NEIL CUMMINGS AND MARSHA BRADFIELD
Critical Practice (CP) is a group of artists, curators, researchers, academics and others. With support from Chelsea College of Arts, we have been self-organising into various configurations for over a decade. Building on our collaborative research on ‘being in public’, we turned to the subject of ‘value’ back in 2010.
Convened by us on the Rootstein Parade Ground at Chelsea College of Art, #TransActing: A Market of Values was a flea-market like event that hosted diverse communities of evaluation: perma-culturists, skillshares, alternative art schools, economists, a freegan juice-bar, an organ donation bank, expert and enthusiast knowledge, Artists Union England, carbon divestment campaigns and many more. Values beyond the financial were transacted and celebrated in an overarching but temporary ‘community of communities of evaluation’ that came together for market day on 11 July 2016.
The gathering of this community, comprised of some 65 value-based practices, marked the culmination of five years of practice-based collaborative research. This was an exploration of ‘value’ in all its authority but also its fuzziness that took many socio-cultural forms. We worked locally and internationally with other individuals and groups to probe the complexities of value, valorisation and evaluation through seminars and unconferences, bike and walking tours, screenings, practical workshops and more. What developed over these diverse activities was a loose network of practitioners who share with Critical Practice an interest in valuing values that are not usually valued. These include social values like those embodied in acts of care, trust and loyalty – commitment-based behaviours that we too often only appreciate when they’re absent or withdrawn. Critical Practice and its collaborators were also compelled to think differently about formal values like fragility, temporariness and difference that tend to languish in the shade of their opposites, with robustness, continuity and familiarity often connoting more desirable ways of being. Surely ‘valuing value’ entails identifying and valorising a fuller spectrum? Or at least it was this possibility that cohered the significance of our research as much more than #TransActing: A Market of Values as a spectacular event.