Over the course of three days, Market Gallery hosted numerous arts organisers, artists, journalists, writers, economists and activists from across Scotland & the UK.

Initiated partly as a response to losing two of our gallery spaces at the end of May, we wanted to problem-pose the underlying issues behind the allocation of resources and property within the arts & wider cultural sphere. The aim of the forum was to understand and critique the structural complexities and collectively search for potential alternatives or solutions.

The forum invited responses from both invited speakers and the public. It addressed our increasingly fragile ecology of arts, culture & media from a range of perspectives:

Who and what determines how cultural resources are distributed, and for what purposes?

What are the effects of privatisation on the arts?

How can we actively transform art, work & culture for the better?

How can we build radically new forms of collective, cross-cultural organisation?

Wednesday 17th May, facilitated by Harry Weeks:
Neil Gray (Urban Studies Foundation)
Sarah Strang (Civic Room)
Glasgow Autonomous Space
Helen Moore (Reidvale Housing Association)
Jonathan Hoskins (Own de Beauvoir Project)
Roundtable & Open Discussion

Thursday 18th May:
Screening of Robinson in Ruins by Patrick Keiller
Carl Lavery
Patrick Keiller

Friday 19th May:
Carla Cruz
Laurie Macfarlane (New Economics Foundation)
Willie Sullivan (Common Weal/Citizens Basic Income Network)
Aaron Bastani (Novara Media)

With a new commission by Simon Worthington


  1. First and foremost, what is knowledge when it is “free”?


  1. Whether there are sites, such as the spaces of art, in which knowledge might be more “free” than in others?


  1. What are the institutional implications of housing knowledge that is “free”?


  1. What are the economies of “free” that might prove an alternative to the market-and outcome based and comparison-driven economies of institutionally structured knowledge at present?


These are the guiding questions that Goldsmiths academic Irit Rogoff uses in her essay “FREE.” Beginning with her provocative thought experiment: a proposal she gave to the university to create an adjacent free academy called “Goldsmiths Free”, she speculates about how it would change the nature, status and affect of the knowledge shared. She writes that “the notion of ‘free’ is currently so degraded in terms of the free market, the dubious proposals of the new ‘free economy’ of the internet, and the historically false promises of individual freedom, that it may be difficult to see what it might have to offer beyond all these hollow slogans.” Against this degradation, Rogoff refers to her idea as the unframing of knowledge. “When knowledge is unframed”, she writes, “it is less grounded genealogically and can navigate forwards, rather than backwards.” In her forward march, she simultaneously expresses a frustration at the internal limitations of the art world, with it’s tendency to reduce intellectual pursuits to illustration, or to turn them into “aesthetic tropes when in the hands of curators hungry for the latest turn.” Ironically we could ask: does her own essay fit within what has undoubtedly been referred to as a recent “pedagogical turn” in the art world? Yes it probably does. It’s only a matter of time before it shows up on pedagogical reading lists such as this one by School of the Damned class of 2017: https://issuu.com/schoolofthedamned or cited in pamphlets such as the most recent STRIKE! Magazine issue on radical pedagogy: http://strikemag.bigcartel.com/product/strike-issue-19-autumn-2017.


Her argument however, contains a fundamentally appealing rejection of institutional, “interdisciplinary”, or market oriented knowledge “production”, in favour of an almost Arendtian conception of education that might be perceived “as other forms of coming together not predetermined by outcomes but by directions.” These directions, which she recognises in her chapter titled “STRUGGLES”, could take the overtly politicized form of unifying demands for the abolition of tuition fee’s, an increasing of opportunity and access to higher education, or the “re-democratization of the universities and re-inclusion of students in decision making processes.” The most important and relevant section of Rogoff’s text for this blog, is when she turns her attention towards the physical “sites” of the art world. She is not referring to those behemoths i’ve already described in the previous blog post “Limitations”; arts institutions whose “perception of ‘research’ is largely about themselves (to consist, that is, in the seemingly endless conferences that are held each year on ‘the changing role of the museum’).” Rather, she is enthused by the proliferation of “self organised structures, that take the form, with regard to both their investigations and effects, of sites of learning.”


