Residency | The Alternative School of Economics: The End of the Present

Advancing always towards the future, one can return to the same point in spacetime; drawing by Ruth Beale, inspired by illustrations in The Order of Time by Carlo Rovelli

When does a crisis begin and end? Is it cumulative, concurrent, ongoing or finite? How can we challenge the rhythm of growth and crisis, abundance and scarcity – and the way this influences our collective experience of time? What if in order to do that, we had to question the very idea of time itself?

 
Arts Catalyst is delighted to present The End of the Present, a residency and public programme by artist duo The Alternative School of Economics (Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck) exploring the relationship between linear time, economic and environmental crisis. 
 
Taking place online between July and December 2020, The End of the Present critically engages with the financial boom and bust model of crisis. Learning from the accumulative crisis of environmental change, it explores ways to re-frame crises as a colliding of multiple narratives and connections. 
 
Playing with historical timelines, the artists are undertaking parallel research into the entanglements of economics and environmental change over the last 200 years. In the 20th century alone there are over 25 identifiable financial crashes, such as the Great Depression of the 1930s or the Latin American Debt Crisis of the 1980s. Reimagining these plotted reference points of historical crises into a chaotic series of events, the artists are interested in how their global reverberations continue to affect the world politically, socially and ecologically.
 
The project’s title is drawn from the physicist Carlo Rovelli’s book The Order of Time in which Rovelli’s quantum theories crumble the idea of past, present and future, and reveal the world as being made, not of things, but as a series of events. Taking inspiration from these ideas and descriptions of spacetime, the artists want to collapse the linearity and homogeneity of timelines as inherently associated with an anthropocentric worldview. 
 
The residency will be punctuated by public events, through which members of the public will be invited to contribute to the project. 
 
Workshop: Time(un)line: Mapping Crises
Led by the Alternative School of Economics
1.00pm - 5.00pm, Fri 31 July 2020
 
Where does a crisis begin and end?
Join us for a special online workshop experimenting with co-research processes as a way of exploring global financial and ecological crises, led by The Alternative School of Economics. The workshop will include time for individual research and breakout groups, as well as mapping onto an accessible, online platform. 
During the workshop we will be joined by researchers who will share their field of expertise, with time for questions and discussions throughout. 
Together, we will begin to collectively remap events which contribute to the ‘long crises’ of capitalism and the environment. Each person will select a particular event or area of interest from a list provided (or submit their own), and work forwards and backwards to map roots and causes, how they unfold, and the environmental, political, financial, historical and cultural conditions and impacts. 
 
For example, researching pollution in rivers in the UK might mean looking into nitrates in the soil, farming practices,  land use, geography, pesticides manufacturers, government subsidies, the chemistry of the compounds and the impact on ecosystems. To look at a specific event like the 1973 oil crisis might mean charting the development of OPEC, connections to conflict, western influence in the region and the legacy of colonialism, and the decline of US oil production. It might mean reaching further to look at the rise in the use of oil in the 20th century, the significance of the price of oil in global financial markets, or the history of conflict in the Middle East and the connections to oil extraction.  
 
The workshop will focus on sharing information gathered individually and in groups, and mapping it onto a time(un)line. The time(un)line will ostensibly chart events in chronological order, whilst simultaneously finding connections, repercussions and convergences, which thereby collapse the idea of singular progression of time. 
All levels of experience and interest welcome. 
 
The End of the Present forms part of Arts Catalyst’s research inquiry Extractable Matters.
 
nb: The Alternative School of Economics were originally invited to present a physical exhibition at Arts Catalyst’s London Centre which would have been the final installation in that space prior to Arts Catalyst’s relocation to Sheffield later this year. In light of the Covid19 pandemic, the project has now evolved and manifests as a participatory, online project. 
 
SUPPORT
This project is supported by The Elephant Trust and Arts Council England.
 
Ruth Beale & Amy Feneck have been collaborating as The Alternative School of Economics since 2012. As an 'alternative school', they link artists' practice with self education as a way to study economics and economies. They are interested in reciprocal modes of learning and making, and their projects with communities create a framework for investigating political, social and cultural issues. They use diverse and creative methodologies, and collaborate with experts from a variety of disciplines, from sociologists to writers, to produce film, graphics, photography, texts and clothing, as forms of activation, dissemination and reflection.
 
Current and upcoming projects include True Currency: About Femininst Economics, a podcast series produced as part of a residency at Gasworks, London, and a tour of Rabbits Road Institute Library, a community collection of books to be based in Barking, London. Past projects include Speaking to the City, billboard commission with Phytology, London, and The Britishness Project with Firstsite, Colchester. Visit their website to find out more.