no place: conversations as commons

We sit in the sun and discuss the impossibility of the commons and the inability to imagine.

The commons is utopia, the commons is no place.

Long live the commons / the commons do not exist.

We sit in the sun and arrive at the conclusion that all that remains is
affect, and conversation.

     This land is not common, this land is public, this land is not your land.
You go for a walk, you can pitch your tent on it, but not for too long.
In summer you will need a permit. Absolutely no fires.

There are false commons and there are latent commons, the ones that
some people find hard to envisage.

How comfortable are you designating things as commons she says—this
is a remembered conversation—and I say I think I’m fine with it.

The commons is on fire / we will set a fire
on the commons to claim it back.

Maybe the commons are the spaces we build between people, not
places. They live as collective memory, told and retold as testimony and anecdote.

It matters that we remember / it matters that we resist.

Once erased from memory, once they fall into disuse in the imagination, once we stop imagining possibilities for commons, they are no more.

You’re looking out over rooftops and realising that nothing can be done and everything can be done.

The commons are so vulnerable, she says, and it overcomes you
like a tender ache in the chest.

That same afternoon you hold a commons in your hand, a pamphlet. It’s called The People’s House and you helped to build it.

That night there is the temporary commons of a protest, remembering that other day out on the streets where a queue of cars stretched down the M8 waiting for you all to pass. The police were trying to close the gaps in the crowd but you walked slow and let them widen.


Another conversation, this time in a white kitchen at night. We talk of shared spaces, of grazing animals we do not have and probably never
will. We talk of the cunningar loop, of china clay and feldspar and matte matte white. We sit and eat leeks and lentils weighing up new possibilities for sharing; we remember our respective awakenings and wonder at how mountains could go unnoticed for so long.

As we walk back across the park small groups of people in the black are letting off fireworks and the high street just beyond is wreathed in smoke that could be fog, were it not for the date. We talk of the social life of the
city and the need to recreate it in the land. This is not about isolation and wilderness. This is about commoning.

Part of the Art Writing 2019-20 contribution to 12-Hour Non-State Parade International Symposium, Cooper Gallery, Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, University of Dundee, Saturday 30 November 2019, 11am – 11pm.