Money on the Left

MMT & the Art of Social Practice with Vienne Chan (Live)

November 15, 2019
Money on the Left
MMT & the Art of Social Practice with Vienne Chan (Live)
Chapters
Money on the Left
MMT & the Art of Social Practice with Vienne Chan (Live)
Nov 15, 2019
Money on the Left
We talk with Vienne Chan about money and the art of social practice live from the 3rd MMT conference.
Show Notes Transcript

In this special live episode of Money on the Left, artist and researcher Vienne Chan joins us to talk art, politics, and money—and how Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) reconfigures the boundaries between all three. Recorded at the Third Annual International Conference on Modern Monetary Theory held at Stony Brook University, our conversation focuses specifically on Vienne’s recent efforts to combine MMT principles with diagrammatic visual design to fundamentally reimagine how to build and sustain democratic housing communities. Vienne holds an MFA in Public Art and New Artistic Strategies from Bauhaus Universitat Weimar. Her work has been shown at NGBK in Berlin, Plataforma Revolver in Lisbon, CCA Tel Aviv, Kunsthaus Dresden, and the Armory Center in Los Angeles.



Speaker 1:
0:15
[inaudible].
Speaker 2:
0:15
You are listening to money on the left, the official podcast of the modern money network humanities division presented in partnership with monthly review online. This month's episode was recorded live at the third annual international conference on modern monetary theory. On September 27th through 29th at Stony Brook university, we N Chan, artist and researcher joined us on stage to talk art, politics and money and how MMT helps to collapse the boundaries between all three. We focus especially on Ben's recent work which articulates MMT principles with diagramatic visual design to fundamentally re-imagine how to build and sustain democratic housing communities. VN holds an MFA in public art and new artistic strategies from Bauhaus university and why Mar for award winning work has been shown at NGB K in Berlin, Plataforma rave Olvera and Lisbon, CCA Telaviv, Kunsthaus Dresden and the armory center in Los Angeles. Thanks to all who came out for the recording. Alex Williams produced the episode. Megan sauce produced graphics and rich feral produced the transcript. Thanks y'all.
Speaker 1:
1:32
[inaudible]
Speaker 2:
1:32
welcome everyone. I'm, I'm Billy SaaS, assistant professor of rhetoric at Louisiana state university. I'm joined by Maximillian say ho PhD student and comparative literature at UC Santa Barbara and Scott Ferguson, uh, associate professor of humanities and cultural studies at university of South Florida. We are all three of us research fellows with the global Institute for sustainable prosperity and cohosts of money on the left, the official podcast of the modern money network humanities division. Uh, presented in partnership proudly with monthly review online and had started distinct pleasure to also be joined today by a VM, Chen artists, independent scholar and artist in residency at Weisman art museum at the university of Minnesota. So before we get to our conversation with VN, we'd like to formally acknowledge our live audience and attendance at the third international conference on modern monetary theory at Stony Brook university. Now, if you could, I'd like to invite you all to join me in expressing our gratitude to the workers at the center for leadership and service. Thank you very much for making this event happen. Uh, thank you also to the organizers and sponsors for putting on such a tremendous conference so far. Um, so let's get started. Uh, VN could you tell us or start by telling us a bit about
Speaker 3:
3:00
your background and you're involving career as an artist and how money became important in your work? Um, I guess I'll start by saying I, I'm the kind of artist who always responds to a situation. Um, there are artists who can make work after reading books. Um, but I'm not that kind of artist. I like to react to social situations. Um, so for example, some of my older work, um, I invited an asylum seeker and I use that word very consciously because an asylum seeker has very different rights from a refugee. Um, I invited an asylum seeker who was running a photo stand on the streets to actually move his booth, uh, into, um, into a gallery, during an exhibition as an art work. Um, and you know, I try to think of art as a way to create new spaces, but I've got a little bit frustrated with the scale.
Speaker 3:
4:03
Um, this, the, the, the, the lack of longterm impact and, and the very limited scale art could have. So I decided to go back to school. And when I went back to school, um, I made the very conscious decision, um, to try to attempt things on a larger scale, not just physically, but also intellectually. So, um, one of my works when I was in school in monastery, my masters in Germany was, I walked from Weimar to Berlin. Um, Weimar has about 270 kilometers away. Um, and uh, we were doing a project at a theater in Berlin and Oh, by the way, I actually studied something, something called public art. And you know, the gallery space is quite limited. And then, you know, once you realize actually, um, the, um, the space of art making is quite limited. Once you're outside of the gallery walls, uh, you're basically on your own.
