Place setting: notes on Red76’s Occupy Yr. Home
by Heath Schultz & Sam Gould

Authors’ note: This experimental text is a collaboration between Sam Gould and Heath Schultz. On the surface, it takes the form of a fairly normative art review written by Heath regarding his experience as a participant in a Red76 project. Together we decided it would be more interesting for both of us to provide comments and additional thoughts as responses to the text, filling in information, elaborating thoughts, and so on. We’ve done so in the form of footnotes. It is our hope that this multidirectional approach suggests the difficulty of performing research on events where so many voices are present, each of which has their own understanding and takes away different things from the experience. Further, it provides a possibility for divergent readings as well as dialogue between the authors, for reading between the lines, and for opening new lines of thought with recollections, anecdotes, and reflections.

On 12 October 2013 I had the chance to participate in Red76’s project Occupy Yr. Home.[1] Put simply, Occupy Yr. Home is a dinner party orchestrated in conjunction with the exhibition Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art. Feast was curated by Stephanie Smith for the Smart Museum in Chicago and included artists from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; it considered the politics and aesthetics of breaking bread and the possibilities for critical engagement spawned in their wake. The dinner I attended was held in Houston, Texas, in conjunction with Feast travelling to the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston.

I arrived at the dinner with my friend Sam Gould, Red76’s primary instigator. We walked into the beautiful home of a woman whose connection to the museum I have since forgotten. It was a hip, modern place with clean lines and an open design. She and another woman were finishing the preparation of a large and beautiful meal.[2] We were the first to arrive, but soon others began to trickle in, about a dozen in total, most carrying a bottle of wine. We circulated freely between the kitchen and dinner table, getting drinks, snacking, and socialising before we sat down for dinner.[3]

I’m not positive how the list of invites came to be, but I overheard the curators of the exhibition say they invited participants on the basis of who they believed would contribute to an interesting conversation. Of course, I have no idea what ‘interesting’ might have meant to them. The list of invitees was not without certain expected participants: curators, museum administrators, and well-established artists, but also students, adjuncts, and young artists like me in the precarious working-class land between graduate school and having a decent job. There were also participants unconnected to the art world, partners and friends welcomed into an otherwise quasi-hermetic circle. Unsurprisingly, the varied grouping of people made for a conversation that was at times lively, brilliant, and warm; at other moments, it was full of tension and awkwardness. There was confusion, fear, and vulnerability in an unfamiliar space with unfamiliar people, and inevitably there was a certain amount of the intellectual performativity that is common in art spaces.

When we finally sat down for dinner, Sam introduced the project. He quickly outlined what we might consider discussing and why it is important to consider occupying the home. I don’t really remember what he said, but I do remember that he pretty quickly allowed the conversation to be taken over by anyone willing to pick up on one of his prompts.

*    *    *


In the essay ‘Under Construction, available on the Red76 website along with various other OYH documents, Sam writes: A table provides a space known to all, used by all almost every day, to discuss new ideas and new possibilities. A table is a tool. A tool so elemental we’ve stopped viewing it as such.[4] The title itself already suggests to us a framework from which to approach these dinners. They are in progress – under construction – shaped and moulded by those that come to it. The notion of the table as tool is in a sense deeply pragmatic. It is a pragmatism that much of Red76’s practice relies upon: the basic idea that anarchist horizontalism and Freirian dialogue allow for slow but steady world-making. There can be no other way of collective world-making. But to understand Red76’s practice through the lens of pragmatism would short-change its imagining spirit. If Red76 relies relentlessly on horizontalism informed by anarchist processes and anti-authoritarian politics, it relies equally on utopian experiments in living and the poetic spirits of people like Abbie Hoffman and Allen Ginsberg. The everyday of revolution is renewed everywhere a new imaginal machine is constructed.[5] Anyone who has spent any time with Sam will realise quickly he is a romantic, and Red76’s practice reflects this.

