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by Dorothee Richter, Shwetal A. Patel, and Ronald Kolb

Economics the Blockbuster. Interview with Poppy Bowers, Kathrin Böhm, and Kuba Szreder (Centre for Plausible Economies), and Alistair Hudson


OnCurating (Ronald Kolb, Shwetal A. Patel, Dorothee Richter): Thank you for agreeing to this interview about your exhibition at the Whitworth in Manchester, in which you have all been involved in different roles. Let's start by exploring the project’s origins. How did the project come about? What is the need for such a project that addresses economic structures in the art world today?

Poppy Bowers: I can start by framing how the Whitworth’s programme has evolved over the last four years to seed this exhibition. The Whitworth was founded as an independent gallery in 1889 for the benefit and use of the people of Manchester. Recently, we’ve returned to this founding principle to ask how can this art gallery use art and artistic thinking to address urgent issues in people’s lives and actively propose solutions?

We’ve underpinned this thinking with the concept of Arte Útil developed by Tania Bruguera. The concept enables us to think of the gallery and all its activities as a space to apply artistic thinking to a social problem; as Tania says, it has nothing to do with consumption, but with making something happen. So, a starting point was how can we use the event of an exhibition to rethink processes and working models to create a more equitable, diverse, and sustainable art ecology? This conversation is inseparable from ideas of economy, of course, and the economy had become an increasingly discussed topic in recent years, firstly with the impact of the Covid pandemic and then with the release of the mini budget. Some of our working questions were: What constitutes art? Aesthetic value or use value: can we use art as a tool for social and economic change? How can we learn from grassroots arts initiatives that seek to reinvent structures in our arts organisations and in our economic systems? Can art’s use help us reconnect across our economic differences? How do pluralistic, constituent-led economies and art practices play out in certain contexts?

We started some of this work in 2019, so pre-pandemic, with an exhibition called Joy for Ever which was a response to John Ruskin's lectures in Manchester in 1857. Through that, we started to look at the public use of, and access to, collections and the use of our institutional spaces, and the public and private networks and ecosystems in which art circulates. As a part of the university, we have access to an international business school as well as a vibrant political economy department. Economics the Blockbuster started, following on from Joy for Ever, as a series of workshops with staff from across all departments, artists, economic thinkers, and business professors, as we determined together what this next exhibition should do, how it should operate, and what knowledges and provocations it should bring into play. Kathrin and Kuba were early on part of that conversation.

Kathrin Böhm: The idea of exploring economic practice within art practice and at the same time reading art through its economic structure was something we all shared from the beginning. It is not only about how we can make the diverse economy of the museum and the exhibition visible—including monetary and non-monetary contributions, but also about how we can present art-based projects as economic propositions and possibilities. And thus to give an art audience the possibility to understand art as an economic practice, not on a symbolic level, but on an actual and practical level. It's about showing these two things together: exhibition-making as an economic practice and art as an economic practice.

Cercle d'Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (CATPC) and Renzo Martens, installation view at the Whitworth, The University of Manchester, 2023. Photo credit: Michael Pollard

The Alternative School of Economics, The Neoliberal Imagination, 2023, installation view at the Whitworth, The University of Manchester, 2023.
Photo credit: Michael Pollard

Goldin+Senneby, Quantitative Melencolia, 2023. Commissioned by the Whitworth, The University of Manchester. Photo credit: Michael Pollard.

Owen Griffiths and Alessandra Saviotti, Tablecloth as Toolkit – Manchester Version. 2023, installation view at the Whitworth, The University of Manchester, 2023. Photo credit: David Oates

lumbung Kios, lumbung Kios & Friends, 2023, installation view at the Whitworth, The University of Manchester, 2023. Photo credit: Michael Pollard

Kuba Szreder: Our collaboration on this project started with the Center for Plausible Economies, which Kathrin and I convened in 2018 in London. Within this framework, we organised a series of redrawing workshops with invited artists that essentially focussed on visualising economies. On the one hand, we worked on diagrammatic representations of people's economies, identifying actors, connections between them, and relationships in the larger network in which they operate. On the other hand, these redrawings used artistic means (and a freedom to engage with the materials that artistic license provides) to identify the economic foundations of artistic practice. Rosalie Schweiker, for example, drew a series of comics about the London art world. She shows how artists operate in this extremely competitive economy.