Speaker 3:
5:08
No one is going to come in and bail you out when the police comes or anything like that. So I was thinking, okay, so if that's the case, um, why not extend the space of art making to its maximum, which is from, uh, the, the university in Weimar, um, all the way to the gallery. So I just decided to walk it, um, with four other artists. Um, because when you have, when you're in a group, um, you don't give up so easily. Right. And you have pride and ego and all that to worry about as well as safety. Um, so we walked the, and I guess six days, so a bit of a 40 kilometers each day. And you know, other than extending the idea of places for art making, um, I was also really interested in how a lot of our movements are predetermined. You're not supposed to walk a from via multiple and you take the train, you take the bus and all of that also predetermines all your interactions with the kind of people you meet and, um, and, and you know, you're even your exact route you could drive, but even then, people would laugh at you if you took, you know, a really long way round or kept going in circles before you arrived at your destination.
Speaker 3:
6:30
Um, another example, um, I wrote, um, an application UNESCO world heritage application for Germany's open borders. So Europeans are quite fond of the multiculturalism and how they have open-minded, they all, um, but during the height of what we call the so-called refugee crisis, um, a lot of, there were some borders that were closed, um, for, for just a brief period. But when, when you hear the politicians talk about the need to open borders, again, it was always based on, um, trade about how expensive close borders were because the trucks took too long to cross the border. It was never about, um, any kind of humanitarian reason. So I decided, okay, well also if this is what open borders is really about, then let's make this about, you know, Germany's open borders as a heritage of free trade that's, you know, the world today. Um, and to get to to the money question, um, I started off rather naive really thinking about civil disobedience.
Speaker 3:
7:46
Um, and in the very traditional thorough sense of tax avoidance. Well, no, I mean thorough didn't think about as tax avoidance. He, he just refused to pay taxes to support a government. Of course nowadays, you know, having learned to MMT, I realize this doesn't actually make sense, but, um, anyway, I was thinking, well, you know, what if I could engage in some kind of civil disobedience. But the problem is of course, um, it's sort of really only works when you have a lot of people doing it and you know, tech technically if you don't pay your taxes, that's illegal. So I was trying to figure out legal ways for civil disobedience. So then I started looking at multinational corporations and how they route their money around and tax avoidance schemes, which are perfectly legal but ethically problematic. So I got very interested in money that way.
Speaker 3:
8:42
But it also very much comes from the very specific position of artists. Um, we are always in a situation of debt. We have master degrees and I have lots of friends working 10 Euro jobs, packing tea, you know, and you know, who was supposedly educated and this is our future. We, we don't, it's not an internship. Um, so if I'm, if I as an artist, I'm interested in social issues and potentially making an impact and if debt is all I have, then then how can I learn to use this debt? So, so this is actually how I became really curious about money. And then of course, once you start thinking about, well, why is debt a problem for me? But for other people, that's actually an asset. Then of course, you know, you start ending up an inventory quite
Speaker 4:
9:40
quickly. So as you were sort of just alluding to, right, there's this sense I think in, you know, the way we talk about art and money together in modernity that they're often pitched against one another, right? Debt versus art or the economy versus sort of aesthetics. And, um, we were wondering here sort of how your, your project and your artistic project perhaps complicates or intervenes in this sort of history of thought around money and art.
Speaker 3:
10:15
Well. Um, I guess, you know, um, traditionally a lot of odd, you know, deals with, uh, social issues and a lot of the time we're seeing money as a form of oppression and injustice, which of course is all correct, but, um, it seems that a lot of artists have therefore avoided money as a direct tool because we don't want to participate in the oppression, but at the same time, um, you know, but you know, a lot of the time, you know, the autistic response might be one on, on emphasizing care and effect, which, which is actually very important. But for me the problem is, well, how do you scale this up to a, um, you know, to, to a larger society and not say four, 10, 20 people at the gallery or even on the streets at, at, you know, at the site of a performance event.
Speaker 3:
11:17
And, and once you start scaling up, you, you, you need some method of organization. And to me that is what money is. You can take away the dollars, you take away the euros, but in the end you need a method for organizing your cultural priorities. How you want to allocate limited resources. And if you don't use dollars, if you don't use cryptocurrencies and you still need some form of tracking, you know, it can even be a piece of paper and pencil. But to me that's what money is. And once you at that point of, of this idea of money as a method for organizing priorities, then it becomes very relevant, um, in, in art production.
