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AN INTRODUCTION: I Object

Is there any more valid standard by which to judge a system of social organization than the general level of satisfaction it enables? By this yardstick, current conditions are intolerable!!
I propose a different way.
I can't deny the legitimacy of certain satisfactions to be gained from modern market capitalism. One's physical experience of a sweatshop-made garment or product can remain positive and fulfilling, even when one is mindful of the hypocrisy and global structural violence embodied by these commodities. Mass-produced objects can also be contextualized in a way that makes them into unique personal statements. The contradictory nature of these experiences remains for the most part unacknowledged, vaguely unsettling, and though there exists
within this structure an easily consumed world of comfort and distraction for some of us, for many more the reality is harder to ignore.
Our objects are a concrete expression of our culture. Production, exchange, and distribution of commodities are the driving forces of culture. Production especially is deeply linked with the structure of society. This fact gives us a lens through which to consider this
global market economy, in which seductive objects are hastily made by near slave-labor to be impetuously consumed and swiftly discarded.
But more importantly, we can become object producers ourselves. We can aspire to recapture the reins of our immediate modes of production and exchange, and then the fact of commodities as agents of culture holds great power.
If we take control of production we are taking that power back.
This is a path for those of us who would non-violently change society: change its commodities, its understanding of production, of distribution and exchange. Even the way we relate to things personally. Do you have a sweater or other garment made for you by a relative or close friend? How does that feel to use when compared with something from a store? Imagine if, rather than wearing blinders to remain ignorant of the grotesque production processes that made all of your stuff, you could celebrate and enjoy the vision of its creation you hold in your mind like
that grandmother-knit sweater! What if you could feel that warmth for each item in your household: clothes, plates, chairs, blankets, bicycles? Each thing imbued with an awareness of its loving, familiar source. And what if it was all free? You could ask for anything you needed, knowing that your own contribution was likewise used with respect and care.
This is basically the life I envision and propose.
I aim to inspire change: to advocate strongly for a gentler, more direct and honest way of living and making. Together we can build a world the likes of which have never before been seen in this world. The tools are in your hands. To get in touch, call me, Travis Meinolf, at (415) 948-8197, or e-mail travismeinolf at yahoo dot com.

next: STRATEGY: FREE MARKET

STRATEGY: Free Market

Harnessing the manufacture and distribution of goods has been a revolutionary strategy for some time, and has in many cases involved that most humble of commodities: cloth.
Control of the production and use of this material that is so necessary for social well-being and expression has been central in historical examples of colonial exploitation, as well as resistance to it. Regaining local cotton spinning and weaving practices in India was a key part of Mahatma Gandhi's non-violent independence movement, which eventually gained independence for that country. Centuries earlier, during the American Revolution, a similar strategy was used to boycott the importation of British produced cloth. In both cases, it was hand weaving on an individual scale that symbolized national self-sufficiency and independence from imperialism. This can be our initial tactic as well.
Textiles' importance in society cannot be overstated. We wrap ourselves in them 24 hours a day and use them to express allegiances and position ourselves in society. Our experience of them is also profoundly sensory in nature. You are touching cloth right now if you notice it. Textile production is likewise a sensual experience. Measuring out various fibers, feeling their textures as they
slide through your fingers, holding bundles of yarn, feeling the taut surface of your just-woven cloth on the loom; even the burning ache of your lower back after hours of bent-over threading of the loom, the stinging in your shoulders after throwing the shuttle back and forth a thousand times that tells you to stop, these sensations seduce with an offer of satisfaction absent in other endeavors.
As in the historical examples mentioned above, when this human-scale sensory experience of production is understood as an expression of political and philosophical will, it inspires intense dedication and it will make change. We can gather materials and tools and make things ourselves, slowly gaining momentum, starting with simple staples like Blankets and Bread. As commodities of our Gentle Nation, they would be offered free to all who need them, with innovative options left open to cope the realities of operating within the current capitalist structure. The space that we create for this Free Market would belong to all who share the vision: the free exchange of products of labor freely engaged in. It can be in any open Storefront, for a day in a Park, or in a Museum. Anywhere that people can collect the tools and materials and arrange for somebody to demonstrate their use, things can be made and distributed in this manner. This is a way to begin.
I aim to inspire change: to advocate strongly for a gentler, more direct and more honest way of living and making. Together we can move towards a future the likes of which have never before been seen or imagined. The tools are in your hands. To get in touch, call me, Travis Meinolf, at (415) 948-8197, or e-mail travismeinolf at yahoo dot com.