It’s in this penultimate chapter that she could almost have been describing the form and function of the Free Market Forum, and the knowledge it gathered together. She admires in these spaces of learning for example, the centrality of the “who” that poses the questions, “where they are speaking from, and from where they know what they know.” This kind of subjective disclosure and direct relatability to the speaker’s’ political or social position, whether in the area of the housing market (Laurie Macfarlane & Helen Moore), the archival, community oriented and intimate projects of Carla Cruz & Jonathan Hoskins, or the introduction to Glasgow Autonomous Space provided by Natalie, can be said to have grounded the forum in an intellectually accessible, unpretentious way. The jumbled, multiple, subjective layers and identities presented haphazardly throughout the Free Market Forum are analogous to Rogoff’s assertion that such collective spaces of learning grant permission “to start in the middle without having to rehearse the telos of an argument; to start ‘right here and right now’ and embed issues in a variety of contexts.” This cannot be said necessarily for the specific content of each and every talk, but the various forms of knowledge expounded existed as disjointed multiplicities of information, stemming from different, even oppositional traditions, schools and approaches. This became evident for example, listening to Sarah Strang’s talk immediately after Neil Gray’s critique… Rogoff’s final relatable observation and distinction between these unselfconscious, unframed spaces of knowledge production and normative institutional conference styles is a reconfiguration of what is meant by “the curatorial.” In these spaces such as Market Gallery, the curatorial can exist “not as a profession but as an organizing impulse”, which “opens up a set of possibilities, mediations perhaps, to formulate subjects that may not be part of an agreed-upon canon of ‘subjects’ worthy of investigation.” Events like the Free Market forum, then, if successful, can “serve both the purposes of reframing and producing subjects in the world.” The continuity, and perhaps now the legacy of such forums within the Market Gallery programme will live on in the regular “Night School” events held at the gallery, which by the way, are always free to attend.


Irit Rogoff’s essay can be accessed here: http://www.e-flux.com/journal/14/61311/free/



Casting aside gloomy critiques of economic systems and the instrumentalization of culture for the moment, there are a few more obvious, more positive, abstract elements of the forum format still left to outline. Regardless of whatever opinion we might have about the specific ideas expressed during the event, or its perceived success (it’s not really my place to pass judgement), there is I think something valuable in the simple act of convening a public gathering specifically to discuss matters of public concern, such as the allocation of cultural resources. This is especially true, given the social and economic context that we are living in, which generally does not easily support such events. Our public spaces and venues, galleries, libraries, pubs, community theatres, community centres have been routinely privatized, dismantled, closed, or requisitioned in order to turn a profit or refurbished for purely utilitarian purposes. Public funding for the arts has been consistently slashed by the Government’s austerity programme, budgets at times reduced to 0% in places like Newcastle.


It’s a truism repeatedly spelt out across the land that the logic of privatisation, of self interest, has transformed our towns and city centre’s into glistening complexes of consumption, with shopping centres forming the nucleus of what we now paradoxically, perhaps even unconsciously recognise and utilize as the only remaining “public sphere.” One need only try to find somewhere sheltered to sit and eat a packed lunch in Glasgow city centre without having to enter a private business and buy something from them, in order to recognise the subtle inconveniences of this spatial transformation. Finding a quiet place to study is almost impossible without crossing the entire city to the Mitchell Library. This is due to the quality of smaller, local libraries which has plummeted and are truly lacking in resources and decent books, if they exist at all that is. Hosting an event like a reading group in a pub or other venue with friends is often a surprisingly expensive and difficult undertaking, best reserved for special occasions…


In this publicly restrictive privatised context then, rare spaces such as artist-led, publicly funded, community supported galleries can become islands of relative freedom. As I’ve already remarked, they can also more easily politicize local events affecting them or their community than the larger institutional behemoths can. But what do I mean by politicize here? Is it possible to say that the Free Market forum politicized it’s own problematic circumstances? The way that I had always conceived of the project in my own mind, perhaps overly romantically, related directly to my attempts at reading Hannah Arendt’s theory of Action. To be clear, I am not claiming that Free Market was an adequate manifestation of her theory! And yet thinking about her notion of action and  “space of appearance” did resonate and quietly maintain my interest during the forum’s organisation.