Speaker 5:
12:09
Great. Um, you know, one of the things that we tried to do on this show is to, um, not only, uh, explain and promote modern monetary theory, um, but also to develop it and to complicate it and to really take seriously the question of monies, nature or ontology is the fancy way of putting it. Um, and, and I think this, this modern division between, uh, aesthetics and money is, um, a real barrier, right to, for understanding, uh, what money's ontology is and can be. Um, so I wonder if we can pivot now and start talking about some of your more MMT, more recent MMT informed projects, um, and how, how MMT is informing those projects. And, and I think my provocation is to, is to ask you to say something about the way that your, you're extending M M T and the way we think about tax driven money, uh, and these sorts of questions. Okay.
Speaker 3:
13:12
Right. Um, so I guess I will talk a bit about a project I did a while I was in Croatia as I could start with a little bit of background, um, about Croatia cause uh, um, it really affects how you are in a specific conditions affects how you build specific, uh, ideas. So Croatia is the newest member to join the EU, the newest country to join the EU. But somehow EU membership hasn't really benefited from it. Uh, the country hasn't really benefited from EU membership. Um, it has a high unemployment, well it's not so much an unemployment rate, but it has a massive brain drain. And a lot of the people, the younger people who decided to stay behind, have trouble finding jobs, um, because SMEs have trouble with securing business loans. Um, and at the same time, uh, the country has become very much a tourist based economy, which also means that young people who are trying to find a place to live have to compete, uh, on the Airbnb market, which is of course very tough.
Speaker 3:
14:16
Um, and at the same time, you have a situation where you have a generation of older landlords who are from and remain in the working class who are not wealthy. And this is because, um, uh, when I was part of Yugoslavia, Croatia had a lot of the socially owned worker owned housing and that got sold off at far below market prices to raise funds, um, during the, the warfarin independence. So anyway, that's the background. Um, so what I tried to do was I to combine, um, uh, the landlords and, and the young people together, uh, through a community currency. Um, because, uh, I couldn't figure a way to do it with the fee at currency because of all the restrictions from the European central bank. Uh, when you're in the your country, you have a, uh, you know, uh, restrictions on your deficit, uh, to GDP.
Speaker 3:
15:18
And so on. Um, so I started thinking about in terms of a community currency, but, uh, the problem community currencies are really interesting because they're really socially driven projects and on many levels, um, you know, everything about a community currency, you just want to love it. But somehow in practice they have always fallen short of their ideas. So I started looking at, well, why, why, why do they fail? And it's actually quite obvious once you look at it and it's like, okay, what can I do with this community currency or complimentary currency? Well, I can buy a coffee with it, I can buy an organic muffin with it. But that's actually not my biggest expense for most people. Their biggest expenses actually rent or housing. And this is an absolutely inflexible need. You're alive and you need a place to live and you can't really just go camp in the park as you could get arrested too.
Speaker 3:
16:20
So I was thinking, well, what, what if we asked the landlords to be the issue of community currency? And therefore, therefore you can, you know, uh, you can pay your rent with coin, which would give it immediate usage. Um, and then you know, you issue loans with that to commercial loans to SMEs. What that, so you also, you know, fund your, your, your small and medium enterprises. So you create job opportunities, um, with, you know, with, with the, with, with the coin currency at the same time. Um, but I guess you know, to talk about where I'm trying perhaps a bit unconsciously to expand the MMT, um, discourse is why landlords would want to participate in such a scheme. And the F the factors, at least in the Croatian case, landlords are old people, their parents. And when you speak with old people, once their basic needs are covered, the most important thing to them is their children. And what is happening now is when the Croatian economy is basically being strangled, people are leaving the church that, that's the children leaving. And, and you know, almost every single old person, every single parent I speak to wants their children to stay close by. You're not at least in the same country. So, you know, in theory this would sort of route the currency into a more social than emotional and familial need. Um, that, that just goes beyond global. What can money buy
Speaker 1:
18:11
[inaudible]
Speaker 2:
18:12
so in a fashion, very much unlike neoclassical macro economics, M M T shifts, political economy from micro to genuinely macro foundations. And along the way raises new questions about scale. Um, and issues of scale have been a consistent preoccupation in your work. Can you tell us a little bit about how you've treated problems of scale in the past and how MMT might've changed your or challenged your approach to scale issues in new ways?
