Blog

Update on construction, organization, finances

I started working on the Foundry in March 2018, driven by a desire to detach from certain institutional confines and increase self-reliability, but also by the conviction that the systems that govern the world are structurally unable to solve some of the problems the world faces (climate change, growing inequality) and that there is a need for spaces that exist outside the confines of market and university. My hope is that the criticality that is increasingly relegated to the margins of the artistic and academic establishment is nurtured in these spaces that exist in a position of relative exteriority – spaces that Foucault might have called heterotopia.

In the beginning, the circumstances at the Foundry were far from hospitable. It was cold and wet, we had no hot water or electricity, and if you wanted to use the toilet, you had to dig a hole. But much has changed since then, and now we have a fully equipped restaurant kitchen, six bathrooms, a garden for herbs and vegetables, and by late October we should have eleven finished bedrooms. Much remains to be done: walls need to be pointed; a lot of the wood needs to be treated; there’s some areas that have not been made inhabitable yet; at some point, we want to make a large theater / cinema space in the worst part of the big house (on a floor that currently has a five degree inclination); and we could use some more furniture. But the work of the circa 100 people that have visited and helped out since 2018 has transformed what was once an aristocratic manorhouse into a form of what Kristin Ross might call communal luxury.

In August 2019, we had our first event: a one week workshop called Thinking Figuratively. This was a test run of sorts: the call was not widely circulated and there were few participants, but the discussions were lively, and next year we might do another round. Other events that are being planned for next year are a workshop on artificial intelligence and one on collaboration in contemporary classical music (both were originally planned for this year), and I myself am trying to set up a research project on the history of iron in the region (ironworks were contentious sites for their often unsustainable exploitation of firewood; the question “to whom does the forest belong?” was already being posed in the 18th century, indicating a point where green politics and class struggle intersect long before Marx was born and the concept of ecology was invented). None of these events are fixed yet, and we are open to other suggestions; people can also propose events aqui.

Until now, the project has been funded by a felicitous bitcoin investment, but that money is quickly running out, and now that the space is comfortable to live in, we need to think of other ways to make the Foundry financially sustainable. We have avoided structural funding as it might jeopardize our independence and increase the bureaucratic workload: nobody likes to be evaluated. But we also hope that a project like this can do without a fixed budget, as the operating costs are relatively low: we have no staff, the car costs maybe 150 euros a month (insurance, repairs, fines), electricity around 100 euros, gas for heating 50 euros, insurance, taxes, repairs… around 500 euros a month should cut it. If we take 10 euros per night for accommodation, we can cover our expenses with only two paying guests, which seems a realistic aim. Of course, there are further renovations we could start working on if we get more guests (or volunteers), and as I would like to be able to keep working on the project without getting another job, at some point I might need a subsistence salary, possibly in the form of rent. But if the space is used, modest accommodation fees should be able to cover our expenses.

So next year we will start charging accommodation fees. The question is what those fees will include, as this year the organization of expenses for food turned out to be unexpectedly difficult: there were lengthy discussions over how many euros per day people should chip in if we share groceries, and about what groceries should be included (do alcohol, meat and chocolate go in the shared budget if some don’t drink or eat meat?). To avoid these discussions in the future, I see two options: 1. people take care of their own food and can group together if they wish; 2. we take a flat fee (of maybe 15 euros) for accommodation and food that includes everything (even chocolate and cheap wine). I prefer the second option, but in the end this should probably be a communal decision.

There are some other ideas about funding the project: we could rent out the space for yoga retreats, music festivals, etc; we could take donations; we could set up a membership system (which has some legal advantages as well). And, while we have not pursued structural funding, people who organize something at the Foundry can apply for grants to support their project; I myself am trying to get funding for the iron investigation. If it works out we might set up a small iron workshop in 2020.

Later this year, we aim to set up an association, so that the Foundry becomes a legal entity with a bank account. How this entity will be governed is not clear yet, but the main aim is to manage the site in a more decentralized manner without losing track of the project’s initial aims. If someone want to be more actively engaged in this process, feel free to get in touch. Of course, in the end the project is not shaped by legal structures or lofty ideas, but by the work that is being done on the ground, whether this is the work of organizing, of gardening, or of construction. I would like to thank everyone who helped out until now for their support.

Call for Applications: Thinking Figuratively: Workshop at the Foundry 21-28 August 2019

The activity of sense-making often, if not always, requires a transposition of complex concepts into simpler figures, whether as figures of thought, or figures on a page — whether by speaking of the mind as “a machine” and the faculties as “toolkits,” or by diagramming knowledge as a “tree.” This workshop seeks to interrogate closely the cognitive and material practices that comprise such figuration, and thereby arrive at a clearer definition of the figurative and its status in concept formation.

