Issue 4: Exchange
Letter from the Editor
The fourth installment of the Social Forms of Art Journal focuses on the theme of exchange. How does knowledge, wealth, capital, emotion, and history (among other things) transfer from one person to another? How does exchange function in everyday life? How are artists using exchange in their practices? Rather than showcasing various “exchanges” between disciplines, or people, or communities, we wanted to look at the functionality of exchange itself. The focus of this issue is not so much what gets exchanged, but the mechanisms of transfer that enable it. To this end, we brought together a collection of research and writing that utilize different forms of exchange.
This issue looks at various ways in which local, generational, and non-institutional forms of knowledge get exchanged: conversation, oral history, online message boards, and zines are all decentralized ways that information gets distributed, in resistance to centralized, institutional ways of learning such as universities and textbooks. Emily Fitzgerald’s ongoing intergenerational collaborations build visibility and highlight the knowledge and connections of seniors to their communities, and create connections to youth and artists through workshops, video, photography, and installation. Emma Duehr explores the connections that plant propagating can make between family members. Zeph Fishlyn documents their project Medicine Exchange, which looks at everyday personal forms of caretaking and healing that people enact in their lives. And Shelbie Loomis reflects on living in an RV Park, examining the various protocols and knowledge one needs to live a nomadic life.
Issue 4 also investigates the technological and economic means through which exchange takes place. Aurora Rodriguez analyzes and documents el paquete (the packet), a Cuban means of sharing and disseminating digital content (movies, music, TV shows, Youtube videos, books, and games), via an embodied network of door-to-door services. Roshani Thakore and David Wilson put together excerpts from their ongoing correspondence, all taking place through physical “snail mail.” A.K. Burns talks about artist economies and the founding of W.A.G.E., an activist platform advocating for the transparent and equitable payment of artists. Rebecca Copper looks at the ways in which cultural capital is exchanged, and the psychological views on transactional relationships. Cassie Thornton offers commentary on the many facets of her ongoing project, the Feminist Economics Department, and its interventions throughout the Bay Area that highlight and critique gentrification and the role of tech money. Finally, artist Alex Borgen presents a meditative account of their experience in medical school, reconciling the interrelation of the artist and the scientist.
This collection of writing, taken as a whole, shows the variety and expansiveness of exchange within a narrow contemporary context, that of the United States. The writings challenge the assumption that exchange is an inherently capitalist function, and many of the authors show ways in which it can function as more than a means of exploitation. Exchange allows us to interact and know the world around us—a tool we all use everyday, and a field in which artists are experimenting and creating new forms of meaning and experience.