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What Do We Do Now?
Arts & Labor's Alternative Economies Resource Guide

This list has been compiled collaboratively by members of the OWS Arts & Labor Alternative Economies group to increase the visibility of an access to existing cooperatively-owned resources and alternative networks available to our community.

Alternative Economies, Alternative Societies

Oliver Ressler produces exhibitions, projects in the public space, and films on issues such as economics, democracy, forms of resistance, and social alternatives.

Everybody Needs Wiggle Room

David Robbins is an artist and author. His most recent books are High Entertainment (2009) and Concrete Comedy: An Alternative History of Twentieth-Century Comedy (2011).

One Thing

FIRST: a) theater encounters Brecht via contemporary art b) contemporary art encounters figuration via theater

A Conversation

I’m trying to decide what to write for this “alternatives” issue, but I’m bone-tired since I just got back from Chile, so I can’t think very large-scale or in abstract terms.  Grand claims or gestures feel hard to generate.   


Much virtual ink has been spilled of late about how an excess of money has “spoiled” the art world, but the discussion has been focused on the dubious effects of wealth, the dominance of art fairs over biennials, and the power of collectors and dealers over critics and curators.

Dropping Adjectives from Art Writing

Art criticism, art history, and contemporaneity grapple with crises because Eurocentrism and elitism have pigeonholed the fine arts.

Make Room!

One of my big complaints about art magazines has a simple solution.

Disseminating Photography

Picture a history of photography freed from the tyranny of the photograph.

Art is the Commons

Culture has become a commodity, preserved, protected, professionalized, and compartmentalized by “public” institutions and the private market.

Artists Supporting Their Own

With my departure from the Museum of Contemporary Art, the death of Mike Kelley, and my increased responsibilities as a co-director of the foundation he began in 2007, I have been forced to think about both the changed landscape of the arts in Los Angeles and internationally.

The Amateur

Writing about “alternatives” is not easy, if not sterile. First of all, this word—like any word of our dictionary that is dialogic in its premise “alternative to what?”—has lost its currency.

Manifesto for an Education Beyond the Power Grid

It’s no secret that it’s the apparatuses of education that best determine social and economic privilege.

Kelly Lake Store

I propose to use Guggenheim Fellowship funds towards the lease/purchase and operation of the now-vacant Kelly Lake General Store in this hamlet outside of Hibbing, Minnesota.

More Cooperatives

As members of one of the oldest food coops in the United States, we call for more cooperatives.

A Modest Proposal

Provide humans with even modest of means and they will make art. But of course procuring means for art isn’t easy. Duh.

A Different One Percent

I’ve been pondering this for many (40+) years and have yet to figure out how a non-commercial art world can support artists.


The Nesting Bookcase is a sculpture by artist Joe Scanlan. Fifteen copies of it have been purchased by the Kunstmuseum aan Zee (Mu.Zee), as part of its permanent collection.

An Ideal Ratio

You use the word “your” / and mean possession / I hear the word “possession” / and think “bewitched” / that is the source / of all our misunderstandings

Everyone Wants to be Subaltern

Everyone in the art world does. And I’m okay with that. What I see, as more people crowd the space, is that the absurd category of subaltern disintegrates.

If I Could Turn Back Time...

If I could go back in time and change one thing about the development of the art world, it would be to steer the legendary art dealer Joseph Duveen away from the market.

Escaping the Missionary Position

Once upon a time, so we heard, the white male photographer would arrive and set up base at the Hotel Sheraton. In the afternoon, he would snap the slum conveniently located near the hotel.

Clichés Lead Critics Down Slippery Slope

I’m so fond of my now-endangered profession as a mass-media art critic that I don’t want to see massive changes to it. I merely want to see its content transformed.

A New Role for the N.E.A.

These days I think of the National Endowment for the Arts—when I think of it at all—as the National Endowment for Lip-Service to the Arts.

An Equity for Visual Arts Act

In the fall of 2011, for a brief moment, the art world considered the implications of the Equity for Visual Artists Act. The bill would have created a modest 7% resale royalty with half of the money going to artists and the other half going into escrow for non-profit art museum acquisitions.

Art, Autonomy, Pedagogy in 2013

Among those of us parasitically ensconced in the cultural wing of contemporaneity, rehearsing cultural responses to an economic matrix long ago displaced, one possible way out of the stagnation symptomatized by the rhetorical staging of “the crisis” might be to reject its already conventionalized rhetoric in order to embrace the factual kernel informing it.

Solidarity Art Worlds

I cannot describe the future for you because I am writing this alone. In Solidarity Art Worlds, no one person will understand what we currently mean by “alternative” or “my ideas.

I Dream a Dream

In my perfectly planned, yet joyfully chaotic dream world, everyone would have health insurance and the sense of security this would instill would generate a wave of creativity throughout all levels of society.

What Do We Expect From Art?

“Alternative” and “space” used to be joined at the hip in the context of artist run and other non-commercial venues of the 1970s and ’80s.

Alternative Takes

The alternative is never the thing itself, never the chosen, the selected few. The alternative is many.

Alternative to an Alternative

As I see it, the term “alternative” operates under the false assumption of some shared or common center.