In a poetic introduction to Franco Berardi’s book The Soul at Work, Jason E. Smith describes the soul as:

the clinamen of the body. It is how it falls, and what makes it fall in with other bodies. The soul is its gravity. This tendency for certain bodies to fall in with others is what constitutes a world. The materialist tradition represented by Epicurus and Lucretius proposed a worldless time in which bodies rain down through the plumbless void, straight down and side-by-side, until a sudden, unpredictable deviation or swerve – clinamen – leans bodies toward one another, so that they come together in a lasting way. The soul does not lie beneath the skin. It is the angle of this swerve and what then holds these bodies together. It spaces bodies, rather than hiding within them; it is among them, their consistency, the affinity they have for one another. It is what they share in common: neither a form, nor some thing, but a rhythm, a certain way of vibrating, a resonance.[6]

Smith’s formulation of the soul resonates with Occupy Yr. Home in reverse order. Red76’s dinners, and most of its practice for that matter, are not the unpredictable swerve that brings bodies together. Instead, it is a deliberate push that puts bodies in contact. What is art if not a force, a push or a pull, a seduction or repulsion? I suspect Red76’s desire for an afterlife for OYH is deeply poetic – a desire for that rhythm, that resonance, that holds bodies together. Tables are special. They allow us to figure out how to consider the space between us, and where we’d like to situate ourselves in relation to others. […] The table is the simplest and most readily available tool with which we defend ourselves against the encroaching specter of the hive-mind.[7] This does not mean, of course, that finding a common resonance occurs without friction and dissensus.


Let us return to the table. I felt comfortable in the space because I had known Sam for so long, trusted him not to take advantage of the space, and understood his intentions for the project – to discuss what it might mean to ‘occupy’ one’s home, the proverbial private sphere where intimacy resides and the micropolitics of our everyday lives manifest. The personal is still political, perhaps more now than ever in light of the neoliberal turn. A good place to begin unpacking these affective politics is around the dinner table with food and conversation.[8] It is a good place to begin because we are all subject to overworking, the overwhelming incorporation of leisure into work, depression, passivity, boredom, and crippling disciplinary rhythms of our atomising everydays.

We no longer feel compelled to act, that is, to be effective. Our passivity almost seems like a release, a refusal, a de-activation of a system of possibles that are not ours. The possible is seen for what it is: an imposition, smothering. With the eclipse of the possible, at the point zero of depressive lapse, we are at times seized by our own potentiality: a potency that, no longer invested in the vectors of realization, washes back over us.[9]

Occupy Yr. Home identifies the space of a withering collective soul and the struggle to reappropriate its potency in the home. Point zero. This reading is also in line with the inauguration of OYH, born as a requiem to the Occupy movement. As anyone involved in Occupy will attest, the winter hung over our heads like a dark cloud. With the bitter cold, most of us knew in our hearts, would come the withering of a movement. A movement with all the contradictions and complexities of any mass movement, but also one that fostered a new communal spirit, one that emphasised appropriating and generating new commons – one of shared meals, space, antagonisms, and experiments in collective processes. I was talking to a friend about this essay, and he reminded me of this feeling in simple, yet poignant, terms: ‘That winter was fucking bleak, man.’

Here’s Sam on Occupy Yr. Home:

So here in late December we began to reconsider our understanding of what it means to Occupy and where the power lies. What’s so special about a commons? Certainly the convergence of many with the purpose of addressing their grievances and a desire to rally around their divergent ideals is something to agitate for, but all crowds disperse. We are nomadic, and in the end, we are alone within ourselves. Our strength lies in our actions, our voice, emanating from a singular core of desire and purpose, and the accumulative residue of those actions and those voices. What can we do to aerate this landscape and let the light bleed into it? Maybe we’ve got it all in reverse? Maybe we should sit down and consider where we’re interested in this starting for ourselves?[10]