Arte Útil was also part of this project in 2018. Alistair spoke then about economic strategies of acquisition for Arte Útil's archives and the desire to invent new schemes, about how collecting can be a practice of the commons, or how collecting can build commons to avoid sole ownership or possession by an institution. In this context, appropriation is replaced by custodianship, an archival practice that has more to do with usership and spectatorship, that is, with use rather than mere exhibition. This scheme was mapped by Alistair together with John Byrne. Possibly as a result, we began to discuss how the Centre for Plausible Economies could contribute to the Blockbuster exhibition.

Alistair Hudson: In terms of the background of the exhibition, the motivation was about doing something in relation to the way the economy itself has become such a major issue for all of us now. It is always important to me that our cultural institutions are relevant and take on the big themes of our times. In some ways, it is amusing how economics has migrated from being a humanities subject to a quasi-science and now a narrative that is so central to decision making in the world. A sort of fiction that drives everything. Yet, at the same time I wanted to go back to the broad idea of economics and an operating system for society, or even the planet now, not just a monetary system.

That was the founding idea, especially after the financial crash of 2008 and after various global disasters. Everything kept coming back to the economy and the inability of anyone to find another way to run the world other than the one constructed in 19th-century Europe. And it was particularly important to address this in Manchester, where capitalism as we know it began. As Poppy said, ETB is linked to the Joy for Ever exhibition we showed at the beginning of my term, which was based on Ruskin's lecture on political economy at the Royal Manchester Institution (now Manchester Art Gallery) in 1857. The lecture was a two-part, six-hour tirade to all industrialists and capitalists about how they got it all wrong and how they should ensure the housekeeping of society be done more artfully and effectively, and how the role of art could be used more in the service of society, rather than baubles on walls. Basically, he called for a change in the economy, i.e., a change in the way the operating system works. The proposal of Joy for Ever was to take Ruskin's lecture and make it go in a rather wayward way, with artworks as illustrations to a scenographic lecture of words and pictures.

Economics the Blockbuster was then conceived as part two of a trilogy, in which artists use their artistic competence to influence or create new parallel economies that give us a different way or way of doing things in the world. I wanted the economics of the exhibition to be part of the project, too, so that everything was part of, or contributing to, an economic system. The title was, of course, poking fun at the way that museums have become dependent on the blockbuster model to drive income and footfall, yet in this case to try and do it with a subject that was the least conducive to the model. I believe the Hayward Gallery did a show on economics back in the ‘70s, and it was on record as their least popular show ever!

In line with the way the programme was developing and in relation to the concepts of Arte Útil and the Useful Museum, we also wanted the project to be operational, not just representational. That is, the projects featured should be actually operating in the world economically, not just pointing at facts, figures, and phenomena. Energetics, rather than semiotics. The exhibition should get its hands dirty in the cut and thrust of the world, with products and sales, NFTs and Blockchain, trade and commerce and exchange taking place through the gallery—it should actually make money to shed light on the reality of our system. It also should be educational in the broadest sense, and with Ismail Ertürk on board, we could bring in the Manchester Business School as a collaborator, with projects developed together that would offer new insights into that world which seems so far away from being ‘just art’.

Dorothee Richter: About the collaborative moment in the project... You mentioned John Ruskin, did you also read him together, or how should I imagine you worked on this? Have you also read other economists?

Centre for Plausible Economies, Redrawing the Economy, 2023, installation view at the Whitworth, The University of Manchester, 2023. Photo credit: David Oates

PB: Yes, collective reading has been an important form of collaboration. To go back to Ruskin, I organised fortnightly group readings of the four parts of John Ruskin's economic essays on the lead-up to the Joy for Ever exhibition. The reading groups were led by John Byrne and me and took place mid-mornings, in one of our open-plan gallery spaces at the Whitworth, amongst our collection displays. They were free for staff and members of the public to join; some came as an intended visit, others dropped in as they encountered us in the space on the day. It was a generous, slow reading and discussion of Ruskin’s essays with the idea of applying his provocations to the conditions in which we were working. We continued these readings in the central space of the Joy for Ever exhibition after it opened. As Alistair mentions, an intention was to apply these ideas to the daily work of the gallery, to enable them to seep into its daily processes and infrastructures. It became clear that we could no longer just present such ideas as examples from elsewhere. We needed to enact them in a way that generated operational change. This mindset and reading activity very much set the ground for Economics the Blockbuster, which was about adopting this collaborative and active methodology to a fuller extent. As part of this, we created an online platform with Liverpool John Moores University called decentralising political economies, www.dpe.tools, where collective reading extended to Zoom chats, a library of articles, and some practical toolkits as well as an online symposium six months ahead of the exhibition opening.

