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 CaféYour Role as a FacilitatorFACILITATOR 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:
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.
FACILITATOR 1 (greeter) greets people and directs them to get in line for tea. Greeters must be comfortable shouting a bit, getting people in line and explaining that they should fill out currency while waiting for tea. It’s like the post office. This is a caller or hostess type job.FACILITATOR 2 (tea attendant) stands beside the cashier and listens to people’s orders, filling tea and giving it to people waiting in line. If necessary, write the name of the person on the cup so they can hear their name to receive their cup when it’s ready. This is a quiet, but fast work job.FACILITATOR 3 (cashier/stationary waiter) stands beside tea attendant and takes orders and explains currency system if they still don’t get it. Fills out receipt and gives change. This is a conversational job where the currency must be explained and the system understood well.
In this mode, the group that comes to visit Caroline should not be counted as “over 15 people,” as Caroline will handle these groups. If a random group wants a tour and has not scheduled it with Caroline or MoMA, please tell them to experience the space as individuals, not as a group, as we will be overwhelmed by that.
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.
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.
TABLE OF CONTENTSCAFÉ INFORMATION
Each Resource must be validated with a request (something you desire, need, or demand) and a creation (something you make, organize, and support).
“The commons” refers to an understanding of space that is neither private nor public, but is managed collectively by the people who use it.
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.
What will become possible if you call it art? What will become impossible if you call it art?
The Museum of Modern Art Department of Education, Adult and Academic Programs
- 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.
REPORTS TO: ASSOCIATE EDUCATOR, LAB PROGRAMS Interested applicants can submit a resume and cover letter to [email protected] 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.
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.
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...
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.
All artists work in dialog with other people. Why isn’t this dialog visible?
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 (OurGoods.org, TradeSchool.coop, see chapter 3, SolidarityNYC.org, 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.
While rent continues to rise and wages stagnate, I am supported by barter, cooperation, and the wisdom of the solidarity economy movement.
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.
FIRST POST CAFÉ AS LEARNING FORMATWhen 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
2. Education through Dialog
“Because the nature of Dialogue is exploratory, its meaning and its methods continue to unfold. No firm rules can be laid down for conducting a Dialogue because its essence is learning—not as the result of consuming a body of information or doctrine imparted by an authority, nor as a means of examining or criticizing a particular theory or programme, but rather as part of an unfolding process of creative participation between peers.” — David Bohm, Dialogue: A Proposal
Exchange Café takes the social format of a café, taking the embodied roles and rules of a café as a space for learning. Greeted by waitstaff with direct experience in the topics at hand, visitors will be led to consider art works that focus on one-to-one agreements, artists who facilitate engage in short term encounters or long-term relationships of reciprocity.
On the Exchange Café wall, the Exchange Archive acts as an emergent publication about one-on-one engagement, inviting contributions from the public. From artists who facilitate unconventional dialog to artists who consider the barter of goods and services (the labor of producing a project) as integral to the meaning of the work, the Exchange Archive makes legible a desire for one-on-one interaction in MoMA’s collection and beyond. For example, Huong Ngo, Or Zubalsky, and George Monteleone’s ongoing project, the Dream Machine, asks anyone to “call the dream machine (1-877-877-5602) and leave a voice recording of your dream. It calls you back in about fifteen minutes and plays a random dream from its memory.” Impossible to experience without a contribution, this project represents a network of anonymous reciprocity.
Online, TheExchangeArchive.com (made by the MultiAgency Collective and myself) shows connections between projects, artists, and ideas, revealing the ways in which artworks emerge in dialog between people, not in solitary isolation. As we state: Artists do not create work in a vacuum. Artists work in a dialog with other people, so The Exchange Archive supports further artistic dialog by showing the inspirations that flow between projects. As a research database for projects about exchange, the online archive serves as a footnote system for research-based artists. What if museums made legible the people, ideas, and materials that surround exchange-based work today, highlighting connections between works as the primary focus, rather than individual artists?
revealing the ways in which artworks emerge in dialog between people, not in solitary isolation.
NOTE: You can download the Exchange Archive Submission Form and fill out your own submission to The Exchange Archive, or add footnotes for your art projects to TheExchangeArchive.com.
3. Food with an Agenda
At Exchange Café, you will be offered products with political biographies: tea carried across borders, milk distributed by prison abolitionists, and honey gifted by bees. Imagine if museum cafés and food-art projects served products with principles as radical as the propositions in artworks. Rather than providing a social space with anonymous products that do not get biographies (as Martha Rostler did in veiling the staff contributions to Meta Monumental and e-flux did with the farm contributions to Time/ Food), I wanted to bring in groups with edible projects that honor the relationship between art and solidarity economies: dairy from Milk not Jails, tea from the Feral Trade Courier, and honey from BeeSpace. Exchange Café celebrates the power of these products; they are logical extension of the propositions that artists in the café’s Exchange Archive reveal.
SECOND POST CAFÉ AS LEARNING FORMATWhen 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.
2. Long-term Experiments
This learning space features an archive with works in MoMA’s collection and beyond that focus on reciprocity and one-to-one exchange. For example, if the Exchange Archive reference work called the Dream Machine allows anonymous individuals to exchange dreams, and OurGoods allows individuals to barter art skills and objects, how might these networks carry goods internationally? As Kate Rich, Feral Trade grocer asks, “What is the true load bearing capacity of our social networks?” The Feral Trade Courier takes the one-to-one transfer to a global scale, moving goods from hand to hand outside of commercial shipping.
For another example, Milk Not Jails milk products are distributed only when farmers agree to a radical (as in, getting to the root of the issue) policy agenda: opposing prison expansion as an economic driver. If Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ worked to give sanitation workers recognition in Touch Sanitation, Milk Not Jails pushes for recognition of dairy farmers that goes beyond visibility, advocating for policy shifts to support their livelihood. Lastly, if Ben Kinmont seeks an ethical exchange between participants and artists in his work I Need You, BeeSpace looks to research the (im)possibility of ethical exchange in interspecies collaboration.
3. Social Spaces Take Time
Imagine if museums were places to rest, gather, and practice ways of belonging to one another. Exchange Café is a social space where children and adults climb on furniture without second thought, where books can be touched without gloves, and where fluxus works are understood in re-performance: Forest Purnell and Tychist Baker ask visitors to imagine snow falling and to let shadows touch. With the café as a learning format, education happens when people practice ways of being and belonging. It is my hope that more museums make space for embodied, visceral knowledge. To do this well, the Exchange Café (and other projects of this nature) should be open to the public after work, and should exist as a reliable space for at least six months, if not a year.
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