Is there a “literal thinking” to which we may contrast “figurative thinking,” or does all thought rely on figures and analogies? What does it mean to externalize thought materially in the form of diagrams and notational practices? How do paper notebooks, phones, voice memo apps, and other technologies that permit cognitive offloading shape our thinking? In short, what does it mean to conceive of one thing in terms of and through another? By addressing such questions, we aim to go beyond a facile distinction between the literal and metaphorical. To do so, we will be reading and discussing selected texts from anthropology, art history, philosophy, literature, media studies, and cognitive linguistics. Part of the week will be reserved for optional presentations of personal research projects, if participants happen to have a project relevant to the workshop theme.

We are committed to maintaining an open and inclusive space for thought and creativity. To that end, the workshop will take place from 21-28 August at the Bravos Foundry in the vicinity of Viveiro, Spain, about 10 km from the Atlantic coast. The Foundry is a new non-profit space for intellectuals and artists seeking to create outside of the institutional confines of market and university. Against the abstraction and commodification of intellectual labor, the site stresses that critical thinking is a way of living rooted in local engagements with one another and with the environment. Time will therefore be set aside during the week to explore the forests and beaches around the Foundry with one another, and participants are encouraged to prepare and take meals together, allowing conversations to flow outside of the seminar room and seep into the fabric of everyday life.

Anticipated Readings will include (but are not limited to):

Douglas Hofstadter
George Lakoff
Martin Heidegger
Eva Feder Kittay
Eleanor Rosch
Barbara Stafford
Philippe Descola
Gerard Genette
WJT Mitchell

A digital reader will be distributed to the participants.

Accommodation:

Costs for the whole week are 150 euros. This includes food, drinks and accommodation. The Foundry does not have any staff, so dinner will be prepared communally. Participants should be aware that the Foundry is 1) a rural space; 2) a space in progress. The closest town, Viveiro, is approximately 10 kilometers away. There are a car and a bike on site that people are free to use when they are available. Construction is ongoing and there will be some private rooms available by late August, but depending on the number of participants, some might have to share a room. Camping is also an option. Bathrooms are currently under construction; there is hot water, an outdoor shower and a compost toilet, and we hope six more bathrooms will be functioning by August. Some pictures of the buildings and on-site features as of May 2019 may be found at the following link: https://adobe.ly/2I36SIY. As the construction of the Foundry is a communal effort, there is the possibility of having accommodation fees waived in return for staying some more days to work at the Foundry.

Participants will be picked up in Viveiro; for travel options to Viveiro, see http://bravosfoundry.com/basic-information/

If people arrive at the same time and there is no good connection by public transport, there may be a possibility to be picked up from Santiago or a Coruña airport by car.

Apart from organizing workshops, the Foundry offers affordable retreats for writers and artists. If you are interested in staying longer at the Foundry apart from the workshop, please state this in your application. Accommodation fees are currently 6 euros per night. Note that there will be a summer closing party at the Foundry on the 30th of August (and a summer closing festival in Viveiro the week before).

Applications:

We welcome applications from thinkers and artists at any stage in their career. Please write ca. 300 words describing your interest in the subject, and provide separately information on any relevant background and training (e.g., a short biography, a CV, a link to your website, etc.). If you have a personal research project you would like to present, please also provide a short abstract of up to 500 words articulating its relevance to the workshop theme. Please send your applications by the 8th of July to figurationfoundry@gmail.com.

Workshop Organizers:

Hansun Hsiung is a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. His work addresses themes of media, epistemology, and communications within the context of the global nineteenth century.

Roland Bolz is pursuing a PhD in philosophy on the subject of analogical thinking and its relevance to philosophical concept formation. He is also interested in humor theory and continental philosophy.

First event: Collective Encounter

From July 29 until August 2, Joshua Fineberg (composer), Michelle Lou (composer/performer/sound artist), Christian Smith (performer – percussion) and Jared Redmond (composer/performer – piano) will be hosting an exploration of collaboration in the arts (with an emphasis on sound). More info on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/bravoslaboratory/

Preparing the garden for the summer

Last year we started a vegetable garden at the foundry and in August a group of German students came to analyze the soil and to plan a structure for the space. The garden is in an area with a slight slope so the conclusion was to build terraces for the vegetable garden. The work was very good and we finished building one terrace last summer.

In the spring the main work will be to reshape the slope into as many terraces as we have manpower for. A greenhouse for germination and vegetation is planned. End of April beginning of May the weather gets significantly much warmer and planting outside in the soil can begin.

The work will start in the beginning of April and we are grateful for every pair of hands that come and help us move dirt and stone. All experience of farming, gardening, permaculture and the likes is welcomed in a spirit of collaboration.

