neil cummings


IndustrialTownFuturismIn 2006, as part of a group of artists, researchers and academics, I was invited to research and imagine the future centenary of two industrial towns; Wolfsburg and Nowa Huta.

The project was instigated and curated by Jakub Szreder and Martin Kaltwaser.

Both towns evolved from the middle of the 20th century, and both were planned around the image and function of the factory.

Since 1939 Wolfsburg has been the home and global headquarters of the Volkswagen Group, and since 1947 Nowa Huta developed around the formerly Lenin and now Sendzimira steelworks.

The Fordist-factory has dominated these towns.

For industrialtownfuturism we were invited to image the centenary of factory-towns. I turned my attention the 'market forces' that shape these cities and the re-emergence of the archaic social formation of the informal market.

At the opening of the exhibition in Nowa Huta I performed a presentation from the 16th October 2049, to an audience of Meshwork Marketeers,

The presentation performed a speculative future, and through a process of back-casting gave an account of the  disappearance of monopolized trade, and the reemergence of cooperative informal markets; like a virus suppressed by the bodies immune system, distributive markets are always awaiting the optimum conditions to flourish'

you can download an amended transcript [.pdf] The Return of Meshwork Markets.



The Return of Meshwork  Markets


Its great to be with your Network of Market Traders as part of your Centenary Celebrations here in Nowa Huta.

And thanks to the organizers Jakub Szreder and Martin Kaltwaser for inviting me to address you this evening.

On looking back,
It was the collapse of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) trade talks in May 2006, that was the beginning of the end of a competitive global market.

After five years of intense negotiation developing countries were outraged at the way in which the interests of Europe, Japan and the US were being used to intimidate them into singing up to a viciously unfair, new round of ‘Free Trade’ agreements.

The competitive Global marketplace - what used to be referred as The Market - exploited the poorest people and expropriated their resources, while GATT’s enforcement arm the Multinational Trade Organization (MTO) - known colloquially as the Free Trade Police (FTP) - enforced its agreements with extensive global powers and brutal trade sanctions.

Most sub-Saharan African Trade ministers walked out in disgust, citing the coupling of a ‘development agenda’ to the opening of their local markets to the competitive global ‘Free Trade” market, as simply corrupt. [...]



The goal of the Free Market experiment, delivered through a raft of the transnational organizations – of which GATT was the most powerful- was to eradicate these cooperative social markets.

And for almost two hundred years the US-Japan-European vision of the global, homogeneous, competitive, ‘free’ Market dominated world-wide exchange.

Now no-one would want to deny The Markets role in the development of legal and economic instruments – like the mortgaging of assets- that perfected aspects of competitive trade.

And no one would want to deny the benefits competitive markets can bring in the development and delivery of certain goods and services.

The ideological mistake was to see The Market as a universal technology, and, consequently to reconfigure the whole world ecology as its plaything.

To imagine the world as The Market is to invite our own alienation from it.

Ultimately the clash of ideologies that GATT intended to manage, managed itself. Ideological faith in The Market as a force for good, enabling billions of people to escape poverty, bring social harmony and provide the best use scarce resources was exposed as an abject failure.[...]



Meshwork Markets

An ecology is not controlled by a genetic program – like a species - it integrates a variety of animals and plants, food and energy into a web of related interests, interlocking them as a network.

The result, a decentralized assemblage of heterogeneous components closely mirrors the dynamics of our cooperative local - and true - market.

Cooperative markets allow the interaction of people, animals, plants, goods, products, knowledge, resources, energy and waste to be interlocked by complementary interests.

These markets are sustainable, self-organized and decentralized structures: they arise spontaneously without the need for central planning, and evolve through a kind of creative drift, through following the convergence of resources, needs and desire.

Cooperative markets are based on mutuality. They operate agonistically, meaning that the aim of participants is not to destroy one another (antagonism), but like wrestlers wrestling, recognise the reciprocity necessary in any exchange.[...]


Download an amended transcript [.pdf] The Return of Meshwork Markets.


Meshworks was a term coined by a 20th century cultural theorist Manuel De Landa in book entitled A Thousand Years of Non-Linear History Zone Books New York 2000


The research and presentation was the seed for Museum Futures, Self Portrait: Arnolfini and More Things

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Tadeusz Sendzimir Steelworks
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31-974 Kraków

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