KB: I think an important aspect is the correlation between image production and our lived economic reality. This idea of drawing, redrawing, and making connections between images we know as important economic signs and how they influence our economic imagination has become key to all thinking and our collective method. And this “redrawing the economy” as a call to action comes from JK Gibson-Graham's influential Community Economies Institute, with its core idea that we all identify as economic subjects. And a simple, low-tech, and accessible way to do this is to draw and redraw.

KS: What informed our research process was definitely JK Gibson-Graham's feminist deconstruction of the economies and their dominant capitalocentric visions. Actually, both visions are enmeshed in specific imagery. Katherine Gibson’s image of the economic iceberg was with us from the very beginning, central to our discussions about how economies work. In short, in today's economic terms, it means that the capitalist, monetary economies, based on hegemonic notions of commodity markets, wage labour, and capitalist enterprise, are only the tip of the iceberg. But the far greater part of economic life consists of women's care work, of the unpaid exchange of common goods, of gifts, of all the trust-based social economies without which capitalist accumulation would not have been possible. JK Gibson-Graham's argument is that one can reclaim this complexity and richness of economic life by mapping it. According to this feminist understanding of economics, something that is rendered economically invisible becomes a resource that can be easily exploited. If something is not accounted for, it can just be taken for free, right? As with "free labour", of course, it is not free, but unpaid. All these things that are part of the economic operation, but not accounted for as part of the equation, become externalities. For example, the environmental or social costs of economic operations are often unregistered and accumulate over time, as hidden costs, while underpinning private profits. These are arguments that have underpinned the idea of reframing economics in the exhibition project Economics the Blockbuster from the very beginning.


Artistic Practices with Economic Models

Ronald Kolb: How did these considerations ultimately translate into the exhibition? We can find a wall text with a pie chart describing the funding of this very exhibition. Can you talk about this and other insertions of artistic practices into economic models?

KS: This diagram is a good example of this deconstructionist idea of how to imagine the economy. Let's say the economic spectacle is dominated by the images of money or budgets.... One always imagines who spent what, how much money was given to whom...that is, of course, a very important aspect. But many transactions take place outside the figures of a budget. The pie diagram results from our efforts to visualise the diversity of what constitutes diverse economies of exhibition making. We were inspired by the image created by the feminist economist Hazel Henderson in the early 1980s, who imagined the industrial economic system as a three-layered cake with icing on top of it. Her argument is that financial economy is just the icing on a cake. The layer below the icing stands for state enterprises, the middle layer is constituted by social economies, and the bottom layer by ecological or natural ecosystems. The punchline here is that you cannot imagine capitalism or any kind of finance-based economy without actually taking into account all these other layers as well. We used this as a leading image to understand the economies of the Economics the Blockbuster exhibition. It is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but we imagined the very exhibition—what you can see in the exhibition spaces—to be just a cherry on top of the cake. This “cherry” is sweet and appealing, we all love to see the artworks, meet the artists, and so on. But this “cherry” does not hover in a vacuum, it sits on top of an economic cake. It rests on the “icing”, a layer that symbolises the financial economies of the exhibition. Then the top layer of the cake is constituted by institutional partners and the museum as such. The middle layers are social networks and trust-based, collective economies that contribute to the exhibition, without which no exhibition could actually take place. And the bottom is constituted by what we call the artistic commons. All the repositories of ideas, styles, references, databases, or languages that we constantly source in order to create any kind of artistic expression.

Economics the Blockbuster: It’s not Business as Usual, installation view at the Whitworth, The University of Manchester, 2023.
Diagram design by Textbook Studio. Photo credit: Michael Pollard

PB: The architecture of the Whitworth enables you to have two entrances into the exhibition, one at either end of a central gallery space. At one entrance was the economy of the exhibition as a cake diagram that Kuba just described, and at the other entrance of the exhibition, there was a hand-drawn map naming all the people involved in the exhibition. It included the artists and collectives on display, of course, but also the different people and organisations that contributed to the activities or presentations in the exhibition. It also included their partners and the companies that helped produce some of the works. It was a kind of portrait of the relationships and forms of cooperation that not only enable the exhibition to form but are, arguably, the actual material of the exhibition itself.