As a way not to limit the conversations at the table, Occupy Yr. Home dinners are filmed, edited down, and ultimately find their way to the Red76 website. Because I was familiar with the project, I already knew the fate of these videos before arriving – they get buried on Red76’s website, becoming available only to those who are really looking. They’re almost always poor quality, shot with a camera phone with bad lighting and audio. Curious whether anyone actually watches these videos, I checked the statistics on Vimeo – eighteen views on one, fifteen on another. There are several videos and I suspect they’re all about the same in terms of viewership. Regardless how many people watch these videos, Sam is deeply committed to making these videos public. Public being the key word – when something is public there remains a possibility for the dinners, the conversations, to continue regenerating into new lives. After a Red76 event I attended five or so years ago, Sam asked those in attendance to discuss with someone not present what we had discussed together at the event.[11] This way, Sam explained, the event and our discussions would continue to have a life, becoming public through our sharing and proliferating. These publics are self-organised and limp along because of our volition. In this light, what constitutes a public is its openness, its ability to continue by gathering participants beyond the immediate group present. This is part of the content of Sam’s anarchism, I think; he asks participants in his events to take the collectively generated content and do whatever they want with it, to proliferate it in their own way. The point is that it is theirs as much as his. It is ours. We are all co-authors of meaning-making. This is also the reason, to my understanding, that Occupy Yr. Home is a Red76 project and not a Sam Gould project – a gesture at deferring that ever-present and annoying authorial artist. At the table and after dinner, we’re all Red76, or not, depending on our desires. This text is, after all, ‘mine’ isn’t it? Those who read this text participate in a new public generated by my writing, generated by our conversation at the table. This is how we connect tables, as Sam so aptly put it in his introduction to the Brooklyn dinner.

Still, it isn’t always so easy to offer trust in a nasty, competitive, and impoverished art world. Precarious artists, students, interns, and adjuncts are always taken advantage of by more successful artists, institutions, professors, and others. It is here that things began to get a bit rocky – at this juncture, where all these loosely tied-together strangers around the table were asked to offer their trust to the artist and their vulnerability to one another. The video camera was the primary object of contestation. It was brought up that people were frustrated with being filmed without prior approval. Things got tense and the conversation turned toward Sam’s power as the artist and the ostensible valorisation of us participants for his career. It wasn’t just about the video camera, of course, but the conversation revolved around the video nonetheless. That irritating documentation, necessary for our art practices, always poses a problem. In this case it was the thing most visibly in danger of being recuperated by the artist for his own practice, for his success.[12] From many participants’ perspective, it was his video, his project, and his relationship to the exhibition that brought us all together around this table. A cynical conclusion? Yes. A fair question to bring to the table? Yes. So we arrive at an impasse for the logic Occupy Yr. Home follows. Where Sam sees a document that allows for the establishing of a public, some participants see a document that commodifies their participation. This gets right down to the crux of it: is an autonomous artistic practice possible? Is art possible outside the state, outside capitalist relations? Can a ‘commons’ be common if it is brokered by capital, ego, and competition?

Sam was challenged multiple times: ‘Why film the event? We never consented to being filmed. Aren’t you just using our thoughts and participation in your event? You are the artist, after all.’ These are legitimate questions that often revolve around ‘participatory art’. Quite often, participants prop up a project for which someone else receives professional or financial accolades – a common criticism that is often correct. However, our inability to surpass it to talk more honestly about our precariousness, why we are frustrated by potentially being taken advantage of, and what, as artists, we might do about it together remains a perennially missed opportunity. How can we inhabit the situation to ask, What are the conditions that put us here and how can we work against it? The participants’ frustrations and cynicism are precisely the ethos that Red76 is interested in experientially contesting at the table. This attempt to blow up these toxic social relations is one aspect of occupying the home.

I don’t want to re-enact the entire conversation (perhaps by the time this essay sees the light of day it will be on the Red76 Vimeo site [13]) because we have heard it before. Instead, I want to think through the frictions that exist in ‘socially engaged art’ and, more importantly, how we can find ways of working collaboratively despite those frictions. If ‘to occupy the home’ is to begin to pull what is personal to us out into a common space where our shared experiences, struggles, and vulnerabilities can be interrogated, we must struggle against a home that is already occupied. It is a site of intimacy that is exploited on a daily basis. This is evidenced by every job applied to on our own time, every time we log into Gmail, Facebook, Netflix and whatever else,[14] every time we enact patriarchy in our homes, every time we are mean to our lovers because work was terrible, and on and on. This is one of the struggles latent in socially engaged art: to bring the in/visible power relations and the disciplinary and competitive logic of the neoliberal and capitalist art world into the home is also to render the intimate as a site of struggle in a new light. To reappropriate one’s home is a logical response – what we as a collective body who share a common intimate space do with this occupation, this reappropriation of the intimate, is the question OYH asks us to engage with. To a large degree, I think it is fair to say that, as a critic, I’m unable to speak to the successes or failures of Occupy Yr. Home. Not because Red76 is outside the field of criticism, but because the success of OYH would unfold outside itself, proliferated further not by Sam but by the respective participants. Sam states in his introduction to OYH at a dinner held in Brooklyn (linked above):

