
I hope to open a long-term Café using this model, and to turn it into a cooperative business so that member-owners influence the direction and policies of the Café. For now, this is an experiment that I’m taking responsibility for, and hiring you with MoMA to see what might be possible in the long run.
We will fine tune it along the way, as we all see what’s working and what’s not working. This project is far more interactive than most museum-exhibitions, and more one-on-one than most museum education programs; this means we are relying on you to interact with the public!
MoMA Studio: Exchange Café has a lot of moving parts, so I made this PDF in an attempt to clarify all of the aspects of the Café. Please read through this document so that you know how to orient a newcomer to the space, tell them what’s going on, and help them if they want help. You each have areas of expertise and experience, so if a visitor asks about the following topics, consider directing them to the person on this list (Exchange Café facilitators) who are most excited to share that information:
Thank you so much!
Commons is a Middle English word. People called commons that part of the environment which lay beyond their own thresholds and outside of their own possessions, to which, however, they had recognized claims of usage, not to produce commodities but to provide for the subsistence of their households. The law of the commons regulates the right of way, the right to fish and to hunt, and the right to collect wood or medicinal plants in the forest.
The enclosure of the commons inaugurates a new ecological order. Enclosure did not just physically transfer the control over grasslands from the peasants to the lord. It marked a radical change in the attitudes of society toward the environment. Before, most of the environment had been considered as commons from which most people could draw most of their sustenance without needing to take recourse to the market. After enclosure, the environment became primarily a resource at the service of “enterprises” which, by organizing wage labor, transformed nature into the goods and services on which by satisfaction of basic needs by consumers depend.
“tragedy of the commons” should be re-named the “tragedy of the unmanaged commons.”
This change of attitudes can be better illustrated if we think about roads rather than about grasslands. What a difference there was between the new and the old parts of Mexico City only twenty years ago. In the old parts of the city, the streets were true commons. Some people sat in the road to sell vegetables and charcoal. Others put their chairs on the road to drink coffee or tequila. Children played in the gutter, and people walking could still use the road to get from one place to another. Such roads were built for people. Like any true commons, the street itself was the result of people living there and making that space livable. In the new sections of Mexico City, streets are now roadways for automobiles, for buses, for taxis, cars, and trucks. People are barely tolerated on the street. The road has been degraded from a commons to a simple resource for the circulation of vehicles. People can circulate no more on their own. Traffic has displaced their mobility.
Enclosure has denied the people the right to that kind of environment on which—throughout all of history—the moral economy of survival depends. Enclosure undermines the local autonomy of a community. People become economic individuals who depend for their survival on commodities that are produced for them."
Subject: MoMA Education P2P Proposal September 3, 2012
Here's a sketch of my idea for classes. Let me know if you need more info or background to go forward ... I have many references and readings and reasons for wanting to do this, which I can explain at length. I'm in Amsterdam and doing workshops all day tomorrow, then getting on a plane Wednesday, so I won't be very much in reach except for a small window 12 hours from now.
UNTITLED EDUCATION PROGRAM (Communities of Practice/P2P/Learning Group)
This program will connect people from various disciplines who have shared interests in a topic or in each other (or both). MoMA will serve as the official container: keeping track of participant commitment (a low, but present sliding scale fee will be required upon acceptance, with institutional pressure to follow through), and providing space, facilitators, specialists (when requested), and the notoriety necessary to draw a wide variety of participants.
Here's how it works:
An open call is created for participants interested in joining a Learning Group (formed around specific topics*). If necessary for MoMA, this can be for MoMA members only, but then I want anyone to be able to apply and include a MoMA membership in the fee they must pay if they are accepted into the program. Applicants submit answers to a few short questions,** plus 5–10 images of their work/music/ video/writing/online links, a list of accomplishments (whatever this means to the applicant), information about their heritage/family/ background, how long they've been out of school, and which Learning Group* they want to be part of. They must also agree to commit to 1 night a month to the group.
The application process will be anonymous peer review: every applicant is required to select 10 other people that s/he would want to work with in a Learning Group. Based on the mutual selection of interested participants, drawn from survey data (from something basic like survey monkey or more advanced cluster analysis—we can get help with this from computer engineers or anyone doing network analysis)— we will find constellations of mutual inter- est. When we have a strong cluster of interest between people, we will form a Learning Group. We could potentially have 10 different learning groups (each with 7 people max), depending on MoMA's resources—facilitators and space.
