Ian Nesbitt: Ek-Uh-Nom-Iks
Working Notes #1
Last month I began working on the final Intersections project at Primary. It’s the last of four commissions that set out to ‘expand Primary’s activity beyond the boundaries of the building, engaging with people and places in the local area’. I’ve been interested in alternative economic structures for some time so I approached the Radford Skills Exchange, Nottingham’s Timebanking database, of which Primary is a member.
The principle of timebanking is very simple – for every hour that you spend sharing your skills you receive one time credit, which you can swap when you need something. One hour’s work equals one time credit – all skills have equal value. It works on an egalitarian system, where one hour of one person’s time is worth one hour of anyone else’s, regardless of their skill. For example, legal advice would be no more ‘valuable’ in this sense than going to the shops.
Coming to Primary on the back of a series of 6-9 month long artists commissions, mostly co-producing films with groups of local residents, I have been forced to the conclusion that it is impossible to imagine the creation of a sustainable network after the life of such a short project. Hence I had imagined this work as an intervention in an existing network, in this case the Skills Exchange. By physically exploring the hidden systems of community-building and mutual support indicated by information supplied by the database, the project would seek to re-imagine an area of the city using interpersonal and experiential rather than physical or bureaucratic as primary distinguishing factors. By meeting, learning from and sharing knowledge with existing and new members, a new map would emerge.
That was the plan anyway. A few weeks ago I found out that the Skills Exchange’s only paid worker was leaving, not to be replaced, so that, while the network still exists, it is in the precarious situation of having only 4 hours of paid work time a week dedicated to it. After an initial panic, I think it actually places whatever I do here in quite an interesting position.
I’ve spent my time since talking and meeting with people from a wide range of backgrounds – representatives of academic, faith, art, health, third sector, and anarchist organisations. I’m trying to establish what question or need it is that I’m trying to respond to now that the premise of the project has had to alter. In the process of doing that I’m hearing a lot of words repeated in different places. Precarity, Exclusion, Inclusion, Resilience, and Resistance are top of the list and have different meanings for different people. I’ve also visited some other local examples of alternative economies.
During the course of these visits and conversations I’ve somewhere come across a definition of Economics as ‘the study of choice in the presence of scarcity’, which I really like because it pushes a more encompassing idea of Economics as not necessarily financial, and makes it feel like this wider definition is something we all need to engage with in this place at this time. If one side of Economics is Capitalism, then can we say that its flipside (Ek-Uh-Nom-Iks) is represented by the Commons? If we can, then could my questions here be, for example: What is the Commons in this part of Nottingham? What is it that everyone has that they can share? And how do we share it?
After some initial drop-in sessions at Primary and The Nest in Radford during May, it felt like the most fruitful thing to do would be to provide a space to continue these conversations, so I’ve set up some working group meetings to shape the future of the project. These are open to all so feel free to drop-in for a cup of tea and find out a bit more.
Tuesday 14 June, 15.30 – 18.30 or Tuesday 12 July, 15.30 – 18.30
At Primary 33 Seely Road, Nottingham NG7 1NU
Wednesday 15th June, 15.30 – 18.30 or Wednesday 13th July, 15.30 – 18.30
At The Nest, 35 St Paul’s Terrace, Hyson Green, NG7 5ED