Casco Case Study

Site for Unlearning is an ongoing, collaborative research project by Vienna and Utrecht-based artist Annette Krauss that takes place in various situations. Its point of focus is how rarely we question the social norms and structures that we internalize, and thereby sustain. Krauss deploys “unlearning” as a tool to collectively reflect on our (unconsciously developed) habits, so that we can adapt our ways of behaving and thinking towards a more common practice. A key question for the artist is how to “unlearn one’s privileges” ( quote by postcolonial critic Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak). This is not meant to be taken as turning our backs on these privileges; rather, the aim is to think how they might help us in individual and communal ways of envisioning non-capitalist futures that embrace social values like wellbeing, care relations, and collective responsibility.
Since March 2014, on the occasion of preparations for Casco’s inaugural exhibition New Habits at its new home, Krauss and the Casco team gathered together to work on a particular case of unlearning: the art organization. Until today, the main question we have been exploring in our weekly “unlearning” discussions is what we could unlearn to institute a more communal way of working. Casco’s public “front”, meaning its exhibitions, events, research projects, and publications, propose the commons as a viable alternative to capitalism (for more information on what the commons can mean, see the Casco website). If we adhere to the motto that we should practice what we share with a public, the “back” of the organization should be a sound reflection of what you, the viewer, sees and hears from us. The question then arises: How do we deal with the contradiction between having a responsibility to the public in a neoliberal society (Casco is a public institution after all) and the desire to unlearn many of the core values of neoliberalism? What is the role of an artist in all of this? And how can we actively practice a commons-based approach in our daily work?