The Learning Group will meet at least one night (Thursday?) a month (to be determined by MoMA based on past experience) for a year or more. The method will be group-directed learning with a MoMA facilitator, and will have no mandatory specialist/instructor leading the class, unless the group requests it for a special reason. Facilitators can provide formats, but mostly the group will meet to read together, learn together, and experiment together.
*Possible Learning Groups (up for conversation):
Sociology of Art: language, context, relationships
Art/Activism Spirituality/Mysticism in Art Science/Art
** For example (up for conversation): How does your class background affect your relationship to learning? What are you reading right now? Have you participated in a collective/group before? Tell us about it. What kind of schooling have you participated in?
Let me know how it goes!
PS: In anticipation of defenses I expect you'll have to make for this proposal...
These collect transient groups for single meetings. This format of commitment, combined with MoMA's prestige and resources, will allow real relationships or mutual learning to occur. The fact that there's a growing landscape of “alternative” education options shows that there's a high demand for something besides expensive MFAs and college degrees.
What is missing in most “alternatives” is the fact that most organizers want to participate, not organize—they eventually lose themselves in the publicity, facility/resource/tech management, and facilitation of the events, which makes for a scattered feel. Here, MoMA can take care of most of this: publicity, facility/resource/tech management, and facilitation.
Why should this be at MoMA?
MoMA education should be as experimental as its programming, and has been. To that end, this program will allow participants to fully determine the course of their education. It also sounds quite similar to Barr’s classes, where the only reading material was
and students were required to teach major aspects of the course: “Barr referred to all nine students in the class as ‘faculty,’ making them each responsible for mastering and teaching some of the course content. Although, per its title, the course ostensibly focused on painting, Barr thought a broad understanding of culture was necessary to understand any individual artistic discipline, and accordingly, the class also studied design, architecture, film, sculpture, and photography. There was no required reading aside from
The New Yorker,
The New Masses,
and the numerous class trips were not to typical locations of art-historical interest. For example, on a trip to Cambridge, the class passed over the wealth of Harvard's museums to experience the ‘exquisite structural virtuosity,’ in Barr's words, of the Necco candy factory.”
Subject: opportunity at MoMA for Public School-types
October 2, 2012
I got to suggest a new learning approach to MoMA's Education Department, and I suggested the following:
Peer Learning Group (working title) is a group-directed learning program, connecting individuals to each other and providing access to MoMA’s diverse resources after museum hours. In the winter/spring term 2013, three peer-to-peer learning groups will be created, organized based on mutual interests and expertise. Through an application process, individuals will select a topic of focus* and provide supplemental information for other interested applicants. All submissions will be reviewed anonymously by other applicants to create clusters of mutual interest.
Based on applicants preferences, MoMA staff will create topic-based learning groups. Groups will explore the selected topic and collectively determine group meeting activities over 8 sessions: such as readings, guest speakers, MoMA screenings, gallery visits, or off-site trips. Groups will meet twice a month for four months from February–May 2013. Each group will have a facilitator who will organize off site trips, guest speakers, or events for the group. The facilitator will also serve as a liaison to MoMA staff to give your group access to spaces, resources and facilities. This “class” is meant to be self-directed and peer driven.
Open House: Thursday, December 6, 6:30–8:30:
Application Due: Monday, January 7
Schedule: 8 meetings, every other Tuesday (Feb 19–May 28) 6:30–8:30 p.m.
Topics* for this term are:
Art and Authorship
Art and Economies
Art and Process
To Apply: Potential participants must submit an application and agree to review all other applications from individuals interested in the same topic. Peers will select up to 20 other participants that they’d like to learn with. After this, MoMA staff will create four peer groups based on the strongest clusters of mutual interest. These groups will receive access to MoMA and its resources on every other Tuesday, from February 19–May 28, 2013 from 6:30–8:30 p.m.
MoMA will host a FREE open house about this new course this Thursday, December 6, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building at 4 West 54 Street. Learn about this new learning structure at MoMA, meet other curious learners, and review the application process:
Please come Thursday if you're free! I'll send you the application when it goes live...