Speaker 3:
18:46
Um, I guess back in my former life as a more traditional artist, um, I would work with video projections because all you need to do is you take a step back and then you get a bigger image. Um, but the problem is, um, I wasn't sure about the actual social social impact that would have. And, um, and another thing is, um, the larger something is the harder it is to, to actually portray as noticeable. Um, and um, so one thing I've found is that mm. With, because, because with the macro scale, it's so hard and so anti anti intuitive for a lot of people, I'm actually finding myself taking a step towards the physically smaller. Um, so I, I draw diagrams, I and I do live presentations, uh, you know, for, for so-called performance lectures with people. And that has, uh, you know, versus just beaming an image on a street, you know, that that has a much more supposedly limited impact.
Speaker 3:
20:06
Um, but the idea is that if you want an actual impact to then you need people to understand and not just be entertained. And that takes time. Um, so right now I'm, I'm, I'm sort of experimenting with very micro scale. I, I run these, I've been trying to run these very small mini hackathons. Uh, and you know, I run, you know, there are hackathons for socioeconomic problems and you know, I work with a small group and we try to find an issue that's important and we try to work together to find a solution. And invariably the, the lack of money comes up. And I don't need to say, well, you know, this is MMT theory. It's like, okay, so let's work together. Um, and how, how would we solve this? And people will eventually arrive at some kind of MMT solution at my take a little guidance to, to push certain thoughts and beliefs further. But, you know, it's just like, well, okay, let's do a community currency, but why didn't this work? And, and, and so, you know, the, the, I, I don't necessarily say today we're gonna learn MMT. Um, it's just, well, you know, if you had the power to do this, how would you design it? And, and people seem to get it better. Yeah.
Speaker 1:
21:37
[inaudible]
Speaker 4:
21:39
so, um, before actually have a question, I wanted to go back to, um, your housing art project and I sort of feel like there's something that needs to be sort of fleshed out more in sort of what it kind of means for MMT in the sense that I think normally on the left, the traditional narratives around housing and landlords really take on this sort of determine view of sort of pure exploitation. Um, and I think what your project has shown and how you really take a look at this case study in, in, in a smaller scale and in particular environment, um, is that there are perhaps more nuances to the questions of housing and money and, and the way that payment and, and culture interacts with that. And so I, I was wondering if you could perhaps meditate on the ways in which introducing this sort of non scarcity framing into currency issuance for you changes the way we think about housing as a policy agenda or as a, as a sort of construct of elect a leftist practice in, in, in that sense.
Speaker 3:
22:58
I, I think, you know, a lot of the time, especially, I mean, recently I've seen, I've seen not so recently, but for a while I've been seeing a lot of these tiny house projects and it's all very cute and you know, yeah, we can, we can build things, we can make 'em house, you know, out of a construction pipe or a tunnel, whatever you call these things. And we can all be nice if we throw away our stuff and it will all fit. But, um, the, the issue of housing is actually not one of lack of space. Um, it's, it's really a matter of, of, of speculation. Um, and that's, you know, people can't afford a home, not because there isn't enough land. Uh, it's actually because you see a lot of empty apartments here. And so once, once you clear the fact that it's not actually a problem of, um, of physical land available or, or even, you know, Oh, the materials for building a house is so expensive, then you realize, well, actually then why can't the government or another public group, another public organization come in to provide this basic human need?
Speaker 5:
24:15
So a lot of this discussion, um, one might mistake it for just a, we're talking about social activism and political activism, right? And you've said that some of your artists, friends like no, no longer even recognize you as an artist. That would be the crazy things that you're doing. And I guess what I, what I'd like you to do maybe in a kind of pedagogical way, is to situate where, where you come from in, in contemporary and historical art practice. What is public art? What is social activists are, do, do you have heroes in, you know, in these worlds and now and in the past? And just to give our audience a sense of where, where you come from in a kind of broader sense.
Speaker 3:
25:00
Right. Okay. So all my heroes, artists who have quit art, um, there is an, I, I think her name is Claire Bishop [inaudible]. She's an art theorist, historian. I don't remember the exact quote, but in response to socially engaged art practices, she said something like, to the effect that artists have become the nice Christian ladies who clean up after the government. And, um, I don't want to become one of those ladies. Um, and, um, I mean, I, I am not alone in my practice. There are other artists who decide to take, you know, who decided to take, um, this idea of actual impact and, and, and change and the function of artists to an extreme. Um, or to try to create use for example, uh, Ricardo Domingez and the, um, he created a transport and migrant tool to help, um, um, migrants cross the border more safely with water sources and so on.