KB: I think this double-sided wall is spot on, explaining that organisations can perpetuate negative, harmful economic systems or try to create different structures. The Whitworth in Manchester, as a constituent museum that actively and explicitly aims to reorganise relationships—including economic relations—is a perfect place to do this. I think we have to remember that each project in the exhibition has taken the freedom to be its own organisational structure through which to implement a different economy. As artists, we are often shown in an exhibition where our ideas about different economies are presented, but we have little influence to change the economic realities of the organisations—this is why we invited, for example, Lumbung Kiosk, a project that came out of lumbung from documenta fifteen. I want to emphasise that “lumbung” was also an economic proposal to reorganise one of the biggest art events in the world. It was the idea of a community economy based on solidarity, collective resource sharing, and instigating a sustainable art economy away from the market. Continuing the practice of lumbung and its economic principles and economic ethics was important for the exhibition.

DR A lot of the ideas were very important at documenta in my view, but they were also devaluated because of the dominant antisemitic acts that was also there, which is kind of tragic in a way.


The Projects Entering the Exhibition Space

KB: To have a whole exhibition with projects that enact economic possibilities also refers to the question of scale in the work. An accusation that is easily made is that these projects are small-scale, that they might have no wider effect. We have to be very careful here. It is necessary to emphasise this work as part of larger ecosystems, and to show the much larger scale and reach that we have through our interdependent scale, rather than focusing on “scaling up” individual projects. In that sense, Economics the Blockbuster is a scaling up of relatively localised and small practices as a counter-capitalocentric argument.

PB: As Kathrin said at the beginning, one of the main ambitions of the exhibition was to broaden our understanding of art by acknowledging and showing that art is an economic practice and that the way art is created and circulated supports, or reproduces, certain values and suppresses other values. This exhibition is about bringing to Manchester a range of artists and collectives working in this field, working within value chains to create new forms of wealth and new forms of wealth distribution. Another aim was to think about how the institution itself functions and to work together towards reclaiming the economy and demystifying it. We wanted the exhibition to set-up a "useful" space, a practical space where the question of what is meant by economy is asked and tested. The first space you entered was the ‘redrawing room’ which Kathrin and Kuba already described—a studio-like setting where everyone was invited and equipped to draw out their economy. The two adjacent rooms were taken up with invited artists and collectives each presenting themselves in a way they felt was most effective for them and their projects. lumbung Kios, for example, chose to use the invitation to extend and adapt the running of their decentralised kios beyond the 100 days of documenta. They occupied the space in a very different way than, say, the Alternative School of Economics, who instead started a dialogue with striking workers in Manchester to question the neoliberal conditioning of our lives and our capacity to imagine employment systems otherwise. The exhibition spilled out into other spaces; we had an Office of Arte Útil at the Whitworth where we present the Arte Útil archive in a common room setting, encouraging conversation and investigation of the 300 plus Arte Útil case studies. Owen Griffiths and Alessandra Saviotti’s contribution to the exhibition was to select case studies from the archive related to business and food economies and to create a new version of their participatory project Tablecloth as Toolkit, a table setting that was the site of communal lunches during the run of the exhibition, convening around questions on local land use, food poverty, and growing economies.

Elsewhere, Tŷ Pawb demonstrated their distinctive model of a market hall and art gallery. Meaning “everyone’s house” in Welsh, Tŷ Pawb is a diverse ecosystem of family-owned businesses, many running for several generations, and a gallery working with the principles of useful art. With the city market facing closure and eviction due to funding cuts, the coming together of gallery and market was a survival tactic; they forged a way to co-exist within the same building. The market traders aren’t trying to be artists, and artists aren’t trying to be market traders. They are both doing their own practices, but in dialogue and in solidarity with each other. And that's what makes that space so particular and so brilliant to go and experience. I would say from an exhibition-making viewpoint, this raises one of the challenging aspects of this exhibition—how to capture the energy and the atmosphere of these relational systems and activities that don’t typically operate within a museum space. How do you replicate a feeling of warmth and security and solidarity in a gallery space? That's another conversation, I imagine.

