This decentralization away from the art world and market is often accompanied by a (sometimes utopian) desire to help the situation of others in a way that is not being addressed by art institutions.
As part of the beginning of The Digger (The Diggers were political antinomians living in England during the late 1640s and early 1650s. Calling themselves the “true levelers” they were known for protesting the government’s seizure (“enclosure”) of the commons, a type of communal property that existed throughout England and where people could freely graze their livestock and garden to have a means to subsist. The fact that it was a time of civil war allowed the Diggers to take advantage of a lack of control of the press to publish pamphlets and broadsides criticizing the notion of private property, arguing for religious toleration, and the necessity to topple the ecclesiastical government. However, as soon as Oliver Cromwell consolidated his military power and no longer depended upon these “masterless men” for his support, the group was forcibly disbanded and ceased to exist.) dug project, I spoke with a social worker about the possibility of helping others through an art practice and how a move outside of the institution might benefit or complicate that effort. I also asked her what she saw as the difference between a professional social worker and an artist who wanted to help someone through their work. She answered that it was actually difficult for an artist to help another because the concept of authorship was an obstacle: nobody participating in a project would want to be “authored” by another, no matter what the purpose. She also noted the difficulty for artists to have a meaningful effect on others due to the brevity of most artists’ commitment to a given social cause.
Around the same time as my conversations with the social worker, I generated three Antinomian Press (Student Series CCA Fall 2005: project art, some definitions, ethical considerations, and descriptions (2005), Student Series L’École Régionale de Beaux Arts de Valence: or, considerations towards helping others in an art practice (2006), and Student Series CCA: or, considerations towards helping others in an art practice (2006). The Antinomian Press is an on-going publishing project that seeks to support recent and historical project work.) publications related to the issues in The Digger dug. The publications were the outcome of two graduate courses at the California College of Arts masters program in Social Practices and a third came out of a workshop I taught at the École Régionale des Beaux Arts de Valence.
In 2010, I worked with cultural anthropologist Laurel George who drafted a commentary on the original ethics text. This new edition includes both my original introduction, the definition of project art, the ethics list, as well as Laurel’s introduction and commentary. For the show in Paris at the Kadist Foundation, we also produced a broadside of the ethics list with Laurel’s commentary. 1500 copies will be printed with 1000 of them being posted it in the streets of Paris during the time of the show.
Archive begun 2004. Archive in the collection of the Kadist Art Foundation.
text by Ben Kinmont