next: ILLUSTRATION: BLANKET OFFER

ILLUSTRATION: Blanket Offer

A project illustrates, on a small scale, my proposal of a Free Market, where people can learn to make things and everything is free for the taking. While working towards a Master's Degree at California College of the Arts I have used some materials and time granted me to produce wool blankets for People Who are Cold.
My own knowledge of the intended outcome of these commodities: to be offered freely to all, with only the request they be used for warmth: this made the weaving a pleasure. Over the past year I've made 20 such blankets, distributing them in various ways, but with this idea of the Power of the Gift central to each project. This makes the labor a pleasure, because with my actions I create movement, extending my agency through the product of my hands and my hours.
This work is Art, of course, and I have neglected that important fact. The blankets are created in my Art Studio, and I stack them as an installation to be taken from a gallery, or put them on the street and document the "action". The art context allows me to perform this politically charged labor and present the alternative distribution situation where it will be considered deeply. The Gallery or Museum, especially at present, is a space for this type of experimentation. Current trends of "participatory" or"engaged" artwork seem perfectly suited to the recapture of the production of meaning through commodity production, providing a living example of how such a pursuit feels. This fact has made me consider expanding the project.
The license granted an artist/teacher will allow me to have a relational art practice that involves engaging with groups and individuals and encouraging them to tap into their own productive capacities. In the Gallery, the University, or the Park, I encourage people to celebrate the potential that lies within each of us to create objects which function in a real, physical sense. We also explore how these things and the processes used to produce them can operate as political and aesthetic statements.
This potential is not relegated to the textile field alone, but I'll initially use cloth production because no other human artifact has its everyday-ness and no other technique its sensuous appeal. The free distribution of these objects will be the ultimate statement of the action, and a starting point for a Free Market that will provide all the basic needs of our community.
I aim to inspire movement: to advocate strongly for a gentler, more direct and honest way of living and making. Together we can build a world the likes of which have never before been seen. The tools are in your hands. To get in touch, call me, Travis Meinolf, at (415) 948-8197, or e-mail travismeinolf at yahoo dot com.

