In Exchange Café, I knew that the facilitators would get questions from visitors, and that I could shape the visitor experience by creating an “FAQ” that they could refer to. I made sure that MoMA would hire people with experience living and working in the solidarity economy, including Kenneth Edusei, Forest Purnell, Amelia Winger-Bearskin, Carla Aspenberg, Lauren Melodia, and Tychist Baker. I worked with Sarah Kennedy and Sheetal Prajapati to draft a document that we sent to the waitstaff or “studio facilitators.”

I made sure that MoMA would hire people with experience living and working in the solidarity economy

“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 20, 2013 MoMA Studio: Exchange Café

Your Role as a Facilitator

FACILITATOR RESPONSIBILITIES Three facilitators will be at the Studio each day during open hours. Together they will be responsible for overseeing and maintaining the mezzanine space of MoMA’s Education Building and facilitating visitor experiences with various components of the Studio including:

  • Oversee and organizing the Studio space including setup, tea service, and clean up each day;

  • Welcome visitors to the Studio space;

  • Facilitate public interactions with daily ongoing and weekly Studio activities and programs;

  • Deliver feedback to Education staff;

  • Tracking attendance;

  • Collect evaluation data from visitors;

  • Keep track of Studio inventory, digital equipment, materials and activity supplies;

  • One mid-Studio meeting.

HOW THE CAFÉ WORKS The Café layout and facilitation roles will need to shift, depending on how many people are in the Café. There are 3 “modes” we imagine:

MODE 1: Less than 15 people are in the space = Restaurant Experience (sit down to be served tea)

FACILITATOR 1 (greeter) greets people who walk down the stairs (also be aware of people entering Café from the elevators) and directs them to have a seat in the Café, explore the Exchange Archive, or hang out. If Facilitator 2 (archivist) is getting busy, Facilitator 1 (greeter) can help in the Exchange Archive. Must be really into gauging interest and going from the 1 liner explanation of what the space is to a more in depth welcome. This is a caller or hostess type job.

FACILITATOR 2 (archivist) helps people understand the Reference Works in the Exchange Archive, helps people submit stories/drawings to the Exchange Archive. If Facilitator 3 (waiter/tea attendant) is getting busy, Facilitator 2 (archivist) can help at the tea station. Must be into talking about contemporary art and helping people connect artworks about exchange to the project overall, as well as helping people to submit exchange stories and use the Archive. This is a meditative or 1-on-1 job.

FACILITATOR 3 (waiter) greets people in the Café who are seated and want to have tea, and gets them tea at the tea station, handles receipts, and any questions about the products. Facilitator 3 (waiter) can elect to move into Mode 2 if s/he is getting too busy. Must be able to take tea orders, give change, and talk about Milk/Tea/Honey products. This is a running around job.

When special events involving groups in the studio occur during open hours, facilitators can join these events, but should keep an eye on the space, explaining the project overall and the special event in particular, so that visitors don’t think that the project is only about group conversation. Facilitators should provide tea in exchange for currency if the visitors don’t want to participate in the event and the exchange of tea for resources does not distract from the event.

I then wrote an email with a longer FAQ for the facilitators to think about what questions they might be asked. I went over these questions with them when we were in the space together, for their first “training,” to talk about what it meant to be on the waitstaff in Exchange Café.

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!


My ambition is for this Exchange Café to change the way museums think about education, art, and activism.

In general, visitors to the café did not ask many questions, and the facilitators were often quite busy helping people with the currency and the tea.



What’s going on?


Q: What is this space? A: This is a Café that runs on an alternative currency. Instead of using legal tender (national currencies), you can pay for tea with a currency that circulates in this space. If you want tea, milk, and honey, have a seat in the Café and our waitstaff will tell you how to validate the Resource currency. This space also features an Exchange Archive of works from MoMA’s collection that focus on exchange: dialog, barter, and reciprocity systems. You can contribute to the Exchange Archive with your own stories of exchange if you want, and our waitstaff can assist you with this as well. If you just want to hang out in the library area, go for it!

Long version (from the website): Organized in collaboration with Brooklyn-based artist Caroline Woolard as part of the Department of Education’s Artists Experiment initiative, MoMA Studio: Exchange Café is a social space in the mezzanine of MoMA's Education and Research building that is dedicated to exchange-based practices. Taking the form of a café, the Studio encourages visitors to question notions of reciprocity, value, and property through shared experiences. Tea, milk, and honey—products that directly engage the political economy—are 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.

Each Resource must be validated with a request (something you desire, need, or demand) and a creation (something you make, organize, and support).


