Life Always Escapes

How to live together? How can we find ways to survive beyond the systems that try to control and regulate life? Are there ways to exceed the market system? In Life Always Escapes, the Common, as one of the only alternative property models left in the UK, provides a model for working and living together not based on accepted notions of production and exchange of goods. A Common is a piece of land owned by one or several persons, but over which other people can exercise certain traditional rights, “to take or use some portion of that which another man’s soil naturally produces”. Common land is not public, but has a unique legal status based on the rights of it’s use: it is land to be used ‘in common’. The right to what the land naturally produces is the right to it’s surplus value; the branch of a tree fallen to the ground, which does not belong to the tree anymore, nor to the owner of the land on which it grows, can be picked up and used -but not sold.

A ‘common room’ was made to house readings and research about the Commons. The installation is an ad-hoc construction of traditional museum displays, made mostly using found materials. A cabinet houses a collection of postcards, of the Commons from the first half of the century, which seem to relate more to a history of english landscape painting -and leisure- than to working a land towards sustenance and survival. Walking through the remaining local commons, a small group of people exercised their rights of Estover -to collect or take wood- gathering firewood, and bringing it back to heat the gallery and exhibition. To this purpose, the common room contained a fully functioning wood burning stove that would be regularly lit when it got cold during the autumn. The stove was inserted into the architecture of the gallery building as an additional system towards comfort. The heat dispersed within the gallery, and with it the surplus value of the Commons.

Installation views:
Generosity Is the New Political, Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridgeshire, 2009

Life Always Escapes
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