rather than politics invading the home, how can we start thinking about our political selves fermenting at the table and moving outwards? We start with us here and move across the table to the people we care about and want to have in our home. How do we move from the table to the living room to the front yard, to the sidewalk, to the streets? […] If there are other people who find these ideas resonant, how can we, collectively, conjoin those tables and create a discursive space from table to tale across state lines, across international lines, and through documentation make these attempts at articulation public. When you make it public the table grows because people can bring it to other tables, other relations.[15]


If Red76, Sam, can be faulted, it is not because of a lack of awareness about the recuperative power of institutions, but rather his belief that our optimism, our volition, can overcome this recuperative power. This is where Sam and I are likely to diverge. We have equal distaste for institutions and yet Red76’s projects often suggest we are able to act within and simultaneously outside them. Or more accurately, Occupy Yr. Home assumes that we can be brought together under the auspices of an institutionally supported artwork and find an autonomous pocket within it, together. OYH relies on funding from hosting institutions – museums – to exist at all and I understand Sam’s position to be that we can choose whether to be affected by that mediation. We sit down at the table and we can trust we’re all coming to the table as equals, without agenda, or we don’t. This is how volition can take OYH outside the institution while being materially supported by it. Silvia Federici suggests that this is what a feminist reconstruction of the commons might look like: a transformation of everyday life despite the social division of labour that capitalism and the neoliberal paradigm use to crush us.[16] Is it possible that this volition, the possible clinamen of our zombified brains and hearts, can ever find its autonomy?

That which holds the bodies together are those who remain – those of us who return to one another outside the prying eyes of the administrators of capital.

Occupy Yr. Home, Brooklyn. 12 March 2012.

Video excerpt, Occupy Yr. Home, Brooklyn. 12 March 2012.

Video excerpt, Occupy Yr. Home, Chicago. 13 February 2012.

Occupy Yr. Home, Chicago. 13 February 2012.

[1] SAM GOULD: Occupy Yr. Home came about through conversations I had with Stephanie Smith. The project was a personal and conceptual response both to the Occupations at the end of 2011 and to my home life at the time. Both, at that moment, were really throwing me for a loop and I increasingly felt there was no reason to see them as separate narratives. One deeply affecting thing that the Occupations did for me was cast a political light on much of my personal life in a way that was more acute and visceral than I had experienced it up to that point. How did external economics, the power of the police, and the acute as well as murky hierarchies we experience everyday affect my relationship with my wife, Laura? We both spend considerable time on issues such as these outside the home – she as a public defender and I as an artist and writer – but upon reflection it felt as if once we walked through the door we both made an attempt to keep those outside experiences and relationships, the less definable and often complex ones, at bay. It seemed they might rupture what we had going, and it wasn’t just the bad parts that were of concern. The residue of Occupy – the group work in lockstep with vibrant autonomy, the chaos, the energy, and the sheer possibility of asking millions of questions in public and breaking the role of respondent that we so often find ourselves in – filled me with a state of wonder. My clichéd utopic visions started materialising in public squares, on city streets, and most importantly within almost every conversation I had from the classes I was teaching, to conversations over beers, to chats with conservative uncles before holiday meals.

[2] SG: I remember on multiple occasions reaching out to the hosts, and to our host from the museum, asking how I could help out: picking things up, coming over to cook, or simply being there to help in the kitchen. It became pretty evident early on that the host didn’t want any help. That’s all well and good, but this is a point I think is important to make when attempting to convene people across the divide of a table: you’re not there to impress. Creating ‘an impression’ is the first stage in creating a (however benign) power dynamic. The table is a commons. A land-grab of the table is a co-option of common land. This creates, again, another interesting divide: the space between hospitality and coercion.