– How can I order tea? (see below, you must create Resources)

– How do I create RESOURCES? (the currency used in Exchange Café)

– How do I contribute to the EXCHANGE ARCHIVE? (online and in real space)

Q: How can I create currency to pay for tea? A: Instead of paying with legal tender, you need to pay for tea with the currency that works in the Café, called Resources. Each Resource must be validated with a request (something you desire, need, or demand) and a creation (something you make, organize, and support). When endorsed with your signature, you can use Resources to get tea, milk, and honey. 3 Resource bills entitle you tea, milk, honey, or any mutually determined exchange in trade. See the menu on each table for information as well. Find blank resources on the table or ask the waitstaff for blank resources.

Q: How do I order tea? A: Have a seat in the Café and look over the menu. We serve a different kind of tea each day, as well as milk and honey. Someone from the waitstaff will be with you shortly. While you wait for them, look over the menu and make currency, 3 Resources for each thing you hope to order: 3 for milk, 3 for tea, and 3 for honey. When you pay with Resources, your waiter will give you Resources in change. You can keep this currency for a return visit to the Café and/or exchange it with other Café patrons for goods and services.


A: “Anthropologists gradually fanned out into the world and began directly observing how economies where money was not used (or anyway, not used for everyday transactions) actually worked. What they discovered was an at first bewildering variety of arrangements, ranging from competitive gift-giving to communal stockpiling to places where economic relations centered on neighbors trying to guess each other’s dreams. What they never found was any place, anywhere, where economic relations between members of community took the form economists predicted: “I’ll give you twenty chickens for that cow.” Hence in the definitive anthropological work on the subject, Cambridge anthropology professor Caroline Humphrey concludes, “No example of a barter economy, pure and simple, has ever been described, let alone the emergence from it of money; all available ethnography suggests that there never has been such a thing.” From a blog post by David Graeber.

In practice, barter is often not about haggling or getting a deal. It is about voluntary, reciprocal exchange. There is a myth perpetuated in economic textbooks that barter was the precursor to monetary exchange, but in fact gift-giving in community was the precursor to monetary exchange. See David Graeber’s book Debt: the First 5,000 Years and Caroline Humphrey’s book Barter: Exchange and Value in the Exchange Library for more information. Barter can help people remember community-reliance and to move our culture towards increased gift-giving and mutual aid.

Q: Doesn’t 1-to-1 exchange just reinforce the myth of individual responsibility for your economic reality, rather than pointing to structural economic inequity? A: These two things (individual responsibility and structural change) are not in opposition. How can we heal ourselves while trying to resist austerity measures? Caroline Woolard sees her work, and Exchange Café, in relationship to the 'resist, occupy, create' motto of the Argentinean factory workers and Brazil's Landless Rural Workers' Movement MST. She thinks that she must protest and resist the closing of schools and hospitals WHILE finding openings to reclaim space for the creation of plausible futures where mutual aid, democratic structures, and interdependence are central. See the statement Caroline wrote next to the Wall Text for more information.

“The commons” refers to an understanding of space that is neither private nor public, but is managed collectively by the people who use it.

Q: What are contemporary movements to reclaim the commons? What is the commons? A: “The commons” refers to an understanding of space that is neither private nor public, but is managed collectively by the people who use it. Ivan Illich said in a 1982 speech delivered in Tokyo and collected in a book of his speeches, In the Mirror of the Past:

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."

Elinor Ostrom pointed out (in her Nobel Prize winning work) that the “tragedy of the commons” should be re-named the “tragedy of the unman- aged commons.” Ostrom documents the multiple ways that common pool resources (CPRs) are managed. These human-made or naturally occurring resources have characteristics that make them costly, but not impossible, to exclude potential beneficiaries from obtaining benefits from their use. Fishermen in Maine, for example, manage their common fishery through collective agreement far better than government sanction. See Elinor Ostrom’s book, Governing the Commons, in the Exchange Library for more information.

Q: How does this relate to Caroline Woolard’s other work? A: From 2004–2007, Caroline Woolard made her own public seating and installed and maintained it on the streets of New York. She also made a bag that transformed into a swing for the subway in 2006. Moving from small scale projects in public space to scalable infrastructure for exchange in 2008, Caroline Woolard cofounded and, two barter networks for art and learning. These groups give Caroline the long-term support to work with other groups, as she has in this project, but Caroline is dedicated to working and growing with and for the long haul.

