Common Bond Society is a web-based digital artwork that takes the form of a series of Internet Relay Chat (IRC)* rooms, built in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The project explores the implications of our increased dependence on the Internet as public space and investigates the Internet’s potential to offer safe spaces to discuss, disseminate and carry out acts of mutual aid. It is brought to you by artist Larisa Blazic for UP Project’s digital commissioning strand, This is Public Space.
Common Bond Society takes as its starting point the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of which have been felt simultaneously on a global and intensely local scale. Almost overnight the pandemic resulted in a dramatic shift away from real world interactions to an increased reliance and dependence upon the digital realm as our predominant public space for dialogue and exchange. At the same time, a proliferation of mutual aid groups sprung up world-wide - set up to help those most vulnerable in this time of uncertainty. Chat groups and websites were created, phones were distributed, and posters emerged in the streets.
“The delayed beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK brought about an amazing wave of community organising, a sort of self-assembly for the protection of self and others, a beautiful act of solidarity where neighbours reached out to each other for help and support.” – Larisa Blazic
Through her artwork, Common Bond Society, artist Larisa Blazic reflects on the very origins of mutual aid as an act of solidarity not charity and suggests that understanding its political origins could lead us to rethink new ways of working post COVID-19. The work uses anarchist philosopher, Peter Kropotkin’s essay Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (1902) as a starting point to spark debate about how acts of mutual aid carried out today could be harnessed to bring about longer-term changes in the way we as a society operate tomorrow and in the future both on and off line. Kropotkin suggests that charity “bears a character of inspiration from above, and, accordingly, implies a certain superiority of the giver upon the receiver.”
Common Bond Society is a virtual platform that facilitates the coming together of multiple voices on the topic of how mutual aid groups can become sustainable in the long term. Are there ways of sustaining, supporting, encouraging or even rewarding acts of mutual aid? The platform invites audiences to engage in this conversation through three distinct chatrooms for exchange.
Common Bond Society is also inspired by the very foundations of the Internet as public space and its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee’s vision to create a place for the germination and proliferation of new ideas. Through the creation of “old school” IRC chat rooms, Blazic’s work reuses communication tools of the Internet before web 2.0* to provide safe and collaborative spaces for people to come together to formulate new ideas for how co-operative working can be harnessed and even institutionalised in order to ensure our “society’s safety, progress and existence” both in the real world and in the digital domain. Tim Berners-Lee once stated “Had the technology been proprietary, and in my total control, it would probably not have taken off. You can’t propose that something be a universal space and at the same time keep control of it.”
Ironically Common Bond Society inverts Tim Berners-Lee's idea by hosting the artwork on the artist’s own server in her living room, free from the interference and data sharing that has come to define and commodifies the internet as we know it today. Building on this inversion the IRC format invites us, the audience, to question the platforms we are currently using to carry out our interactions online and to think twice about our own safety and security when operating in the digital domain. Who owns the platforms we are using? What is happening to our data? And is anyone listening in to the conversations we are having? Are we ever truly safe online?
We invite you to step inside the Common Bond Society IRC chat rooms to learn, reflect and discuss. Please read our code of conduct before entering.
Learn about the historical principles behind mutual aid by chatting with a Kropotkin-bot, where you can use key words associated with mutual aid to prompt relevant quotes from Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution.
Join us on 14 July at 18:30 BST for a curated IRC chat on mutual aid now and in the future, chaired by artist theorist and curator, Ruth Catlow. If you are unavailable to join the conversation we will present a live recording of the event in this chat room once it has happened.
This chat room is a platform to facilitate conversations around notions of safety within the digital realm, uncertainty and public space. A curated conversation on these topics will be hosted by UP Projects on 18 August at 18:30 BST. Further details coming soon.
This room provides a space for further reading through access to mutual aid related resources.
Date: 14 July 2020
Time: 18:30 - 20:00 BST
Join us in the chatroom Solidarity not Charity for a curated conversation about the role mutual aid has played in these times of uncertainty and a discussion on how we can harness mutual aid practices as we move forward into tomorrow. The conversation will be chaired by artist theorist and curator Ruth Catlow with participation from; artist Larisa Blazic, curator Dr Cecilia Wee, Reader in Media and Politics at the University of Westminster Anastasia Kavada, and Founder of Plan C Camille Barbagallo.
Date: 18 August 2020
Time: 18:30 - 20:00 BST
Chatroom: In this Place of Safety
Join us for a curated conversation about the political and civic potential of the digital realm and a discussion on the models that foster, sustain or challenge the existence of a public sphere* online. This event will take scholar, Zizi Papacharissi’s text Virtual Sphere 2.0: The Internet, the public sphere and beyond as its starting point and will be chaired by cultural programmer and producer Siddharth Khajuria with a special interview from Papacharissi and participation from various other participants experienced in the field of digital technologies!
1.The Virtual Sphere and Beyond: Live Interview between Siddharth Khajuria and Zizi Papacharissi
2. Fostering, Claiming and Sustaining the Existence of Public Sphere's Online
Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is a network of Internet servers through which individuals can hold real time online conversations via electronic devices. Internet Relay Chat facilitates conversation in the form of an online written chats. IRC operates on a client/server model where individuals use a client programme to connect to an IRC server.
