I'm working as part of Critical Practice to produce:
#TransActing: A Market of Values
Saturday, 11th July 2015, 12 - 5pm
This bustling pop-up market will feature artists, designers, economists, donorpreneurs, civil-society groups, academics, ecologists, activists and others who creatively explore existing structures of evaluation and actively produce new ones.
In thinking about how to construct the 'market stalls', the physical infrastructure for #TransActing, we decide to try and embody our interest in resilient evaluative practices. Our intention was to recycle materials from the terminated degree show exhibitions at Chelsea College of Arts - every year, there is a suite of skips used to dump unwanted artworks, trashed exhibition making materials, unloved things - to produce the markets stalls.
With this in mind we have been working with Public Works to explore possibilities, and at a previous meeting Andreas (of Public Works) introduced the autoprogettazione furniture series of Enzo Mari from 1974.
The series utilised standard timber section to produce a range of tables, chairs, beds and bookshelves, using simple tools - a saw, ruler, square, hammer and nails, and requiring only basic DIY skills. The plans, with dimensions and cutting log for the furniture were also freely published by Mari in a premonition of a Free Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) ethic, and a gesture towards a cultural and material commons.
We decide to use Mari as our guide, and develop potential stalls.
At the workshop some of us brought Mari inspired stall or seating proposals; there were drawings, models, some images and internet searches.
We looked at, and discussed them individually - looking for possible designs, materials or processes before deciding to go to the Parade Ground and start making a trestle/saw dog - for table legs, and a Mari-inspired table frame, from salvaged skipped materials.
We reasoned that this would give us a sense of what's possible in the time we have for stall construction - 10 days, the potential materials at our disposal, and our collective competences. Near the waste skip we found an abandoned structure, we broke it down for materials - 50x50mm sawn softwood. Karem magically made a worktable from almost nothing, and soon a template was measured and drawn (using the sizes suggested my Mari) to make a truss and end-elevations for the table frame.
We cut components and screwed them together - the truss construction enabled us to use lots of small offcuts for the bracing; very economical. Our borrowed battery drills were useless. We tried leaving out some components to save material, bad idea, rigidity was compromised. Getting the right screws - length and function, would be crucial and an accurate template essential.
The tressle/saw dog with their complicated angles proved challenging. In retrospect, the Mari truss-table was very simple to make, even from scrap materials. It was easy to self-organise fabricating processes around - cutting lengths, making components, assembling the frame, and enabled all of us to participate, whatever our DIY skills. What's more, it was strong and stable!
We could also see that making jigs from the templates would be powerful. Jigs would enable pre-cut components to be placed and screwed together by volunteers with limited knowledge of the overall design, or intention. Even with limited practical skills, people could participate. Adam Smith would be proud.
I realised that the jigs were like Critical Practice's use of Guidlines for Open Organisations simple, functional and enabling. Andreas could also see that a repeatable, modular structure, easily configurable would be key to producing the volume of stalls, and facilitate the necessary flexibility (numbers of stall holders were changing all the time).
We learnt a lot.
We saw a variety of CAD stall and structure typologies developed by Andreas/PublicWorks after the first workshop. The typologies used the Mari table-truss as a constant and iterated different heights and combinations for seating, roofing support, stalls and meeting spaces. We discussed possibilities. We worried about sun and rain. We worried about tarpaulins and wind loading. We worried about being to ambitious with our available time and energy, and of overspending.
We talked about the improvisery nature of markets, the merits of elastic 'bungee' cords and market-sized clamps. Although mostly, we discussed the necessity of being able to re-use the stalls for other things, other things after TransActing. Too often in 'art' projects the incredible labour necessary for upcycling produces nothing but a temporary spectacle. A temporary spectacle itself destined for skip and land-fill. To be true to the values we valued, we would need to ensure the stalls had a rich and varied life after #TransActing.
With this resalisation vividly in mind, we moved down to the Parade Ground. We set-about modifying our Mari-inspired table frame - now with scavenged top, by replacing the end-elevation cross bracing with long, potentially tarpaulin supporting struts.
We found some tarpaulin. We temporarily cable-tied it on. The stall wobbled in a light breeze. Then we noticed the Parade Ground grid of bolted anchor points, we tied the struts down, and in a flash we'd made a prototype stall!
We could also see that by simply cutting the tarpaulin struts off the stalls, we would have a collection of robust worktables, tables and benches. Many of us were already familiar with the Parade Ground, a quasi-public space at the heart of Chelsea College of Art and Design, a previous project One Persons Trash is Anothers Treasure, had addressed the lack of public infrastucture to enable various publics to make use of the space, by providing tables and seating. Maybe one of #Transacting's legacies could be something similar?
In light of what we had learned, Andreas decided to refine the typologies.
This meeting was for planning and logistics. Andreas and PublicWorks had refined the stall typologies, into three basic types; a bench, a table, and a counter. Based on tarpaulin dimensions, they could be assembled in multiple market configurations, and easily modified for re-use. They were brilliant.
We discussed and started organising the collection of skipped materials - Sunday 28th is the end of the degree exhibitions, so from this point we would try and direct waste materials into our temporary materials store for processing, sorting into types, removing screws, nails, etc. We ordered some additional timber, 60 tarpaulins and mountains of screws, we organised a common tool bank from our collective tool kits, and signed-up for daily working groups during the 10day construction period. One idea that crystalised, was to rethink the 'take-down' on the 12th/13th July as time to creatively repurpose the stalls into usable public furniture.......very exciting
We also started organising working groups to initiate machine component cutting and pre-assembly before the start-day of the 3rd July.
#TransActing took take place on the historic Rootstein Hopkins Parade Ground, located between Tate Britain and Chelsea College of Arts.
Chelsea College of Arts
16 John Islip Street