MoMA Studio: Exchange Café honors the power of reciprocity. From everyday barter practices to artistic exchange systems, Caroline Woolard makes legible a relationship between works in MoMA’s collection and contemporary movements to reclaim the commons. Join Caroline in conversation with long-term collaborators Jen Abrams, Louise Ma, Rich Watts, Christhian Diaz, Rachel Steinberg, and Aimee Lutkin on June 8th at 3 p.m.

Here is the job description for the facilitators in the café:

The Museum of Modern Art Department of Education, Adult and Academic Programs

TITLE: Facilitator, Museum Education Interactive Space Part time, Temporary

Responsibilities include:

  • Gaining a deep understanding of the studio—including hours, schedule, content, programs,and activities.

  • Assisting in the daily management of an interactive space for the general public, including but not limited to: set up and closing up of space daily including preparation of project spaces.

  • Maintenance of the studio space, including light cleaning, shutting down tech equipment, and organizing and stocking materials as needed.

  • Welcoming visitors to the studio space with a general introduction to the Studio and activities.

  • Facilitating and encouraging public interactions with ongoing studio spaces including the Exchange Wall, Exchange Library, and Exchange Café spaces.

  • Maintaining and overseeing the Exchange Café space in the Studio including set up, tea service, and clean up each day.

  • Facilitating daily ongoing and weekly Studio programs.

  • Acting as primary contact with Studio visitors, answering questions about the Museum and other educational programs.

  • Delivering feedback to Education staff and tracking attendance of visitors to the space.

  • Collecting evaluation data from visitors. May assist in helping to develop questions and interviewing visitors.

  • Performing other duties related to the function of the studio as described above.

The ideal candidate is skilled in engaging multi-generational audiences, is personable and professional in their conduct, has experience working in interactive educational spaces, and is well versed in the topic areas explored in the Studio, such as exchange- based practices, modern and contemporary art history, and alternative economies. Flexibility with regard to the flow of activities in the Studio is required as the space is constantly evolving and changing and all activities will be cumulative and reasonably open-ended in response to visitors’ engagements. All facilitators are required to attend a mandatory training session prior to the Studio start date.

REQUIREMENTS: Knowledge and Skills: Proficient with computers and digital interfaces. Ability to interact with a variety of museum visitors of diverse ages—children to adults—and engage them in a variety of activities offered at the Studio. Second language helpful.


B.A. in art history, art/museum education, fine arts, design or equivalent professional experience. Knowledge of modern and contemporary art and artists is important.


Intuitive, friendly, organized, and punctual. Must have a strong interest in art education. Ability to synthesize complex ideas and concepts for a general and diverse audience.

REPORTS TO: ASSOCIATE EDUCATOR, LAB PROGRAMS Interested applicants can submit a resume and cover letter to by Mar 27, 2013. The Museum of Modern Art is an equal opportunity employer and con- siders all candidates for employment regardless of race, color, sex, age, national origin, creed, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or political affiliation.

Before making Exchange Café, I asked if I could run an educational program that was open to anyone living and working in New York City. The idea was based upon what I learned from, and is related to my ideal graduate school or self-organized learning space, where the students get to select one another. This project happened before the Café opened.

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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):

  • Design/Art

  • Economies/Art

  • Internet/Art

  • Food/Art

  • Agriculture/Art

  • Illegal/Art

  • Sound/Art

  • Sociology of Art: language, context, relationships

  • Art/Activism Spirituality/Mysticism in Art Science/Art

  • Performance/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...

Q: Why not just use or or any of these DIY learning platforms?

A: 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.

Q: Why should this be at MoMA?

A: 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 Vanity Fair, 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 Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and 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.”

This resulted in a series that MoMA supported. Once it was approved, I sent individual emails to all the people I know who ran or participated in self-organized learning spaces. This included Taeyoon Choi, an artist I met at Eyebeam as a Fellow in 2011–2012, and someone who was part of a self-organized learning project called The Public School.

Subject: opportunity at MoMA for Public School-types

October 2, 2012

Hey Taeyoon,

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: 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...


At Exchange Café, I wanted to honor all of the artists who were working on exchange-based projects, through a sort of footnote system. I thought: if I am a research-based artist, where is the footnote system for my research? I decided to test out a footnote system that all research-based artists could try using, to shift narratives around authorship and citation in the visual arts. To make this a reality, I knew I needed to work with computer engineers. I remembered Amelia Winger-Bearskin, an artist and technologist whom I had met when the artist Stephanie Diamond gathered community-based artists in a project called Community of Community in 2012 at the Queens Museum. Amelia and I stayed in touch, and when I asked her if she was interested in working on a footnote system or network for Exchange Café, she said yes. She then introduced me to three developers that she knew well: Corey Brady, Pratim Sengupta, and Mason Wright. Together, they built an online network to archive the wide range of artists who make exchange-based projects.

if I am a research-based artist, where is the footnote system for my research? I decided to test out a footnote system that all research-based artists could try using, to shift narratives around authorship and citation in the visual arts.