For Arendt, whose political philosophy; republicanism and civic humanism was deeply inspired by the classical political thought and practices of Ancient Greece and Rome, action is distinguished from both labour and work as fundamental parts of the “active life” (vita activa), which is opposed to the “contemplative life” (vita contemplativa). These are the two halves comprising what she referred to as the human condition. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy defines it:


“Arendt’s theory of action and her revival of the ancient notion of praxis represent one of the most original contributions to twentieth century political thought. By distinguishing action (praxis) from fabrication (poiesis), by linking it to freedom and plurality, and by showing its connection to speech and remembrance, Arendt is able to articulate a conception of politics in which questions of meaning and identity can be addressed in a fresh and original manner. Moreover, by viewing action as a mode of human togetherness, Arendt is able to develop a conception of participatory democracy which stands in direct contrast to the bureaucratized and elitist forms of politics so characteristic of the modern epoch.”


She uses the Ancient Greek polis as a metaphor for a public political space where people can organize, act and speak together and deliberate on issues of mutual concern. The polis therefore stands for the ‘space of appearance’, where individuals gather and through action (unlike the activities of labour and work) distinguish themselves from inanimate things or animals. Even though Arendt’s philosophical perspectives on action float conceptually and physically untethered from the humble realities of the small gathering we called the Free Market forum, there are still these very basic parallels to be drawn. It’s also important to recognise that her theory of action formed the philosophical cornerstone of another significant political theoretical development, which came to fruition in her book On Revolution, which offered a widely unacknowledged but potent critique of representative democracy in the form of her “Republic of Councils.” But taken simply in its philosophical abstractness, we can still see some similarities between Market Gallery’s forum, which drew together speakers and listeners who were asked to debate and contribute to a web of relationships, much in same way as Arendt’s ‘space of appearance.’ Finally, as Stanford Encyclopaedia summarises:


“It is always a potential space that finds its actualization in the actions and speeches of individuals who have come together to undertake some common project. It may arise suddenly, as in the case of revolutions, or it may develop slowly out of the efforts to change some specific piece of legislation or policy. Historically, it has been recreated whenever public spaces of action and deliberation have been set up, from town hall meetings to workers’ councils, from demonstrations and sit-ins to struggles for justice and equal rights.”


Admittedly the Free Market forum was more akin to a town hall gathering…but hopefully slightly more exciting…


Entry on Hannah Arendt, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/arendt/#ActPowSpaApp

Tom Holland (ex-committee member)



Where does Market Gallery fit in with all this reference to markets, financiers, superstructures and ideologies? Neil Gray’s talk again provided perhaps the most direct link here. We’ve already briefly noted how the “creative class” can be unwittingly instrumentalized by aggressive private enterprise and gradual gentrification programme’s under auspices of “redevelopment.`’ In Britain, particularly in London but in large cities elsewhere too, redevelopment has been a byword for social cleansing and the bulldozing of working class neighbourhoods in favour of “luxury apartments” and boutique hotels. It’s interesting how, whilst this sort of thing certainly has taken place in Glasgow, the deindustrialized city centre and eastern districts have largely experienced a more subtle form of gentrification. Central to Gray’s presentation was the notion of the “creativity fix” which: “represents a low cost, market friendly urban placebo, that is artfully scripted for today’s political and economic terrain.” […] “The seductiveness of creativity strategies must be understood in terms of a basic complementarity with prevailing neoliberal development fixes. Their compatibility with discretionary, selective and symbolic supply side policy making, which means tax breaks, gifted land, subsidies etc, for business and their conformity with the attendant array of development interests. Such fixes, perhaps especially in old industrial cities like Glasgow have more effect on the language and image of urban politics than on the mitigation of social and material inequalities.” […] “ The ‘Creative City’ thesis represents a soft policy fix for this neoliberal conjuncture making the case for modest and discretionary plastic funding while raising a favoured bundle of middle class lifestyles to the status of an urban redevelopment project.”