DR: I would like to come back to another aspect you mentioned, Poppy, how the space also invites or interpellates visitors and people and how it also creates the feel of a communal moment for the public. It's not so easy to come to that, to make that happen. How did you all work with that? And how to welcome the discourse into the space.

PB: Economics the Blockbuster happened in the three large white-cube galleries as well as other spaces across the Whitworth. I mentioned the Office of Arte Útil. We also used the School of Creativity, our large studio space on the second floor of the Whitworth that is home to several community and school groups. We located some of the drawing activities and staff workshops there. Artists and collectives in the exhibition also occupied shop space, and we ran activities in the park, too. The show permeated through the building in different modes, disrupting any notion of a frontal encounter with it.

Within all these spaces, we offered group seating and tables, bean bags, paper and pencils, etc.—tools to facilitate spending time, conversation, and ideas-sharing. We also made an effort to use these exhibition spaces ourselves, for meetings and talks, to help unlock the gallery space from a display mode to an open, ideas-in-continual-process mode.

Tyˆ Pawb, installation view at the Whitworth, The University of Manchester, 2023. Photo credit: Michael Pollard

Company Drinks, installation view at the Whitworth, The University of Manchester, 2023.  Photo credit: Michael Pollard


Shwetal Patel: Now that the exhibition has opened, I am interested in learning more about what parts may have resonated with the public, and are there things that have emerged for you that weren’t so apparent during the curatorial process? I ask because the exhibition critiques the system, but also critiques onself as an institution in terms of your own practices and modus operandi.

PB: It was interesting to see who would respond to the call that the exhibition sent out. I was most taken by the enthusiastic responses from economic historians, economists, and business professors that wanted to talk and thrash out the ideas. It’s rare to have a space to enter economic thinking visually and through creative practice, and this led to some fascinating conversations around transformative approaches to knowledge production. We also had a range of community organisers and activists, many internationally based, who sought out the show, keen to connect with the varying forms of self-organisation. We had less of an art audience than expected, I would say—very little art press, for example—which was surprising given that the project was driven by the thinking and practice of artists and was landing at a time when economy was such a hotly debated topic.

KS: Concerning the lack of interest, we need to remember that art always requires some kind of economic base. However, the artistic mainstream is based on denial of its own economic practice. Art costs so much, because it is priceless, isn’t it? And interestingly, typically only when art workers openly start to address their own economies are they treated as if they were trouble-makers, and their efforts diminished or side-lined. But the artistic economies depend on transfers of money and value between public institutions and private individuals, exhibitions and markets. This economy is very whimsical, depends on a “love of art” and the huge egos of major collectors; it involves luxury and rests on power structures. This economy underpins individual careers and institutional operations alike. Not surprising that people are either not interested or too anxious to address these economies, and even less inclined to challenge them.

SP: I’m a huge fan of the exhibition, also because I hold an undergraduate degree in economics and explored similar socio-economic themes for my doctoral research. Referring to John Ruskin - and Manchester as the birthplace of industrialisation - I think, generally, we also tend to look at the art economy from a Western capitalist perspective. This can exclude things that perhaps don’t belong within that paradigm. Because I think there’s a danger to suggest that this is the entirety of it, especially when it is placed in a museum and the subject matter is universalised in this way.

PB: The show was never meant to be any kind of survey on art as economy, and all the projects within the exhibition tie back to Manchester or the Whitworth in some way; they were chosen for their entangled connections to our context. For example, CATPC operates from a former Unilever plantation in Lusanga in the DRC. Known as ‘Leverville’, that area of the DRC was named after the company’s founder William Lever, a man born in Greater Manchester, and who established his business and built his village for UK workers at Port Sunlight, just forty miles away from the Whitworth. I think that's really important. Because, of course, we are talking about it from our position as a large museum in Manchester in the UK, a museum and city founded through wealth accumulated through the Industrial Revolution and the colonial and capitalist systems that emerged from that moment.

KB: It became clear that all the projects have a direct connection to the museum and became for this show also the practice of the museum. They're not just exhibits imported into the museum. They're somehow connected to other economic activities or programmes that have economic underpinnings in the museum, such as the collection, the Whitworth Grow group, or local and regional alliances. So, that made it much easier for us to think from our position. And, of course, ideally, these kinds of projects with conversations on what economy is would be shared and occupied with positions coming from other geographies in the next few years in the arts. And again, let's not forget that lumbung started doing multi-local practice, this by explicitly using a non-anglicised vocabulary and terminology.