Here is how I described the text and forms that I hoped they could make for the website.

EXCHANGE ARCHIVE: Artists do not create work in a vacuum.*

All artists work in dialog with other people. Why isn’t this dialog visible? In all other fields, footnotes are the norm. Exchange Archive hopes to recognize and support artistic dialog and research by acknowledging the references, influences, and inspirations that flow between projects.

All artists work in dialog with other people. Why isn’t this dialog visible?

Please add your work to the archive, as well as the projects that influenced this work. If you are not an artist, feel free to suggest possible connections, inspirations, or potential dialog between art works.

Thank you! MultiAgency Collective, Caroline Woolard, MoMA’s Education Department

*Vacuums are for cleaning, not for divine inspiration. Andy Warhol traded a print for a vacuum from Sydney Lewis. Warhol made his work in a Factory with over 100 artists.


The back-end technology required for this project is a webserver feeding into a mysql database which is accessible by our visualization engine. The core software itself can be running on the same computer (server) or remotely. Redundancy on this server is probably not required, though it may be necessary if the external web activity becomes extremely large. Data backup and power backup (i.e., protection from local power outage) is recommended but not absolutely necessary. The hardware for both data and power backup can be provided by MultiAgency Collective. This server will be accessible via the web. It also should be on a local network that connects it with the Café terminals, described below. (Alternative connectivity configurations are possible, but this is our recommendation.) At the front-end, viewers outside of the museum will use a modern web browser (such as Chrome or Firefox) to interact. For interactions within the Café, we recommend two computers be dedicated for visualizing and interacting with the data, and we recommend that secondary displays be attached to these computers to allow other visitors in the café to see visualizations as they emerge. The computers for these terminals can be any model of modern computer and operating system (i.e., Mac, Windows, or Linux, though Mac OSX computers are preferred). Per the above, a network connecting these computers with the server is also required. This network could be wired or wireless.


The participants (non artists/ café visitors/ possible online visitors as well) pick 3 art projects from the visualization that are a ‘mini-node’ or group. The visitor can explain their choices with a few ‘buttons.’

I picked these projects to go together because (choose as many as you’d like):

[ ] similar artistic influences

[ ] similar project goals

[ ] they could support one another

[ ] these would make for an interesting contrast

[ ] _______(fill it in yourself)

We think that this way, casual visitors can easily choose a grouping of art projects and within a short period of time describe their curation.

I asked MoMA to include a text that I wrote in the wall text for Exchange Café. MoMA has strict regulations about the ways that projects are narrated, and the Education Department wanted to author the wall text. The solution that we agreed upon was to place my writing in italics, so that MoMA would present a wall text that included, “in the words of the artist, Caroline Woolard...” with the following language, from me.

Art making is not separate from the political economy.

Objects are not singular: the labor, materials, production, and distribution are part of the work. Exchange and barter were practiced in the making of the café.

Moving between Art spaces and non-art spaces allows for multiple meanings, timeframes, and publics.

Meaning is embodied: objects should be touched, used, and/or activated to be understood.

Connecting two people (or more) in a reciprocal encounter or agreement is powerful.

The work is ongoing and should be replicated or modified!

I am not a singular artist. I am a member of society, trying to find hope in a world of fierce inequities. Reciprocity and experiences of mutual support have given me the emotional, financial, and intellectual power to heal and to dream. As a member of many groups (,, see chapter 3,, the Pedagogy Group, Splinters and Logs), I am learning to be accountable to my peers, to work cooperatively, and to practice the possibilities of shared livelihood.

My interest in exchange practices comes from living and working for the past decade in New York City. While rent continues to rise and wages stagnate, I am supported by barter, cooperation, and the wisdom of the solidarity economy movement. Rather than going into debt to be further professionalized as an artist, I attend self-organized schools and support movements for educational justice. Rather than looking to sell art to people who may resell it in secondary markets, or throwing away an entire installation at the end of a show, I barter my work, share it as a gift, or live with it for life. Rather than relying on outsourced labor or exploited interns, I refine and enjoy my crafts, exchanging labor for labor when necessary.