Much like the misguided conception of “trickle-down economics” favoured by staunchly neoliberal politicians, it has become apparent that the main thing being regenerated via ‘creativity fixes’ is the cash in the pockets of investors and real estate developers. It’s well over a decade since Richard Florida formulated these influential ideas in his book The Rise of the Creative Class, and the urban projects he inspired across Britain have now taken on a life of their own. They have not had any significant impact on reducing inequalities as Florida had hoped, nor have they generated social cohesion, or transformed neighbourhoods in ways that directly benefit local people. As Sam Wetherall’s recent Jacobin Magazine article explains: “Richard Florida is Sorry.” He “wants you to know that he got almost everything about cities wrong.” His new book is called: The New Urban Crisis: How Our Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class—and What We Can Do About It. Now “he argues that the creative classes have grabbed hold of many of the world’s great cities and choked them to death. As a result, the fifty largest metropolitan areas house just 7 percent of the world’s population but generate 40 percent of its growth. These “superstar” cities are becoming gated communities, their vibrancy replaced with deracinated streets full of Airbnbs and empty summer homes.”


OK, the east end of Glasgow is hardly one of these superstar Airbnb hotspots, but it has received its fair share of galleries, hipster coffee shops and studio spaces; most recently MANY Studios in the Barras for example. Older more established gallery spaces such as Market Gallery belong to the Blair years, when subsidies for large and medium scale artistic redevelopment ran wild across the country. “Tony Blair’s Labour government was particularly obsessed with turning factories into cultural attractions. In a fit of urban regeneration between 1998 and 2002, the United Kingdom constructed galleries in former industrial spaces all over the country, from London’s Tate Modern, housed in a former power station, to the BALTIC art gallery, an old flour mill in Gateshead, as well as the Manchester Lowry Museum and the Tate Liverpool, each built on former docks.” Yet the comparison of Market Gallery and the birth of institutions such as Tate Liverpool cannot be so lazily passed over. In Market Gallery’s case, the story is in many ways more complex; since, while it rode the wave of this national creativity fix gallery building trend, it was loaned property from Reidvale Housing Association, a once radical, entirely community owned housing project. The fact that these projects and creativity fixes, initiated during the Blair years have taken on a life of their own therefore also need to be adequately addressed by anyone seeking to research them, including Richard Florida himself.


It’s easy to criticize a space like Market Gallery as a trojan horse for gentrification, but such an analogy would miss the mark. The gallery remains rent-free due to Reidvale’s supportive and genuinely progressive arrangement that managed to recognise the need for culture within the Dennistoun community without any adoption of the profit motive, and regardless of any investment opportunity. The gallery is run for two years each by a rotating series of unpaid volunteer art graduates, who have most likely previously accrued a significant amount of debt in their effort to educate themselves (ok perhaps not so much if they are Scottish). Yes, many of them will come from middle class backgrounds, but as anyone who has been paying attention knows, the middle class has been in a state of partial collapse since the 2008 economic crash. The rising inequality affects everyone. It’s time for a more nuanced study and critique of the cultural sphere, especially for our time of low-paid service jobs, high competition, and insecure zero hours employment. For these problems, we don’t need a creativity fix… we need ‘a political economy fix.’