Speaker 3:
26:09
Uh, Tania Bruguera tried, uh, has started the, um, I can't remember the exact name in immigrant migrant movement, which tries to give, uh, migrants resources. One of my favorites is a, I believe he's Belgian, a Renzo Martens. Uh, he created, I think it's called, uh, the Institute for human activity, but it's really ingenious. This is one of my favorite artists. So, um, a lot of indigenous people are at risk of being sort of, I think evicted is the wrong word because property law isn't really an existent there, but, um, a lot of indigenous people are being forced to move out of, uh, rainforests and so on. So what he does is he goes into these places and he teaches, um, he teaches these indigenous people how to make contemporary art and he sells and then he takes these objects and he sells them on art markets. But the idea is that he, you know, he, he tries to gentrify the forests so that these people will be forced out. I'm not sure exactly what is the, um, actual impact or effect. But I, I think this is quite ingenious and it's one of my favorite projects.
Speaker 2:
27:31
Great. So you mentioned, um, organizing locally around local issues through hackathons. And I was just wondering if you could contextualize what local, what locality you were talking about and maybe walk us through an example of how through a hackathon you end to, you end up arriving at MMT some way sometimes maybe a little bit quicker, sometimes not so quick, but, well, as long as,
Speaker 3:
27:55
yeah. Um, this is very much still very much a work in progress. Um, but usually I work, let's say, I mean I've only done it once with six people and, um, and without presenting any of my previous models I've done in Zagreb, I worked with a group in Zagreb and I asked them what they would like to do and we basically went through the whole spectrum of, you know, all the social issues and how we would do this. And complimentary currencies and so on. But, um, I basically try to be the invisible hand in all of this. And it's, it's a, it's actually an incredibly hard job to make, you know, to guide people and, and to sort of challenged their assumptions and them to push them further, but at the same time to let people also arrive at their own conclusions. And, you know, at the, we were talking about housing again in, in Zagreb, in Croatia, and you know, their, their final solution was actually had nothing to do with MMT.
Speaker 3:
29:01
Um, they decided they would work with existing landlords and become a building management company. Um, and, and, and from there create affordable housing and so on. And then also to regain control of public spaces to hold communal events. So that has actually nothing to do with them empty. But on the way we, we talked about, um, you know, uh, smart contracts, why they might not be so smart. Um, and what about, well, we can build a new settlement community in this, basically in the suburbs, but, you know, well, that sounds all good. We spent half a day talking about it, but then we say, Oh wait, but then that means putting all the poor people together in one place. And that just sounds like maybe not such a smart idea. So, um, so it's not necessarily through an MMT context, but once you decide you want to build something social, you always encounter money on the way and a, you know, for instance, Oh, then you know, how are we going to fund this? Um, okay, we can build a new building, we can buy existing building, we can, you know, create bonds and so on. And you know, all these principles just come up and they may or may not stay. But the fact is people have thought about it in a much more in depth way.
Speaker 4:
30:28
So I sort of want to talk a little bit about, um, your diagrams and the way they sort of seem to collapse this, the difference between political and aesthetic practice and why choose the diagram in this case. Um, and, and not something more like, you know, representational art, what, what some would traditionally, you know, call art as, as it was more common for the public. And, you know, I, I feel like this is sort of bumping up against this sort of definitional question, right? Like, at what point are we doing art and at what point does that end? And I think this is sort of an ongoing struggle that we're trying to define here. And if you could reflect on that, I think that'd be cool.
Speaker 3:
31:21
Yeah. Um, this is actually a really great question. Where does art and, um, uh, I believe it's Susan Sontag who talks about how, um, I can't remember the exact quote again, but it's something to do with, you know, uh, we've become desensitized. W B basically because they're too [inaudible] to too many image images. Right? And I feel this is very much true. Um, there are lots of photos and so on of people's suffering. And to be honest, if you're not already moved by that, who, who am I to move you with another photo of someone being poor of someone, um, of someone you know, living on the street or, or whatever, you know, and if you're not moved by that, if you've already seen 2000 of those images and you're, if you're not moved by that and then, you know, I, I'm not in a position, and if you're already moved by that, then what do, what will another image add to your life of suffering?
