We are Commoners

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A new exhibition shows how shared processes, skills and values associated with creative making contribute to thriving commons neighbourhoods.

“The commons means: Things we share/ Places we share/ Systems we share/ Ideas we share/ Culture we share” Peter Barnes, On the Commons co-founder.

This thought-provoking Craftspace national touring exhibition, launching this May at the Hub, Sleaford, highlights ‘acts of commoning’. These actions are shaping the way communities work together to share and steward commonly owned assets and resources. Through sixteen loans and new commissions artists will bring attention to the issues, contribute their thought leadership, and participate in a call to action. These artists provide a powerful commentary on what society stands to gain from acting to protect and reclaim our global commons.

Featuring both UK based and international artists, the exhibition reflects a commons-based shift in thinking from ‘you’re on your own’ to ‘we’re in this together.’ It will investigate how creativity, making and materials can highlight how acts of commoning are creating thriving communities.

Image: Acts Of Care Bench Repair Project by Linda Brothwell, Photo by Bridget Smith

Acts Of Care Bench Care Project

In a time of extreme disruption from COVID-19, this exhibition provides a mutual resource to find and process meaning out of trauma and loss, to aid recovery. Lockdown has seen a surge in purchase of craft equipment and materials. People have turned to age-old craft skills and making to get by, boost their resilience and engage in acts of collective creativity.

Increasing privatisation in cities has eroded the commons and local authorities are hard pressed to steward commonly owned spaces and assets. Now more than ever we need Commons thinking to rebalance our ways of being, living, working and imagining a more collectively-made and owned future.

Deirdre Figueiredo MBE, Director, Craftspace

Exhibition themes range from work influenced by historical land based commons, such as the Common Ground Peckham Rye Token project by Alice McLean and Justine Boussard and stained glass ‘Rewilding at the Clootie Tree’ by Pinkie Maclure to fashion commons where Amy Twigger Holroyd shares stitch hacking techniques in Re:Knit Revolution. Collectively made textiles from the Embroidered Digital Commons, coordinated by Ele Carpenter, considers the internet as a shared resource, whilst Lise Bjørne Linnert and Gelawesh Waledkhani investigate ideas of mobile commons with undocumented migrants in Norway. Sharing resources and ideas, including food production are explored by Rachael Colley and Jacky Oliver. Linda Brothwell will create a new iteration of her project ‘Acts of Care: Bench Repair’ through repairing benches for public places with beautiful wooden inlays. Deirdre Nelson maps local acts of commoning around the streets where she lives in Glasgow.

Shane Waltener is making scaffold structures from locally sourced willow, bramble and handmade nettle and flax twine. They are a physical and metaphorical means of thinking through: shared resources, issues relating to enclosure and rights of access. He draws attention to craft skills and nature itself, as forms of commons.

"I am creating a performance installation as ‘a symbolic act of repair’, one that prompts us to rethink our connections between land and materials, making a connection between the urban and the rural, learning from nature and landscape and in doing so, rewrite narratives and imaginaries relating to all of the above." Shane Waltener 

Claudia Rodríguez and Ana Joaquina Ramírez collaborated, supported, and supervised by Rosina Santana Castellón, to bring different communities together with a focus on the polluted Santiago River affecting cities and agriculture, in Guadalajara, Mexico. The polluted water had caused cases of cancer in poor neighbourhoods next to it. This had caused division and suspicion in the community. PROYECTO REDES (NET PROJECT) activated the whole community in protest and resulted in a monumental collective weave woven by urbanites and villagers. The project empowered and engaged many and successfully built bridges among them to create awareness of their rights and a stronger resistance.

Also on show, three artists have worked in response to or co-created with communities in three UK place-based and socially engaged residencies in Birmingham, St Helens, and Newtown.

We are Commoners launches at Hub Sleaford with a Private View on Fri 6 May, 6-8pm following a tour throughout the UK. The exhibition is free to visit.

More details at:

Exhibition related events:

Talk and Tour with Exhibition Emma Daker Co-curator of the Exhibition
Sat 7 May, 11am-12pm
Free, everyone welcome

Weekend of Commoning
Sat 11 Jun, 11am-5pm & Sun 12 Jun, 11am-4pm
Free, everyone welcome