Access to quoted article here: ‘Richard Florida Is Sorry’ – Sam Wetherell, Jacobin Magazine: https://jacobinmag.com/2017/08/new-urban-crisis-review-richard-florida

(Tom Holland ex-committee member)


Laurie Macfarlane’s story of privatisation began by tracing the roots of neoliberalism and the beginnings of the free market ideology. He clearly described the historical shift from the Keynesian economic model (regulated markets and state intervention to curb the instability of the capitalist system), to the final overcoming of this system by a previously marginalised group of free market economists, consisting of figures such as Friedrich Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises. Although for many, the birth of neoliberalism came with Thatcher and Reagan’s implementation of these radical free market Hayekian doctrines within the 1970’s political sphere, it actually has a longer, more calculated history. As an economist giving a presentation about privatisation, its relationship to property, and finally, to Market Gallery’s property predicament, it’s understandable that the more pernicious aspects of the neoliberal project played only a background role in Macfarlane’s story. But it’s important to remember the class dynamic that propelled the doctrine, and the vested financial interests that enabled the Chicago School neoliberals to fund the creation of think tanks and lobby groups. It’s this aspect that is frequently left out of common definitions and uses of the term neoliberalism. Macfarlane rightly pointed out that it’s necessary to clearly define terms like neoliberalism, since it’s almost become jargon, lazily quoted in newspaper columns or blog posts such as this one. He called upon David Harvey, author of the influential A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005) for a precise outline, which alluded further to the multidimensional functioning of the neoliberal project:


“Neoliberalism is in the first instance a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade. The role of the state is to create and preserve an institutional framework appropriate to such practices. The state has no guarantee, for example, the quality and integrity of money. It must also set up those military, defence, police and legal structures and functions required to secure private property rights and to guarantee, by force if need be, the proper functioning of markets. Furthermore, if markets do not exist (in areas such as land, water, education, healthcare, social security, or environmental pollution) then they must be created, by state action if necessary. But beyond these tasks the state should not venture.”*

While there can hardly be any argument with this precise and encompassing description, the segment is abstract and does not answer the question of who is pulling the levers of state in this way. After all, the markets don’t function by themselves, nor are they in fact free in any strict sense. Infamously the state bailed out the banks during the 2008 economic crash for example; meaning that markets are able to be free for periods of time, until they need a cash injection from the taxpayer. Who benefited from this market rejuvenation? Who pulls the levers? Macfarlane pointed to how the Chicago School’s ideas were “adopted by the business community and wealthy industrialists.” He explained their relationship to neoliberal thought, that they “saw a way in this philosophy to relieve them of the tax regulations prevalent under the Keynesian model post-WWII. It provided an intellectual cover for them. So with the help of these industrialists the economists were able to form think tanks, and an international intellectual hub which came to be referred to as neoliberalism.” These few sentences revealed something about the enduring nature of power, and the ruling classes ability to eventually reconstitute itself and adapt in the face of state regulatory adversity. When so called liberal democratic parties, or even parties posing as “social democratic” embody neoliberal principles they almost by default uphold this contemporary ruling class of financiers. David Harvey refers to this relationship as “the state-finance nexus.” As it turns out, Harvey still offers one of the most scathing critiques of neoliberalism and its renewed forms of rampant capital accumulation and wealth extraction. During a recent panel discussion at The World Transformed Conference in Brighton, he provided a much more straightforward definition of neoliberalism than Macfarlane’s, and his own prior definition for that matter:


“Neoliberalism for me is very simple. It is a class project, and it was a class project from the very beginning, it was not about the market, it was about consolidating class power. It’s very interesting what’s happened, I tried to write that out in my Brief History of Neoliberalism, and there are lots of books coming out on neoliberalism right now; one tries to treat it as an ideology, another tries to treat it as about the market, about this and that, to the point where the concept becomes incoherent and half the people say you shouldn’t use it anymore. Which means ‘great, we don’t have to talk about the concentration of class power anymore’… Well fuck you that’s what we’ve got to talk about!”*


Laurie Macfarlane’s talk:

For David Harvey at The World Transformed:

Tom Holland (ex-committee member)