Speaker 3:
32:27
Um, so what I'm actually interested in as well, how can we imagine something together, a path forward, um, and, and that's, you know, the, the great thing about art is you can put away a lot of restrictions and you can just start imagining and then work backwards to see how it might actually be, uh, implementable. So that's, um, that's from the artistic perspective. And as for diagrams, um, I think modern monetary theory or any kind of monetary theory is extremely, um, it is extremely complicated. You have a lot of really complex relationships. And I think there's the, um, I think complex relationships are just best shown by diagrams because it's very clear. There's no missing interpretation. Like, Oh, this line actually is about my love or, you know, or whatever, my cat. Um, so, you know, to communicate an idea for understanding, um, it's, it's a very quick way, of course, this probably still needs some kind of explanation or walkthrough, but compared to say a painting of colors, um, I feel it's slightly more effective.
Speaker 3:
33:48
Do you wanna walk us through it a little bit? Uh, I mean, do we have time? You know, I could. Okay. Um, all right. So this is from the Croatian thing. Um, we, we start off on the, the, this is my right, yeah, the right hand side. So LG SPV, LG is a landlord. Scrip SPV is a special, uh, purpose vehicle. Um, so we formed the landlords into a group and they pull SMEs together who need a loan and we said create a securitized loan and that sells that, that, that gets sold to the public to raise cash. And then the SMEs receive the receive the loans and a mixture of cash and coins. Uh, you want cash, you want the fear currency so you can interact with, um, with organizations outside of your community. Uh, but the, the coin will help you retain, um, re retain and secure your local capital.
Speaker 3:
34:56
Um, and then, um, let's say I bought a, I bought one of these securitized loans, I can now also use that coin to pay rent. Um, so I pay rent in coin and cash or whatever I choose. And, and then it goes to back, uh, to the, to another, uh, landlords organization, which is sort of like a reach, a real estate investment trust. I put read like, because I haven't really figured out what all the legal implications of being a true retaught. But, um, so, but let's say as a re like structures. So what did it, because we have landlords and we have relatively informal relationships. Um, that also means we have houses, right? So let's say landlords has owns apartments one, two, and three. And you know, we have a bunch of young people, buyers, one, two and three buyers, one, two and three sign a mortgage and at the same time to become shareholders in the rate.
Speaker 3:
36:01
Um, they buy the house and they sign mortgages and then the mortgages gets 'em put into, they get sort of, um, they get grouped back into mortgage backed securities, which are of course, what is being traded on financial markets. So we sold those off. We, we sold those off to an external investor. Um, and then that raises some cash and that goes back to the landlord's rate. And then, um, that cash goes off and buys out an existing mortgage. Uh, for example, a lot of people are, we're holding mortgages with Austrian banks, um, uh, or Italian banks. So I'm going to digress a little. So, um, and Croatia that the banking system is really dominated by Austrian and Italian banks and mortgages were written in the Swiss Franc and that fueled a lot of Kerry trade activities. And that was also an in the financial crisis in 2008 led to lots of people losing their homes or mortgage prices spiking, you know, more than 30% and so on.
Speaker 3:
37:12
So, um, you know, with that cash we bought, we, we, we, we, we pay off existing mortgages at these foreign banks, so we remove it out of that circuit. Um, and then at the same time, uh, two, two, two, two by two to remove that mortgage from the bank, that person also signs another mortgage with the rate. And then, you know, you, you sort of go back into this loop again and basically the idea in this hyper speculative world is to remove as many mortgages as possible from the banking system and put it back into a sort of more collectively owned, uh, situation. And then, you know, if there are any extra revenues and can, you know, go maybe support the national government, you know, we can buy some government bonds or, and we can of course, always fund more SMEs and other whatever public infrastructure you would like. Okay.
Speaker 5:
38:08
Thanks. Um, so I want us to speculate a little bit. Um, maybe imagine that we have passed the green new deal maybe in this country, maybe all over the world. Uh, and we want massive public arts and we want to rethink art. If you are on a committee that was in of not determining everything but putting, putting in your 2 cents and from your experience both answering the, the intense problems that we see that you're already answering, but also maybe imagining imagining a world where we're starting to move beyond these neoliberal catastrophes. What comes to mind?
Speaker 3:
39:01
Wow. This, this, this is sort of a big question. I dunno. Maybe we can just blow bubbles on the streets and, no, I'm serious. I mean the beautiful, um, I guess, you know, this is sort of like when we arrive at utopia, what are we going to do?
Speaker 1:
39:25
Not quite utopian,
Speaker 3:
39:26
not quite utopia. I mean, I mean, I guess then maybe I would like to engage more in traditional aesthetics. Um, you know, maybe then I can think about content Hagle and things like that and you know, the sublime. But, uh, it's really hard for, I mean basically because my, my almost my entire practice has always been a response to problems. And you're saying, well, what if we have no problems? Right.
