Swop Projects (2003–2007) was a long-term art and research project that functioned as a platform for the production and dissemination of material and ideas dealing with contemporary political, economic and social debate.
We initiated the project as an attempt to cross national and academic boundaries and collect a variety of voices and opinions with the intention of visualizing models that linked economic and environmental concerns. Together with professionals with a similar focus we wanted to analyse inequalities regarding the uneven access to power, to global flows of resources and information and to explore models that challenge these conditions. We initiated a dialogue on informal economies and systems based on open source and participatory thinking in a space we occupied at the time – a storefront at Frederiksberg, Copenhagen. The programme comprised a series of open talks and discussions featuring artists, economists and activists. As a result of these encounters, we established a research archive at our premises and online that contained interviews with the people we had met, i.e. groups and individuals whose work is based on ideas of generosity, local currencies and ways of organising sustainable systems.
Swop Projects has since developed into a number of initiatives that include an experimental alternative exchange currency in the Hidden Flow Exchange Project; the distribution of the free newspaper Gratis; the Give Away Shop, which highlights gift economies; and Give Away in Circulation, a project that collects and disseminates ideas about circulation and open source systems. The Swop Archive continued to develop throughout the Swop Projects period. It now consists of interviews made in various contexts, some excerpts of which are reproduced in this book. The projects are presented in a chronological order, starting with a number of works that became the starting point of Swop Projects and that were carried out prior to the launch.
Several of the projects are concerned with a reaction to the fact that the public sphere, perceived as an open arena for cultural exchange, is shrinking. The attempts that have been made over the last few years to transform cultural products into “private property” cannot only be associated with the material dimensions of public spaces; cultural products can easily be exchanged and distributed via the Internet. Paradoxically, these possibilities have been made more difficult due to increased regulation and copyright control. Our work with Swop Projects reflects an interest in developing non-commercial methods for the distribution of goods and services and the exchange of information. In line with the project’s notions on Open Source and of recycling, we also chose to reproduce texts that were previously published within the scope of the project.
The objective of this book is to present Swop Projects and some of the initiatives and projects we conducted within this framework. Apart from the material, documentation and concrete output, the book also includes three texts commissioned from authors to give an idea of the contexts in which the various projects operated. As a backdrop, we chose to include a text by writer and researcher Kolya Abramsky, which outlines the political and economical climate. We asked Emily Pethick, director of CASCO at the time, to contribute a text on how to build relationships around an art institution by collaborating with artists. We also asked freelance curator Katarina Stenbeck to contextualize the project from a contemporary art perspective.
To us, the work of developing alternative strategies and micro-models is a collective effort involving individuals from various groups and local communities. In order to understand local contexts and, not least, to be able to imagine alternative destinations, we have operated within an international network. We started in Copenhagen and around Denmark. The project then brought us further afield to cities in Europe and beyond. We met people and visited local communities whose relationship to contemporary culture is based on ideas of co-operation, collectivism and social diversity in the local environment.
During the years we spent on Swop Projects we learned a lot, both personally and professionally, through meeting people who inspired us, presented us with ideas and who generously shared their knowledge and experience. We hope that we, through this book, can communicate the views of a political and artistic sphere as well as share some of the critical and diverse ideas that we have had the privilege to come across during the course of our work. We hope to inspire others and to arouse the readers’ curiosity in the same way as our own curiosity was kindled.
[S.l.]: Andrea Creutz and Lise Skou , 2010, 1. , 118 p.
Konst; sociala aspekter, gåvoekonmomi, byteshandel, konstnärligt skapande; forskning