KS: I think it's very important to emphasise that the work of the Community Economies Research Network, spearheaded by Gibson and Graham, and with which we are affiliated, targets this Western capitalocentric notion of what economy is. And this was the main driver of our exhibition, which was not envisioned as a comprehensive overview, but was very much situated. The show was linked to Manchester and embedded in the practical experimentation of the Whitworth as a constituent museum. But on the other hand, the questions which we developed there are important to ask everywhere. In the process of making this exhibition, I travelled between Warsaw and the UK, and was also in touch with a lot of people elsewhere, discussing artistic economies with my students and with fellow art workers. And also in semi-peripheries of the EU, a lot of people worry about how to connect art with some sort of living. And they are often atomised and compete in the winner-takes-all artistic economies, the rules of this game rigged against all but a privileged few. And here, I like to emphasise there must be some ways of doing it differently. Currently, you learn that you are powerless unless you make it to the very top of the hierarchies.

It is important to link this abstraction to a lived experience, and to talk with others about how we can imagine our own lives differently. Images can help a lot; one of Kathrin’s slogans is keep it complex and make it clear, and I think it is such a good motto also for redrawing exercises. They also help us imagine and visualise complexity. People’s lives are different depending on their class, race, gender, and depending on whatever they plan to do. But the method of thinking about your life as a way of creating economy, generating resources under which you may have a semblance of control, may be quite liberating for people. Because they are actually always being told that they are powerless, and yet another critical reiteration will not change it. Katherine Gibson emphasises that the goal of community economies is to reclaim economy as a daily practice. Redrawing practices share a similar goal. When you map your economies, and visualise the rich web of practices and links in which we are all enmeshed, it may be easier to take a bit of control. You may not feel as powerless and maybe even start thinking that this control is possible. It is about seeing the wealth that you actually generate with your collective practices, how it is connected to the wider economic system. This may help you imagine and picture even those grander systems differently, and hopefully get together with others and change them.

OnCurating: Thank you for this wonderful, hopeful ending that speaks about agency and what is possible.

Economics the Blockbuster: It’s not Business as Usual was held at the Whitworth, The University of Manchester from 30 June – 22 October 2023, presented as part of Manchester International Festival.

The exhibition was initiated by Alistair Hudson and is shaped by a collaborative group led by Poppy Bowers, and including John Byrne, Kathrin Böhm and Kuba Szreder (Centre for Plausible Economies), Ismail Ertürk, Alessandra Saviotti, Textbook Studio, Holly Shuttleworth, Ed Watts and Hannah Vollam.  The exhibition presented work by: Association de Arte Útil, Cercle d'Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise (CATPC) and Renzo Martens, Company Drinks, Goldin+Senneby, Kathrin Böhm and Kuba Szreder (Centre for Plausible Economies), lumbung Kios, Owen Griffiths and Alessandra Saviotti, Rosalie Schweiker, The Alternative School of Economics (Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck) and Tŷ Pawb.

Centre for Plausible Economies (CPE) was initiated in 2018 by Kathrin Böhm and Kuba Szreder, to bring together artistic imagination and economic thinking. CPE believes that everybody is exposed to economic forces, but nobody seems to be in control. Responding to this frustration with upbeat pragmatism, CPE serves as a platform for mapping and redrawing economic systems. Recent initiatives of CPE include an ethical and pragmatic compass of Interdependent Art Worlds (The Showroom London and Sternberg Press) and (Re-)Drawing the Economy a multi-local research and workshop programme together with the Community Economies Institute. CPE has developed workshop and seminar programmes for Zeppelin University, Friedrichshafen; Warsaw Biennial; and Alanus University, Alfter. CPE publishes texts, visual essays and manifestos on interdependent art worlds, icebergian economies of contemporary art, and artistic means of reclaiming the economy.

Kathrin Böhm: I keep calling myself an artist and I prefer to work within everyday situations. My practice is trans-disciplinary and collaborative, and mainly takes place in non-art situations – be it an enterprise, a suburban neighbourhood, a rural community or a department for business management. I initially studied Abstract Painting and Art Pedagogy at the Academy of Fine Art Nuremberg, and later received an MA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths College London.

