Comfort People Safety Curtain
(24H Souvenir Shop)

To Be Determined
Active Cell: Czar Kristoff, Etniko Bandido, Suzin Kwon, Clara Balaguer, Nash Tysmans, Dante Carlos

Mutual industry for capital redistribution

Five local, diasporic and recent-migrant cultural bodies from the Philippines—plus one South Korean kapamilya[1]—form the latest active cell of To Be Determined.[2] Together, they re-purpose excerpts of their work that deal with ideas of safety under hazardous construction. This collective labor takes the form of a grey literature convenience store located on a shared online spreadsheet. Cultural and political souvenirs—stamps, zines, essays, and hidden easter eggs—are offered to the public in exchange for modest donations or nothing at all, when specified. After receiving financial contributions online, souvenirs are available for pick up at Showroom Mama. The self-service storefront consists of a plastic safety curtain that mimicks a spreadsheet grid. Customers may retrieve purchased objects on site after offering casual proof of donation to the store minder. In addition, artist fees and production budget for the work have been pooled and then equally re-distributed amongst collaborators. Based on trust, informal and imperfect financial radmin[3][4] emerges. These structures of good faith are made possible by already-existing kinship structures within the active cell as well as by the gluing-together that arises in post-disaster or disaster contexts. Those who inhabit a shared suffering are often more capable of offering comfort in its aftermath.

This informal system of collective profit redistribution has multiple objectives in a time of global crisis. First: to redistribute capital flowing from a center of cultural production—central Europe—to subjects on the peripheries of the (North/Western) (art) world; subjects who labor under conditions of greater precarity and urgency. Second: collapsing separate architectures and finicky bureaucracies for the purpose of energy conservation, thus increasing chances of survival under duress. By bending and abridging structures of administration, a poetics of efficiency arises. For example, the spreadsheet inventory, the commodity display site (gallery), the safety measure, and the storefront collapse. The minor construction feature becomes the site/destination itself. The inventory—a shared spreadsheet—acts as storefront itself. The safety measure (plastic curtain) becomes the commodity display. Similarly, archaic and disciplinarian separations between art, culture, knowledge management viz. knowledge production, daily life and its struggles are ignored, placing all forms of cultural work on equally dignified footing.

[1] Tagalog: family member. Also, slang referring to fans of Philippine mass media network, ABS CBN, suddenly and recently taken off the air by design of President Rodrigo Duterte aka The Punisher. Human rights advocates around the world are calling this an ominous attack on press freedom. This kind of dictatorial oppression defines pandemic politics and administration in the Philippines.
[2] TBD is a loosely organized structure comprised of sleeper cells and yet-to-be-determined networks that activate and deactivate in response to external factors: abundance to be distributed, urgencies to be addressed, or leisure to be.
[3] The use of popular technology in this system—Google Sheets for inventory, PayPal for purchase—is at once a radical flaw and form of resistance. This choice undeniably shores the strength of big tech, on the one hand. On the other, it acknowledges the convenience and comfort that popular tech provides, especially for those with limited access, privilege, and bandwidth for research and literacy-building around alternative technological platforms. What is radically attractive in the centers of luxury—where structural support and, thus, leisure to study exist in abundance—may become grossly inefficient in the peripheries of capital access. This friction is acknowledged and unresolved within this work, which does not pretend to stand on puritanical high ground. The work does what it can. Choices are compromised and muddy. They are guided by prioritizing the comfort and latent knowledge of those on the access periphery over the moral tastes or critical fashions emanating from the luxury center. [4] Radical administration, after the work of organizations such as Cube Cinema and Kate Rich’s Feral Trade network.