I’d like to note, early on within these footnotes, that the Houston OYH completely altered my perspective on how this project could and should be negotiated. So much ‘went wrong’ that it, in turn, went absolutely right. The lessons learnt from the difficult aspects of the confluence of a handful of well-intentioned, but radically different, individuals led me to rethink much about how this particular – often very emotionally sensitive discursive space – should be facilitated. As with so many political spaces and relationships, things not going the way one intendeds can be a welcome and unexpected gift – though it is up to each of us to recognise when we’ve received that gift.

[3] SG: Heath’s description of the scene upon arrival at the Houston dinner is quite accurate. And, depending on ‘where you’re arriving from’, your understanding of that space would be radically skewed. From my perspective, what I took in was a scenario that was uncomfortably white, upper class, and scripted, and by that I mean the tone of the scene was ‘no room for error’. Everything was in its place. My description shouldn’t be taken as a judgement. I didn’t walk in, look around, and immediately dislike anyone. Undoubtedly though, and maybe understandably, some will take it as a judgement. Being white, as opposed to whiteness, financially well off, and attuned and interested in order is not in and of itself bad. It’s how those roles are actualised wherein things can begin to sour. And the interesting thing – in that things did get bad – is that any uncomfortable moments didn’t come from the hosts, who were, if anything, horrified that there was conflict in their home. What I’m trying to get at here is that setting a table isn’t easy. It’s not as simple as ‘curating’ one’s guests, in that, if you desire an open and vulnerable conversation, setting the table with people who will be nice, sweet, and demure to a fault can be counterproductive. To paraphrase the AIDS activist and radical fermentation guru Sandor Katz, sometimes things have to get ‘bad’ to get good.

HEATH SCHULTZ: I would add a couple of things to what you’re saying, Sam. One, it is important, I think, to note that the very kind host also spent, along with another woman (the museum’s curatorial assistant, I believe), what seemed like all day preparing a meal for about a dozen people. The caring labour of both women was immediately noticeable to me as well as the upper-class and white qualities you have accurately described. So already, before we even sat down, we shared some ambivalence about our environment that I imagine are quite common with many of Red76’s projects. You’re also right that at moments she seemed quite horrified after the dinner turned sour. I remember she was very upset and said something like ‘it’s really hard for people to come into our home and talk about it as a contested territory’. She was visibly alienated on multiple fronts, by these ‘critical’ artists who disrupted what she thought was going to be a pleasant gathering, but also seemed to me quite alienated by her exclusion from those more comfortable with the mode of engagement, which was the discursive language common in the art world. All that said, I really like the way you’ve phrased it, Sam: ‘setting the table isn’t easy’. But this is what Red76 tries to do all the time, right?

SG: Yeah, absolutely. The attempt is to set up a space that is both recognisable – a table is a great place to start, as many of us elementally understand the dynamics of a table – and unsettling. The idea is to invite people collectively to disrupt the norm. That can lead to unease, but if done well it fosters a thoughtfulness and sense of responsibility in others – something this Houston dinner totally didn’t do. It was anything but that. Why? Without getting too much into particulars of institutional collaboration, because I don’t think it is useful in a general sense, I’d prefer to talk about collaboration. With Houston, as a collaborator, I gave in too much. Collaboration should be about shared goals and desires, not checking off boxes on a list. I gave in to the institution as a subject, believing that the institution inherently knew what we were after. Some do and some don’t, but I’ve never done that before. Good collaborations, from my experience, arise when we meet everyone head-on, as subject – specific subjectivities unique and autonomous when we encounter people and not placeholders.

I bring this up because I’m more interested in people reading this text and our conversation in a generalised way, not specifically in relation to so-called art practices. No matter where you are coming from, if you are concerned and energised by the social space of political life, whether as an activist, an artist, a social services organiser, and so on, real work will only begin to get done when we stop seeing one another fitting into particular roles. That’s a nice sentiment as a political ideology, I know, but I mean it more within this context as a working tool toward an ideological ideal.