Speaker 1:
40:05
[inaudible]
Speaker 5:
40:06
I didn't mean I didn't mean utopia. I don't believe in utopia. Um, no, no. I mean, you know, tomorrow we, we, we pass the green new deal. We were going to have a major arts component,
Speaker 1:
40:16
you know.
Speaker 5:
40:18
Do you, from your perspective, from your background, what kinds of things would you want to fund? I mean, I think that's, that's really the question.
Speaker 3:
40:26
I think arts education, um, not necessarily just, I mean production is always important, but I see art as a way of seeing the world that can, I mean it sounds very cheesy and stuff, but, um, it's a way of seeing the world. And at the same time, it's a way of seeing the world that is more gentle and, you know, it's fine if someone decides not to become an artist when they grow up. And from my own experience, you know, I would not recommend people being autistic because you will be in a, you know, unemployable situation. But maybe we will have the job guarantee then as well. But, um, but you know, from my current experience, I would say art is really important because it's a way of seeing the world in a different way. That's not about, well how can I profit from something else? Um, but, you know, exact details. I, I, I can't say because it's so far from my own experience. I'm glad we returned to the of education
Speaker 2:
41:34
because when you were talking about the hackathons and the community currency projects, um, it seems like you definitely have a pedagogical philosophy. Um, maybe it's particular to your approach to M T you're not, it seems like you're not directing folks there. You're guiding them there. I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about that pedagogical philosophy and why you think it might apply in this case specifically. Well, and we've had people at this conference talking about teaching MMT, I think about it all the time. So I'd like to hear more about your approach.
Speaker 3:
42:08
Um, well I guess it comes from, um, more experiences of failure than everything else because, you know, I do performance lectures and so on performance lectures I just basically lectures, uh, but it's done by an artist and in a gallery space and you know, it's all very entertaining. People are like, wow, yeah, this is so cool. But then afterwards, as I, nothing happens. Um, so I started experimenting with this hackathon format, uh, making it more open-ended, hoping that, um, that people create something that they feel that when people create something, that fee, they feel it's their own, they, they are more inclined to actually take it a little further than, you know, the, the fall, the four walls they were working in. Um, so that's, uh, yeah, so that's my experience. And also, you know, it's [inaudible] I think it's, it's more about, I see a lot of things as you know, like a, the learning process is about learning how to learn. And that's what I find about this format. Much more engaging than just having someone say, well, you know, if you do this, then this will happen.
Speaker 2:
43:35
It, it seems likely that art education under green new deal would also involve production and maybe in along that mode.
Speaker 1:
43:44
Yeah.
Speaker 4:
43:50
So you, you sort of mentioned in passing that, um, if you weren't reacting all the time to, you know, neoliberal catastrophes, that there might be more of a space for taking on questions of sort of traditional aesthetics. You mentioned content Hagle um, do you think there's a case potentially for integrating questions of, you know, historically traditionalist statics into a political aesthetic response to neo-liberalism?
Speaker 3:
44:30
That's a really deep, I may need a bit more time to think about that, but I think one of the issues, I don't want to generalize too much because I haven't thought about this, um, in particular depth. Um, but this might go back to the D called the noising versus colonizing, um, discussion. And I'm not sure to what extent traditional aesthetics may have been part. I don't wanna say it is. Um, but I, I, I don't know to what extent traditional the statics may need to be so-called [inaudible] colonized or perhaps even or unlearned perhaps. I, I prefer the word unlearned.
Speaker 1:
45:22
Yeah.
Speaker 5:
45:32
Can you reflect on what your, um, your background and upbringing and your, your sort of, you, you, you live in multiple places around the globe, um, uh, how that informs your work historically, but also in thinking about MMT and maybe even as well, you know, often we're accused of, uh, uh, being so narrowly status and of course many panels at this conference I think have shown that, uh, we are not and we're trying, we're always trying to complicate, um, that, um, but yeah, I wonder what, what your own background and experience brings to these questions.
Speaker 3:
46:14
Um, I was born in Hong Kong, uh, which is sort of like a hyper capitalist city. Um, I come from a pretty working class family. My mum worked odd jobs and even in a factory sewing clothes and my dad was working as a primary school teacher. So in many senses, you know, this is as you know, normal as it gets. Um, but, you know, I guess in the same vein, I grew up with this very neoliberal thinking, this very conservative economics and this kind of, well, if you work hard enough, you know, there is a good life ahead and you know, you can become an investment banker or whatnot, you know, that's, that's actually what most people in Hong Kong would probably want their kids to become until quite recently. Um, and then, uh, then I went to university in Canada and I guess, you know, then I started kind of getting interested in Marxism and labor.