next: THE GIFT OF ART


THE GIFT OF ART

The economy I advocate for is a Truly Free Market, distributing the products of local artisans and those who would learn from them to any who need them. It has been argued that in gift economies objects exchanged act as purveyors of meaning, inferring social connection and responsibility among the participants.
This is in contrast to the distancing effect of direct-value exchange through currency. I propose an economy of "gift-commodities" where all of our objects embody connections to community, in opposition to the modern options of ignorance, alienated consumption or some type of ironic (self-conscious) collusion in global exploitation. People could spend time learning different technical skills, practicing making blankets, baskets, bicycles, bread, and everything we made while learning would go to people who needed it! You'd be invited to return and do whatever you found most gratifying, and take anything you needed as well.
These themes again suggest the art world as the perfect incubator for such a project. Objects as vehicles of relation; participation and conviviality; and the incorporation of distribution methodologies into the meaning of the action; these are concepts explored in modern art-critical discourse which also have significance within the Gentle Revolution that I propose. By changing our production and distribution of commodities I intend to alter the very structure of our society, and if at first it can only be in the microcosm of the gallery, so be it.
The notion that the relations involved in contemporary artwork's existence can be a formal focus is advantageous as well. This allows the gallery to become a space of radical play; Artists are, as critic and curator Nicolas Bourriaud points out, "no longer imagining Utopias, they are constructing concrete spaces." I, of course, tend to do both. But the popularity of this type of work enables the initiation of projects that would be otherwise unfeasible, and it suggests a "thick" reading of the act, implicating materials sourcing, production, and viewers' potential for engagement in the overall critique of the work. Pragmatically, since this anti-capitalist venture must at its start exist within a capitalist structure, the art world allows a means to support it in a perhaps not too-hypocritical way. Those who are inclined to contribute to the cause financially and appreciate the endeavor as artwork can purchase it: house a distribution space for our goods in return for a fee equivalent a Fine Art Sculpture. Galleries and museum spaces can be opened up to these demonstration and production actions as contemporary installation, with the free distribution totally in line with recent practices in the art world.
This brings me to the ultimate phase of my current project: looms to be used in the production of these Common Goods.
I aim to inspire movement: to advocate strongly for a gentler, more direct and honest way of living and making. Together we can build a world the likes of which have never before been seen. The tools are in your hands. To get in touch, call me, Travis Meinolf, at (415) 948-8197, or e-mail travismeinolf at yahoo dot com.

next: THE CRYSTAL LASER KITE LOOM/CARDBOARD POCKET LOOM OF THE FUTURE, TODAY!!

THE CRYSTAL LASER KITE LOOM/
CARDBOARD POCKET LOOM OF THE FUTURE TODAY!!

In this series of posters I have described my ongoing art project, "Blanket Offer", wherein the alternative distribution of hand woven blankets is presented in a Gallery or on the Street.
The viewer is offered a wool blanket, for free, if they need it to keep warm. Its hand-production is merely alluded to, though that amplifies the situation of exchange, since a great deal of labor went into those blankets.
I have also taken the large floor loom I use in my studio to Galleries and Museums, Parks and Street Corners to present the production process directly to casual observers. And in a Classroom setting, I've helped teach students to weave. Both of these activities are valuable, continuing parts of my practice. I am especially interested in the shift of perspective which I have seen accompany technical understanding, and the almost viral spread of that informed point of view. Yet, out in the world, as I have sat at the loom and explained its use, I have seen that this explanation only alienates some observers from the process, since this Useful Mechanical Device is so arcane and massive.
This is why I have developed two Simple Weaving Units, and plan to present them to One and All, offering both the product and the process for free.
The first unit consists of a simple piece of clear acrylic, cut using lasers. 144 threads pass through holes in the plastic, forming the warp of the fabric to be woven. The threads extend from the wall or some other anchor, through the clear acrylic weaving implement to a bar that can be strapped to the participant, whose body completes the mechanism-- just as their engagement in the activity of weaving completes this Social Sculpture. Simple instructional diagrams describe the loom's use; as a combination of fairly intuitive weaving tools from many cultures it is a fairly simple and satisfying activity. This engagement and leisurely production of cloth is the art, though at rest the loom, hanging off the wall from the threads that it allows you to manipulate, is quite beautiful and aesthetic statement. The finished fabric produced will be beautiful and warm, but, importantly, it will also be incorporated into the gift economy relational structure, sewn into blankets or garments to be distributed in a Free Market.
The second weaving rig is the cardboard pocket loom. It is cut flat and folds into a little packet, but when threaded and assembled according to the included instructions, it will produce a simple strip of cloth.
These serve as introductions, tastes of the liesurely production we could all enjoy.
As I have outlined, this is only the preliminary foray into free production of all goods necessary for a community. Though supported initially as a fine art venture, this project will gently gain momentum, generating movement throughout the land towards a system of Global Free Trade. The tools are in your hands. To get in touch, call me, Travis Meinolf, at (415) 948-8197, or e-mail travismeinolf at yahoo dot com.