[4] Sam Gould, ‘Under Construction (for Missy Elliot, William Blake, and Matthew Stadler)’, Journal of Radical Shimming 14 (2012), 206–23 (p. 217). Article available online at

[5] Stevphen Shukaitis, Imaginal Machines: Autonomy and Self-Organization in the Revolutions of Everyday Life (London: Minor Compositions, 2009), p. 15.

[6] Jason E. Smith, ‘Preface: Soul on Strike’, in The Soul at Work: From Alienation to Autonomy, by Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, trans. by Francesca Cadel and Giuseppina Mecchia (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2007), pp. 9–19 (p. 9).

[7] Sam Gould, ‘Under Construction’, p. 222.

[8] HS: Occupy Yr. Home owes a huge debt to the political insights and struggles of the feminist movements, both past and present. In particular, I’m thinking of innovative Marxist-feminists Mariarosa Dalla Costa, Silvia Federici, and Selma James, who have showed us that the home is also a site of social reproduction, typically through unpaid domestic labour by women, which produces workers for capital on a perennial basis. Feminists have also shown us that patriarchal violence in domestic space isn’t natural and must be destroyed and replaced with healthy, loving, mutual, and communal relationships. Many feminist and queer struggles have taught us new ways of imagining ‘family’ outside the nuclear family form, have taught us new ways to love and engage in one another’s presence. We know that women disproportionately perform caring labour, both now and historically. As capitalism continues to enclose upon the social, OYH can be viewed as a push against that, an attempt at a social reproduction that embraces intimacy with a criticality toward its recuperation. But not to recognise what makes this project possible, both intellectually and politically, would seem to me a violence of erasure.

[9] Jason E. Smith, ‘Soul on Strike’, p. 10.

[10] ‘Occupy Yr. Home (2012–2015: A Distributed Meal)’ [Red76 project statement]. <> [accessed 20 May 2015].

[11] HS: Not unrelated, the presentation Sam gave was on an anarchist community called Home, Washington, founded in the early nineteenth century. Sam was doing all this primary research with an interest in living communally and horizontally and how that could inform his/our creative practice today. I recall his excitement in describing to us the eccentricities in Home and their acceptance of ostracised identities and taboos in general. I remember a general positivity about Home, not in attitude per se, but in a wilful effort to find a creative experiment to be generative. Considering Red76’s practice (including, but not only Occupy Yr. Home), I don’t think it is a stretch to draw parallels between historical anarchist experiments in communal living and praxis and their positivities with Red76’s continual attempts to create platforms for people to plug into, take what they like, and reproduce what they like in another forum. We could call it free cooperation. There is also a kind of radical acceptance and ‘meeting people where they are at’ inherent in many of Red76’s works. Just as we discussed our host above, whom we might assume we differ from in many ways politically, OYH nonetheless expects those heterogeneities in both personalities and politics, for better or worse. This, too, is one perspective of anarchism. Perhaps we could call it an anarchism of form over content.

[12] SG: Increasingly, especially when it comes to so-called social practice work, wherein the work itself is so mercurial and fleeting, and when this work becomes aligned with the market, material such as documents, objects, and the like are used as a commodity. I think it’s a valid argument and that the commodification of the social is something that we experience everyday in online media and through the marketing of ‘real-life’. But again, let’s look at it outside the perspective of an ‘art practice’ to a life practice. I think this avenue of approach is valid in that we’re all making money for somebody through our sociality. Does choosing not to participate within this complex network of social documentation provide agency? Does erasing yourself from a complex narrative add to or subtract from that narrative? When these forms, however innocuous, or just as often insidious, increasingly act as the landscape for our only remaining common space for anarchic dialogue, what does choosing to opt out serve? I really don’t know.

HS: I think it is about documentation, but only as a symptom of the everlasting problem of the collapsing of art and life. This impossibility is the basis for the situationists’ suppression of art or Claire Fontaine’s notion of the ‘human strike’ – a sort of collective biopolitical disinvestment from the recuperative vectors of capitalism – which could be considered politically or ideologically inverse to projects like Occupy Yr. Home.

