1st Nov 2018
Katariina: My practice is currently situated at an intersection where performance, photography, and writing merge to produce participatory forms of exchange. These exchanges are often modelled through relational exercises and spaces, such as facilitation, workshops and meals. In hosting the above activities, I typically hope to evidence, explore and illustrate aspects of feminist theory & co- operative practices. I am currently a committee member at Mutual and a co-founder of Mutual Press.
Michael: Collecting serves as both process and product in my practice. It is used to draw from a wide variety of sources; recently, these have included educational archives and promotional asset-depositories. The logic underpinning these collections can be self-designed, improvised and/or appropriated. At present, my energies are focused on the completion of a long-term project, interfacing alterity politics, commercial storytelling practices and research into the psychology of embodiment in childhood. Lending from both open source and co-operative thinking, my work is always organised around a need to share with others. Most recently, this has been through moving image, experimental publishing, and exercises in self-organisation. My desire is not to achieve a specific outcome but rather to facilitate capacity building through storytelling and discussion. I am a co-founder of Mutual & Mutual Press, and a committee member of Embassy Gallery.
Together we form Mutual Press! Mutual Press is a risograph print studio and publishing project.
The idea stemmed from a shared desire to investigate the potential of printed media as a platform for the curation, design and distribution of new ideas. In starting Mutual Press, our hope was to employ these methods to both further and facilitate conversations and artworks that share our values, particularly where we feel these have been either censored, dismissed or marginalised. With these ideas in mind, we found an affordable printer quite serendipitously and decided to take the plunge!
Finally, risograph printing is by far the most affordable and environmentally sustainable form of printing en-masse; all the consumables are sourced from vegetable materials and can be composted after use. In our eyes, this affinity for sustainable practices and environmental concern works in tandem to our support of the co-operative movement.
We were approached by Peel Eezy in the fall of 2017 to collaborate on delivering ‘The Plaza’. At the time, we had been hoping to instigate a similar platform for discussion and were thrilled to be offered the opportunity to contribute towards a first permutation. Due to both Peel Eezy and Embassy’s incredible work, the discussion had a far greater reach and legacy than it might have had otherwise. The Plaza aimed to build a platform for sharing, workshopping and challenging ideas around artist-run activity in Edinburgh and Scotland; some topics of discussion included accessibility, sustainability, participation and autonomy. It was important to us that ‘The Plaza’ sought to engage as wide a community as possible by remunerating participants for their time and operating through an open sign-up model.
Peel Eezy chose the term ‘living archive’ to delineate the scope of the project. As is often the case with archives, the power of the project emerged from its capacity to chart change and bear witness to the important transitions occurring within our community. As “The Plaza” unfolded, the archive grew to incorporate a number of recurring topics (the ubiquity of precarious work, lack of affordable facilities, and brain drain). More importantly, the project allowed newer synergies to be highlighted and celebrated, creating a much-needed forum for those doing the work of instigating, supporting and administering artist-run activity to share their knowledge and experiences. Our role as printing technicians was to literally impress this activity into a publication, in an effort to preserve the otherwise ephemeral nature of the surrounding discussions. The end result, a loose-leaf publication collating everyone’s contributions, was disseminated for a donation at the closing event.
The purpose of this publication was not solely to collect, preserve or even document, but rather to speculate, through cumulative intention, the direction this community might orient itself towards; what futures might be possible, and how might these differ from our present?
As we touched upon in the previous question, we principally see artist-run initiatives as a strategy for solidarity; a form of collective learning that operates in opposition to the extractive and commercial methodologies governing many contemporary art contexts. Self-organized initiatives seek to ‘organize-around’ rather than ‘produce-through or extract-from’. Examples of this can be tangible, such as organizing around a space, a facility, a shared interest or idea. Other examples are tacit, such as the knowledge of reciprocated interest or the feeling of ‘belonging’ that people might associate with attending an opening or event.
We believe these are of equal importance and should be nurtured accordingly, as they can grant these initiatives with a resilience and resourcefulness that is divorced from the forces typically governing commercial practices. In essence, our understanding is that the popularity of these self-organized models stems from their ability to encourage divergent thinking and enact change. As free and public forums that encourage this thinking, they are of crucial importance to contemporary art contexts, particularly as they grow increasingly rare.
It is impossible for us to imagine Scotland’s contemporary art scene without the breadth and diversity of its artist-run initiatives. The largest threat we can recognize to this landscape stems from the pervasive lack of autonomy governing the planning and programming decisions these organizations regularly make. Although this systemic injustice influences all aspects of an ARI’s existence, we feel it is particularly felt when it comes to the lack of ownership towards space and resources. It is not uncommon for an ARI to spend an equal amount on rent (often for dilapidated or compromised premises) as it does on the delivery of an entire years program. If this expense was used to remunerate the endless hours of unpaid labour supporting ARIs, they might suddenly increase in both quantity and quality. Even if this were not to occur, the existing initiatives would certainly be able to implement the kinds of change that precarity now inhibits.
Our dream would be to purchase a premises in Edinburgh through grant funding. This centre would function as a platform for co-operative and contemporary art research. Much like Mutual already does, the centre would focus on providing affordable facilities to artists and co-operative practitioners alike. These could include studios, workshops and a research-oriented recourse centre. Membership schemes and studio rents would serve to pay all staff and site development costs. Once operative, the organization could evolve into a curatorial project or commissioning platform with an aim to further support emerging practitioners whilst introducing new audiences to the co-operative values.
Mutual Press is a risograph print studio and publishing project based in Edinburgh. The project functions as the collaborative practice of artists Katariina Yli-Malmi (@katariinalimalmi) and Michael Di Rienzo. You can find them on www.mutual.coop/press and @mutual.press or @mutual_coop on Instagram.