Kuba Szreder is a researcher, curator, and a lecturer at the Academy of Fine Art in Warsaw. He cooperates with artistic unions, consortia of postartistic practitioners, clusters of art-researchers, art collectives and artistic institutions in Poland, UK, and other European countries. He is editor and author of several catalogues, books, readers, book chapters, articles and manifestos, in which he scrutinizes the social, economic, and theoretical aspects of the expanded field of art. Current research interests include curating interdisciplinary projects, artistic research, new models of artistic institutions, artistic self-organization, postartistic theory and practice. In 2021 his book The ABC of the projectariat: living and working in a precarious art world was published by the Manchester University Press and the Whitworth.


Poppy Bowers is Curator and Interim Head of Exhibitions at the Whitworth, The University of Manchester, where she co-curated Economics the Blockbuster: It’s not business as usual. She works across exhibitions, commissions, publishing and acquisitions of contemporary art, developing a focus on art as a social and economic practice. Alongside Alistair Hudson, she curated the group show, Joy for Ever: How to Use Art to Change the World and its Price in the Market (2019), and recently completed an MRes in Advanced Practices at Goldsmiths College on Convivial Economies, exploring new ways to gather to enact a collective reimagining of the art institution. Poppy is Series Editor of Whitworth Manuals, a new contemporary art book series between the Whitworth and Manchester University Press.

Alistair Hudson has been appointed the next Artistic-Scientific Chairman of the Zentrum für Kunst und Medien (ZKM) Karlsruhe, Germany. Alistair Hudson was appointed Director of the Whitworth and Manchester Art Gallery in February 2018 and will leave that post in January 2023. Prior to his move to Manchester Alistair was Director of Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art where his vision was based on the concept of the Useful Museum. In the preceding ten years he was Deputy Director of Grizedale Arts which gained critical acclaim for its radical approaches to working with artists and communities, based on the idea that art should be useful and not just an object of contemplation. Alistair is co-director of the Asociación de Arte Útil with Tania Bruguera – an expansive international project and online archive that forms part of the Uses of Art programmes with the L’internationale confederation.


Ronald Kolb is a researcher, lecturer, curator, designer and filmmaker, based between Stuttgart and Zurich. Co-Head of the Postgraduate Programme in Curating, ZHdK and Co-Editor-in-Chief of the journal On-Curating.org. PHD candidate in the Practice-Based Doctoral Programme in Curating, University of Reading/ZHdK. The doctorale thesis entitled "Curating as Governmental Practices. Post-Exhibitionary Practices under Translocal Conditions in Governmental Constellations" deals with curatorial practices in global/situated contexts in light of governmentality – its entanglements in representational power and self-organized modes of participatory practices in the arts.

Shwetal Ashvin Patel is a writer and researcher practising at the intersection of visual art, exhibition-making and development studies. He works internationally–– primarily in Europe and South Asia–– and is a founding member of Kochi-Muziris Biennale in India, responsible for international partnerships and programmes. He holds a practice-based PhD from Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, where his thesis was titled 'Biennale Practices: Making and Sustaining Visual Art Platforms'. He is a guest lecturer at Zürich University of the Arts, Royal College of Art, and Exeter University, besides being an editorial board member at OnCurating.org and a trustee at Milton Keynes Museum and Coventry Biennial. He lives between United Kingdom, Belgium and India.

Dorothee Richter is Professor in Contemporary Curating at the University of Reading, UK, and head of the Postgraduate Programme in Curating, CAS/MAS Curating at the Zurich University of the Arts, Switzerland; She is director of the PhD in Practice in Curating Programme, University of Reading. Richter has worked extensively as a curator: she was initiator of Curating Degree Zero Archive, Curator of Kuenstlerhaus Bremen, at which she curated different symposia on feminist issues in contemporary arts and an archive on feminist practices, Materialien/Materials; recently she directed, together with Ronald Kolb, a film on Fluxus: Flux Us Now, Fluxus Explored with a Camera. She is executive editor of OnCurating.org.


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Issue 58

Speculations: Funding and Financing Non-Profit Art

by Ronald Kolb, Dorothee Richter, Shwetal Patel

Editorial: Speculations: Funding and Financing Non-Profit Art