The word “alternative” is a qualifier and a noun, a kind and the thing itself. The word has no meaning without a primary option, a mainstream tendency, a default mode. The Alternative is the less traveled—but available—path.

The Experimental Laboratory of the Present

Answering the question of what a better art world would look like is both easy and hard.

What is the Alternative?

Alternatives never cease to exhaust themselves with their actions, happenings, campaigns, debates, pop-ups, sit-ins, deconstructed tendencies, relational aesthetics, whatever. In the end they are all simply forms of culture production.

Lotus Petals

We’ll witness the colors of a beautiful new art bloom soon after we revolutionize the markets.

The Critic’s Doubt

The young critic sighed heavily and shivered. “I have no idea what any of it means.”

No Alternatives, One Imperative

I don’t think it’s controversial to say that the quest for alternatives—lifestyles, cultures, homeopathies, even economies—tracks the collapse of working-class power in America and Western Europe.

Notes From a Future

Notes From a Future, after an unstoppable progression towards one art world extreme and a necessary alternative.


While we often treat the intellectual work around creating an exhibition critically and inventively, I wonder what could happen if we also embraced our more administrative tasks this way?

Creative Redevelopment

Redevelopers have created uber chic places with uber prices tags, which price out the originators and initiators out of an area they help create and nurture.

Teaching Philosophy

Two radically incompatible models of art are today in operation: one in which art is a luxury commodity produced by a specialist or professionally credentialed member of the “creative” class, and marketized accordingly; and the other in which “art” is a fundamental activity of what John Dewey called the “live creature.”

Alternative Reality Transmission / Written Oral Record of Kinesic Storytelling (ARTWORKS)

It is the year 333 EZ, and I am the last in a long line of air writers. There is no heir apparent and my remaining days are few. This memorized story has been passed down for 13 generations.

Productive Anonymity

Productive anonymity—the ability to experiment without much at stake except your own process of discovery.

Occupy, Resist, Produce!

Hundreds of workplaces around the world have begun following the lead of the recuperated workplace movement in Argentina. These are workplaces “recuperated,” taken back through occupation, to be run horizontally in the hands of the workers, without bosses or hierarchy.


Let’s imagine a non-Euclidean concept of the “alternative” in which there are not one but infinite lines in perfect parallel to line ℓ, defined as the non-alternative.

Art in The Post-Consumer World: A Case for Exceptionalism?

I don’t know what a “post-crisis art” would look like. I’m more inclined to engage with others in simultaneously imagining and constructing the conditions under which a post-capitalist art may or may not be produced.

Principles of W.A.G.E. Certification

Equity in the visual and performing arts begins with the recognition that the contribution made by cultural producers is integral to the functioning of an arts institution, and financial compensation is part of acknowledging this value.

Alternative World: A Code of Ethics, Behaviors, Attitudes, and Understandings

The great thing about being asked to envision any kind of idealized social construct is that the petty annoyances and obstacles presented by human egos and material pragmatics can be ignored.

Karsten, What are You Doing?

WHITE: Karsten, what are you doing? KREJKAREK: I’m taking my lobster for a walk.

Dancing Around the Bride

The posse of John Cage and Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, has ridden off into the now canonical (if sun-setting) territory of Post-War American Art triumphant.


First paradox: that real events produce unreal spaces, i.e., fluid dynamics of various substances, guided by the artist, result in images of sheer fantasy, views onto imaginary landscapes.

MATISSE In Search of True Painting

The art world is in love with Matisse. In the decade 2000-10 alone, he was in 74 museum shows, many with catalogues.


1966 was a hard time to be a woman at Yale. There were perhaps three women students in a class of men, and no female professors.

BARBARA RUBIN Christmas On Earth

There are mythic claims about Barbara Rubin: that she introduced Warhol to the Velvet Underground (she did), that she introduced Dylan to Ginsberg (she didn’t), that she was beacon and keeper of the New York counterculture (maybe). 

WOLF VOSTELL Reclaiming the Present through Décollage

While many texts on contemporary art claim Allan Kaprow as the founder (better than “father”) of the Happenings movement in the United States, few acknowledge the parallel importance of the German-born artist Wolf Vostell.

PEGGY CYPHERS Animal Spirits

Peggy Cyphers has put on a show of startling originality at the Proposition.


With the boundaries between artist and curator ever porous, it’s no surprise that the locus of meaning in Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos is as much in the exhibition’s organization as in the works.

Giuseppe Penone’s “Spazio di Luce” and Rachel Whiteread’s “Tree of Life”

Giuseppe Penone’s sculpture “Spazio di Luce (Space of Light)” is a reconstitution of an older project, “Gli anni dell’albero piú uno (All the years of the tree plus one)” (1969), in which Penone coated a tree in a thin layer of wax, approximating a growth ring.

ALLEN GINSBERG Losing Sight, Coming into Focus: Beat Memories

Some exhibitions command attention through historical significance; others by sheer power of artistic expression.

ELISA LENDVAY Small Sculpture

In this large group of small sculptures, Elisa Lendvay masterfully tinkers with plaster, Sculpey, wire, bones, stones, markers, and a playing card found on the beach of Montauk.

Alternative Living Spaces that Subvert New York Real Estate Rent Oligopoly

Take a cue from Occupy Wall Street set up your tent in any privately owned public space.


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2013

All Issues