Subject: MoMA | Image Use & Invitation | Exchange Café | May 24–June 30 May 26, 2013
Dear Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Carolina Caycedo, Julianne Swartz, Ray Tomlinson, Adrian Piper, Paul Ramirez Jonas, Andrea Blum, Roger Dingledine, Alexandre Allaire, Mike Perry, Billy Apple, Ben Kinmont, Tehching Hsieh, Linda Montano, George Monteleone, Audra Wolowiec, Alan Michelson, David McKenzie, Carey Young, Huong Ngo, Or Zubalsky, Nina Katchadourian, Ahmet Ögüt, Rich Watts, Louise Ma, Carl Tashian, Jen Abrams, Janine Antoni, Jose Antonio Vega Macotela, and Max Liboiron,
From May 24th through June 30th, I hope to share your work with the public at MoMA’s Cullman Research Center. Please let me know (1) if you like the image I’ve selected for your project, (2) if you want to talk to me about your research, and (3) if you can come to the reception on May 30th from 6–8pm.
I selected your work to be featured in a social space ... so that I might make legible a history of exchange in MoMA’s collection and beyond.
CONTEXT: For an initiative called Artists Experiment, I’ve been working with the Education Department at MoMA on a learning space dedicated to exchange-based practices. I selected your work to be featured in a social space in the Cullman Education and Research building so that I might make legible a history of exchange in MoMA’s collection and beyond. We plan to show a small version of the attached image of your work on an interactive wall in the mezzanine.
IMAGE REQUEST: If you have a high resolution version of the image or project (shown in the attached PDF) that you’d like us to use, I would be grateful if you could send it to us. If not, we’ll use what you see in the attached PDF. These image reproductions will be used for educational purposes only.
TEXT SUPPLEMENT: If you’ve written anything about the work I’ve selected (or about reciprocity and exchange in general), and want to email a copy for us to read internally with Exchange Café waitstaff/facilitators who will explain your work to the public, please do! If you want us to include it in the Café library for the public to view, we can arrange that as well. Please do not hesitate to contact me (Caroline) to discuss your research or to ask questions about this learning space. I’m reachable by email or cell: 401 935 3071
MORE DETAILS: Exchange Café will be open Thursday–Sunday from May 24th through June 30th. Exchange Café is a social space in the mezzanine of MoMA’s Education and Research building that is dedicated to exchange-based practices. The Café encourages visitors to question notions of reciprocity, value, and property through shared experiences. Tea from the Feral Trade Network, milk from Milk Not Jails, and honey from BeeSpace—products that directly engage the political economy—will be available by exchange. Instead of paying with legal tender, Exchange Café patrons are invited to make a resource-based currency. Exchange Café features an interactive participatory archive, a matrix of exchange projects, and a library of books and ephemera.
SAVE 30 MAY: If you are in New York between May 24th and June 30th, and wish to visit MoMA, please join us at MoMA Studio: Exchange Café. We will have a reception on May 30th from 6:00–8:00 p.m. and will be open Thursday through Sunday from 1:00–5:00 p.m., Fridays from 1:00–8:00 p.m. Please let us know if you would like to attend the reception on May 30th from 6:00–8:00 p.m., as space is limited. There are many events throughout the program, so if you cannot attend the opening, please come for Ted Purves and Shane Aslan Selzer’s talk on Critical Exchange, Jon Hendricks on Fluxus, Milk Not Jails on prison abolition, or OurGoods.org, see
on barter. The schedule is here:
Caroline Woolard, Sarah Kennedy, Sheetal Prajapati, and Pablo Helguera Artists Experiment / MoMA Studio: Exchange Café
Subject: publishing that Exchange Archive as a book
March 10, 2014
Pablo, Sheetal, and Sarah,
I really want to publish that little Exchange Archive / Exchange Reference Works book. I remember you (Pablo) saying that MoMA’s book publishing house wouldn’t do anything with us, but that for legal reasons we should make an offer to them first that they reject. Is this true?
I’d love to work with you all, and with MoMA’s publishing house, but if that’s impossible, can I make this an independent project, thank- ing AE and crediting you all, and MoMA, but go forth and self-publish it? Let me know what is possible, and what’s a sensitive issue.
I know my friends at
(www.topositu.com) are up for designing it! I think this book (1:1 exchange, small primary audiences) could be the dematerialization of the art object for the 2010s.
September 18, 2014
Actually, believe it or not, publications has finally given you the green light. I do need to put you in touch with our chief of publications who has been very supportive of your project—he just needs to sort out a few things with you. Will send an intro email shortly.
There should be hiding spaces, in the museum, because the museum is so open that it almost feels like you’re being watched all the time, so I wanted some hiding spots where people could find solitude and read quietly.
—Caroline Woolard, video about Exchange Cafe by Alex Mallis, 2013