Scavenging in MoMA’s archives for the Artists Experiment initiative, I found a small art history of exchange projects from the past forty years: from Franz Erhard Walther’s First Work Set (1963–69) to Ben Kinmont’s I Need You (1992). As a supplement, I decided to include exchange projects from outside of the collection, for many of these works offer an expanded notion of embodied exchange. From Jose Antonio Vega Macotela’s Time Divisa (2006–10) to Carey Young’s Mutual Release (2008), many like-minded contemporary artists see reciprocal labor, production, and distribution as integral to the meaning of their work.

While rent continues to rise and wages stagnate, I am supported by barter, cooperation, and the wisdom of the solidarity economy movement.

I asked the Education Department if I could work with them to make a printed booklet for the Café, which would be available in the Café, and include well-known works from MoMA’s collection, works that I thought should be in the collection, as well as an invitation for Café patrons to contribute their own stories of exchange. They agreed to do this, and I designed the booklet.

I had to get the image permissions signed from all of the artists, the text edited and approved by MoMA, and the booklet designed so that it could become part of a larger archive, with café patron’s additions. Once it was ready, I sent an invitation to participants.

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.

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.

Thank you!

Caroline Woolard, Sarah Kennedy, Sheetal Prajapati, and Pablo Helguera Artists Experiment / MoMA Studio: Exchange Café

After Exchange Café had closed, I wanted to publish the booklet so it would continue to serve as a resource for people thinking about art and exchange. I asked the MoMA team if this would be possible.

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 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.

Checking in,


Pablo Helguera at MoMA got the “green light” from Publishing after seven months of dialog from March through September of 2014, but in the end, the project fell through.

September 18, 2014

Hi Caroline,

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.



I also made a website for Exchange Café, to attempt to make the process visible online and accessible to people who would not be able to visit the Café in person, but was sent a cease-and-desist letter from MoMA’s legal team in June of 2013. Sarah called me to explain this, in person, and I cannot share any writing about it in this book.

MoMA did, however, allow me to write two posts about the project, for their website in June of 2013.


When asked to propose a format to the Education at MoMA, I suggested a café, a place where meaning is made in dialog, where objects can be touched, and where visceral knowledge is honored. Exchange Café is a social space dedicated to exchange, from unconventional encounters to barter and reciprocal economies. What follows is an explanation of some principles of the café, as well as the ways in which these principles could be extended towards a more engaging visitor experience at MoMA.

1. Waitstaff as Educators

At Exchange Café, you will be greeted by waitstaff with direct experience working in, with, and for solidarity economies. With the café as a learning format, educators are waitstaff with lifelong commitments to the topics at hand—Exchange Café waitstaff Lauren Melodia and Tychist Baker are organizers for Milk Not Jails, Kenneth Edusei is an organizer for participatory budgeting in Brooklyn, and Amelia Winger-Bearskin, Forest Purnell, and Carla Aspenberg are artists engaged in practices of reciprocity. With the café as a learning format, education happens in lived experience, through dialog that connects artworks to activism and community organizing.

Imagine if every time you walked into MoMA, you could elect to speak to a community organizer about the relationship between real-time organizing and the issues at stake in the artworks on view. Imagine if the interns, fabricators, and artists who made work could be hired as stewards for the work while it was on view, talking to the public about the construction, materials, and dialog surrounding the work itself.

Imagine if every time you walked into MoMA, you could elect to speak to a community organizer


When asked to propose a new learning format to the Education Department at MoMA, I suggested a café, a place where meaning is made in dialog, where objects can be touched, and where visceral knowledge is honored. Exchange Café is a social space dedicated to exchange, from unconventional encounters to barter and reciprocal economies. What follows is an explanation of some principles of the café, as well as the ways in which these principles could be extended towards a more engaging visitor experience at MoMA.

Imagine if museum cafés and food-art projects served products with principles as radical as the propositions in artworks.

1. Exchange means Depth over Breadth

The works in the Exchange Archive, from Yoko Ono to Ben Kinmont, from Max Libioron to Merle Laderman Ukeles, demonstrate a commitment to a primary experience that occurs one-to-one, outside of art institutions.

I wanted to make a reflection document about the experience at MoMA, but MoMA staff (such as Sarah and Pablo) cannot write about MoMA projects, without permission. On my own, I collected the 3000–4000 emails between MoMA and myself, and pasted them all into one, virtual document. I invited a research student who wanted to know more about my process to read them, confidentially, and to notice themes that emerged about the differences between our expectations and process. I hope that one day, this research can be published for other artists to learn from, but I understand that I have different risks and stakes than MoMA staff do. I understand that MoMA employees are required to keep the details of their projects confidential, for example, and cannot share their opinions openly without serious cons. For now, I will not share this document. Sheetal was able to write about this project, in this book, because she does not work at MoMA anymore.

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

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