Week 38: Groundswell Collective

Hi Everyone,

This Tuesday is another event in a year-long series of weekly conversations and exhibits in 2010 shedding light on examples of Plausible Artworlds.

This week we’ll be talking with James David Morgan from Groundswell Collective.


Since 2006, the Groundswell Collective has been producing work that fashions and furthers alternative modes of social organization in both visual art and folklore — thereby implicitly acknowledging that there is no one artworld but rather a multiplicity of them. As they put it, their interest is in “how art relates to social movements, especially in its capacity to compose new social relationships. Art as an insular phenomenon (if it ever really was that), where its main focus was itself, is no longer; what it concerns now is its relationship to society, how it is composed and how it affects.”

The very fact that many people continue to speak of an artworld, singular (however implausible), is revealing of the extent to which cultural production has been integrated, almost seamlessly and ever increasingly, into capitalist logic over the last half century. And it is this logic that the Groundswell Collective sets out to reverse:
“the once avant-garde aspirations of making art an everyday practice have been realized, and the terrain on which power is built and contested has a decidedly cultural composition – producing politics is a cultural endeavor, and vice versa. Taking this second claim first, we recognize that the knowledge economy, or cognitive capital, is a salient force against which the left has yet to develop an effective strategy. Activist art offers extradisciplinary critique, and a theoretical model for this task, for the necessary engagement of power on the terrain which it now inhabits.”

Bringing together artists and activists, the group draws self-consciously on the long history of imagination, desire, and creativity on the radical left — which they refer to under the umbrella concept of “affective composition” — to alter, disrupt, channel, or otherwise impact hegemonic, one-world discourse, through a mutual aid online store and barter network.