How do we navigate the murky waters of success and collectivity without forgetting that any of our successes always rely on, to a great extent, the labour of others in our community (Greg Sholette’s concept of ‘dark matter’)? Success is always individual in the eyes of the university or the art world. A major friction that arose at this event was a young student’s distaste for the dinner as she felt her contributions, her creative energies and intellect, were not her own but Red76’s, Sam’s – a common problem in ‘social practice’. Perhaps a useful question to ask is, who is most comfortable intellectually and emotionally investing in the platforms Red76 creates? To put it another way, who is a ‘good’ collaborator/participant? My guess would be those who know you and understand Red76’s practice, and/or those outside the art world entirely, who couldn’t care less about Red76’s success as an artist but instead see the dinner as an opportunity to engage with others, within the form of the project.

SG: In short, yes. Coming to a town hall meeting to discuss housing disparities, you’re not going to argue with the facilitators that they are profiting on your attendance at the meeting. That everyone at the meeting should be paid for ‘their labour’, for showing up and interacting. The facilitator serves a function and role when they frame, organise, and facilitate these gatherings. Leaving that gathering you take what is useful to you and engage with the situation that seems most applicable to your interests and ideals. The problem with so-called social practice work is the inherent belief that art equals object, especially in the age of the objectification of the social. Again, moving outside the context of art practice, How can we move past cynicism and genuinely gauge the ideological sincerity of those in front of us? I think it is also important to stress again that we need to be clear with ourselves about why we are choosing to sit at the table. The ‘young student’ you mentioned, when asked exactly this, stated that she didn’t know much about the nature of the project, but knew that there would be ‘important people’ there who could help her career.

HS: Rather than ask how we can gauge the ideological sincerity of those in front of us, is it more useful to rephrase your proposition? I would offer: How can we, collectively, begin to create the conditions in which sincerity (in this instance, the conditions for egalitarian, collaborative relationships) or transparent communication is possible? Of course in our current environment it will always be ambivalent, so on one hand I agree with your desire to move past the cynicism that inevitably returns us to this conversation. But on the other hand, how can we not be cynical about most practices, most administrators, museums, artists, politicians, and so on? Earlier you mentioned that it is important we are able to see past people’s roles for real work to get done – but what is the limit or exception? To press harder: How does your question above differ from inviting police to the community meeting because we, as activists, should take them at their word that they are invested in the community and want to ‘hear and address our concerns’? The Occupy movement heard this plea over and over again from white liberals, insistent that the cops were ‘part of the 99 per cent’ – that they weren’t police but community members, victims of the crimes of capitalists, just like the rest of us.

Another less prickly but common example is politicians and NPOs co-opting and/or selling out grassroots movements. When staff members of a national union show up at general assemblies, how can we gauge their sincerity in the grassroots class struggle? How do we see them outside their roles as union reps until they prove otherwise? How are cops not cops until they put down their guns? What evidence is there, historically, that it is possible to supersede these roles of those in power, or roles built to funnel struggle and culture into recuperation? How or why is Red76’s practice similar or different to those power dynamics, other than the fact that you’re not an asshole?

[13] SG: It’s not online, and that was important to me. The climate of the dinner seemed so polarised, and the use of the little flip-cam, which was being passed around to document our conversation, seemed so much the tool that energised that distrust, that it felt to me as if I would have been going back on my ideals for the project and for my practice and ideals in general to post the video. I think it would be a really amazing and helpful document to make public. The distrust and anger captured within the video could serve as a useful tool. But since it became clear that people were uncomfortable with a video being taken, it just didn’t seem right.

[14] SG: I think it is important to mention that these are purely negative examples. I think there are ways to complicate the idea of occupation, much as I hope OYH does in general. Our homes are also ‘occupied’ by the residue of our relationships with friends, and with family who live elsewhere, with scenes we see throughout our day that later inform our discussions or simply occupy our thoughts while puttering around the house. I think to ‘occupy’ our homes is essentially a means to adjust the elemental nature of our home life: it turns solid walls into membranes, makes home life – the social space of the home and the physical structure itself – more permeable.

[15] The relevant excerpt of this video is linked to above (Brooklyn. 12 March 2012). For the full video see ‘Sam: Shifting Spaces’ available at

[16] Silvia Federici, Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle (Oakland: PM Press, 2012), p. 144.

Occupy Yr. Home, Chicago. 13 February 2012.