Web 2.0 also commonly referred to as Participative and Social Web refers to websites that contain user-generated content, ease of use and foster a participatory culture and interoperability. It is a term to describe today’s interactive Internet.
About the Public Sphere
According to renowned German Philosopher and Sociologist, Jürgen Habermas “the public sphere is a realm of our social life, in which something approaching public opinion can be formed” (Habermas, 1974). In line with this definition the public sphere is at the centre of participatory approaches to democracy, which allow for and facilitate open discussions where ideas can be put forward, heard, fresh perspectives brought in, and ideally consensus reached.
You have been travelling for four sunrises. Your flask is nearly empty and there are just scraps of dried fruit left in your pack. Your feet drag over ruptured chunks of tarmac and uneven paving slabs, through which tough and resourceful plants push their heads. Deserted grey buildings are your companions, their broken glass eyes lifeless under the midday sun. Your head hangs low with tiredness and heat.
You stop. Through a buckled gate you see the unusual sight of a flickering electric sign hanging from a post in the middle of a long stone courtyard. You clamber through the twisted metal turnstile to investigate. The sign points to an open doorway, through which you see a host of electric lights blinking in a pale rainbow of colour. You enter. The room is bare apart from the lights and a descending spiral staircase. Two doors lead off to the left and right of the room but they are locked shut. Through the small glass windows in their surface you can see only darkness beyond. The room is cool, a welcome respite from the searing weather outside. You decide to follow the stairs downwards. Wide stone steps cause your footsteps to echo upward. You hold the cool metal banister, its black turned surface guiding your descent. Debris litters the less trodden parts of the steps, scraps of fabric and browned paper nesting amongst piles of dust that have gathered in corners where the stone meets the flaking painted walls. You soon find yourself on a narrow landing. Doors to your left and right have been sealed up with scraps of wooden board. In front of you is a large metal door, onto which are scratched the letters ‘H R’. You gently push the door. It swings violently inward at your touch, causing you stumble through. The door closes again before you are able to regain your balance. You spin round and try it but it will not open. There is no visible lock or handle and the door is far too thick and sturdy to break open. You sigh with resignation. It is time to explore your new surroundings.
You are stood in a dimly lit reception area. The walls are black and covered in chalk glyphs. There is a set of double doors ahead of you. To your left is a market stall, bedecked with hundreds of hand-painted wooden necklaces. Each necklace features a symbol consisting of two circles, one on top of the other. The upper circle features a skull-like robotic face, the lower a pair of staring eyes. On top of the stall sits a small, brightly-coloured robot, surrounded by a cluster of electric candles. You step forward to look more closely at the robot.
“Welcome to Happy Redoubt, friend!” The robot turns to look directly at you. Lights flicker across its face as it speaks. “Please rest a while here in the marketplace. You can do jobs and earn currency. You can spend the currency on things you like. You can rest and do jobs. Please enter the market place. Be productive. Earn currency. We are watching. Welcome friend.” The robot gestures towards the doors ahead of you, its arms and head twitching constantly as it does so.
“Have been here before? You seem familiar. Each visit is different. The options are endless. Welcome.”
Restless traveller seeking adventure, knowledge, and happiness.
Gus Fudge is a failed rock star who now fails to make a living through various creative means. He once worked as a cabbage harvester and has spent the last ten years working on a script for a comedy series called, 'Commuter Friends' - a dark and hilarious look at the lives of a bunch of Margate to London train commuters.
We are human cyborgs with afros and beards, we wear leather jackets and Bermuda shorts, our socks are always pink. Our purpose is to investigate the unforeseen effects of global events, for example the parallel international decline of tuppée sales and the political rise of Donald Trump.
3"11' high. Loves to tinker and fix. Was a watchmaker in a grand city. Once tried to fix a nobleís large clock and found it too complex and too unfamiliar a design to repair properly. Widely scorned for 'letting the gnome folk name down'. Still scraping a living.
Raised by ninjas in Kilburn, the Orochi Pilgrim searches for his Samurai father in the foothills of the Outer Circle of the Virtual Abyss.
The space in which we all exist, on the ground, in the sky, on the internet. We will give you a place to live as long as you know how to inflate us and have a place to put us ñ bring pegs, you wouldnít want us to float away.
Born in the mid 80s, Rick is a clone from a nomadic tribe of red-cloaked women. Determined to prove his own worth, he has put his tent on air-bnb and embarked on a quest with only his yellow backpack and small fish for company. He has a speed of 6 (when walking) and crafting skills of 9
£1 family from Stoke-on-Trent - we like gardening, growing salads and visiting the green spaces in cities. There are three of us, two with strong fringes and one with a beard. We live next door to a large brownfield and an oil refinery. We are keen bird watchers.
Torridon Croft was born into a life of privilege and quickly developed an insatiable appetite for destruction. It is said that great power demands great responsibility ñ not for young Torridon. Last rumoured to be peddling the Dagger of Xian around Kensington's least reputable antiques dealers. The world turns on Torridon's wretched axis.
Follow nine players as they navigate their way through Happy Redoubt, a post disaster marketplace run by the remnants of the former technological age. They will be entering their moves in real time and will receive bespoke responses from Juneau Projects. Their game will form a unique story as they navigate the marketplace, using arts and crafts skills to survive in a new economy of making and creativity.
Three players will begin, followed by subsequent rounds of three players at a time, each making their own journey. The game will run from 19th May to 22nd July.