Speaker 3:
47:18
Um, and you know, there are still lots of things that I, I think it's quite important what it says, but what I felt missing about it was, um, uh, this of flexibility. And also I felt that it wasn't really proposing anything that I could see that could be implemented tomorrow. Um, and I guess that's where, you know, that's, that's how I started to thinking about money. Um, also, you know, coming from this Hong Kong background of being very aware of how important money is, uh, I, I, I can't just remove it from being, um, and I guess it's that mixture that brings me into these kinds of speculations.
Speaker 3:
48:09
We're getting to the, to the close here, but as we do, I want to kind of circle back to the beginning and ask you to, could you reflect a little bit more on your experience of, of coming to MMT and how that like particularly reshaped or describe your experience, you know, and, and, and maybe, um, how you came to it. Um, I, I came to it actually largely through this Croatian project, um, because, um, I just started thinking, well, you know, like I mentioned if I'm going to, okay, so this might require me designing a community currency and why does those and work? And then you start reading a bit more and is like, Oh, actually there are these people doing this thing called MMT and is exactly like what I'm trying to do. And then you realize, wow, actually this is, this is actually how it works.
Speaker 3:
49:03
It's just that, you know, I don't have the power or, or the people, I would like to have empower aunt in the position to, to, to make these decisions. And then what you have is, um, so there are lots of descriptive accounts in academia and I'm, and also floating throughout a lot of academia as I'm trying to learn as much as I can. And academia has a lot of descriptive theories, but you know, there, there's never, or not never, but I find that I often there is like, okay, all right, so now I have an account of wide how the world is not functioning and why the world is not functioning, but how do I move forward? Like, no, there are very few people making propositions or making any kind of suggestions or any kind of vision. Um, and, and I think that's one of the really beautiful things I'm empty is that it, it's really helped me at least to have a clear view of how things work and why they don't work and you know, then you can start thinking about, you know, organization in more utopic ways. Yeah. I mean, I would say that that coincides with my own experience. I mean, I would say that MMT for me is, uh, you know, at base it's not
Speaker 5:
50:28
a, just a description of how things work. It's a, it's a kind of unlocking the key to our social imagination, right? And, and, and what we've, what we've kept under lock and key under the category of art or under the category of the aesthetic, which is one of the reasons why I so admire what you're doing with him empty. Um, I'm, I'm curious, you know, so the opening up the imagination and allowing us to make speculative and even positive claims about the kind of world we want and, and imagine, um, testing it out, maybe building it, proposing it, um, but then also new, uh, new questions and problems pop up all the time. I mean, in my own work, I'm a, you know, a humanities scholar, film and media scholar and I'm, I'm always struck by, um, the ways that, that, that imagination is, is locked up in so many of our cultural forms and our aesthetic forms and also our language.
Speaker 5:
51:31
And even our critical language, our critical language I would argue is a, is a, is a thickly liberal in a, in a big L liberal sense. So I see a lot of opportunity but also a lot of opportunity to find new problems and to work through new questions. And as we draw to a close here, I'm wondering if, if you can speculate about, you know, what, what for you, you know, what are you thinking about now? What, what are, what are some of the, if any, what, what kinds of questions and problems are you trying to pursue and kind of workout maybe you don't have answers to yet.
Speaker 3:
52:08
I mean, I'd already have answers to everything, but you know, um, um, I, I think, I mean, I think what you just said, it quite nicely reminds us that, you know, um, the, there will be, we will never really actually arrive at utopia. Um, you know, there will always be some sort of conflict, some sort of injustice. There's no, you know, one theory for all that will solve everything. So I'm sure, you know, there will be some sort of inspiration later on, but I guess one of the key questions is, um, the power dynamics. Um, all a lot of this, and I think a lot of how things are unlocked actually depends, you know, MMT, you know, we see the theory, but the, in the end, the question is who is power? Who is in power to actually make certain things move certain ways? And I think, you know, that, that in the end is probably will always be a question.
Speaker 1:
53:06
Yeah.
Speaker 5:
53:08
Well, Dan Chen, um, thank you so much for coming on Monday on the left live here at the third international conference on modern monetary theory.
Speaker 3:
53:16
Thank you for having me here.
Speaker 6:
53:25
Yeah. [inaudible].
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