We want to produce clean and sustainable food for our volunteers and guests for the summer 2019.

We have a small collection of seeds, received as a gift from Synergistic Farm in Finland and are looking for more interesting seeds. For next season we currently have the following seeds (all from Synergistic Farm):

Garlic seeds (mixed variety)
Radish: plum (spring radish)
Quinoa: chadmo
Melon: farthest north galia
Asia green mix: tatsoi, komatsuma, tendergreen, chirimen hakusai
Barley: Arabian blue
Pea: rokka
Pumpkins: candy roaster (Georgia)
Pumpkins: amazonka
Chili: Chinese five colors
Cucumber: early future
Cucumber: tendergreen burpless
Tomato: slava (Russian early)
Burdock: Japanese
Watermelon: sweet Siberian (Russian heirloom)

Come join our team in beautiful Galicia!

Awaiting eagerly the spring.
Love and light from Finland,
Beni

The Foundry, year two: status update and call for proposals

In March 2018, we first moved to the Foundry. Since then, we’ve had around 50 people, working on the space as well as on their own projects. We have undone some of the damage done by decades of abandonment, and while much remains to be done, by next summer the space will be ready for events. The bathrooms will be finished, and depending on our progress, there will be 10 to 15 usable bedrooms. If some people camp, share a room, or sleep in the church, we will be able to host at least 20 people (this number will double in the coming years).

For 2019, we are planning the following activities (not all of them are confirmed yet):
-April and May are building months: everyone who wants to help can stay for free, and food will be provided. In April, we will build a greenhouse and prepare our vegetable garden. In May, we will build a kitchen and prepare several bedrooms. Throughout the year construction will continue in a less intense way.
-In late July / early August, Joshua Fineberg and Jared Redmond will help lead a week-long exploration of new musical art as a collective activity. Structured discussions, “happenings”, and group creation will explore the way collaboration and action affect our modes of listening, possibilities for sonic creativity, and feelings of artistic ownership.
-In August we’ll do one or two weeks filled with more academic seminars and discussions. Hansun Hsiung has proposed leading a workshop titled “The Scientific Image: Epistemologies and Ontologies,” but other than that, the contents are still unclear, and suggestions are welcome. Part of the academic program can also be improvised with reading groups and discussions that are organized on the spot.
-Hilan Bensusan is preparing a cycle to explore the future of capital in the context of artificial intelligences, the saga of nihilism, the pitfalls of prometheism and the prospects for the commons. It will bring together artists, philosophers, activists and victims of the pace of capital to reflect on how the present is being shaped. The first event will probably take place in July or September.
-From 22 to 24 August there will be a three day electronic music festival. A field across the river will serve as a campsite, everyone who volunteered can come for free, and 200 tickets will be sold for 50 to 80 euros each (we are still calculating the costs). If you want to DJ, please let us know.

A more concrete schedule with dates and contents will follow in the coming months. But in line with the communal nature of the project, we also want to call upon those interested in organizing or hosting an event to reach out to us. We are working hard to make the Foundry inhabitable again, operating on the premise that there is a need for a space that operates outside the university and art schools, that it is possible to run this space without the bureaucracy and institutionalization linked to state funding, and that situating this space in the countryside will facilitate an intellectual and creative intensity that is different from what one finds in the city. Now, it is time to test this premise. So if you have suggestions for the academic weeks, if you want to propose an event – workshop, reading group, performance, whatever – or even if you just need a place to work on your own project: please get in touch.

Finally, a note on costs. The Foundry will always be non-profit, but we do want to transition to a model in which operating costs are covered by accommodation fees. To begin that transition, from April onwards, we will charge the following fees:
If you come to help with the site or are organizing an event: free.
If you come to work on your own project or to attend an event: 6e per night, or 150e per month.
If your stay is paid for by a grant, institution or company: 15e per night, or 400e per month.
Accommodation fees do not include food. Generally we organize food together; 3 to 5 euros per day is reasonable, depending on diet and harvest. We want to keep the Foundry as cheap as possible, so we have no staff; guests are expected to take care of the space together.

Ni dieu ni maître!

Brief update (4)

This summer, we stayed at the Foundry with up to twelve people; the space handled that number without problems. It will be permanently inhabited throughout the winter. Next year it will be ready for events.

By late spring or early summer we can probably host 15 to 20 people if some are ok sharing a room; many more if people camp. It would be great to do a thematic summer school or some workshops. If people have suggestions or want to organize something, please get in touch.

We might also end next summer with a larger festival. More info in the next few months.

Thanks to everyone for an amazing summer, and especially to the MamaSoil people for the terraces!