On Site Projects

community, ecology and cultural activism

If the city were a commons

An alternative arts development programme

Dundee Live and Scottish Dance Theatre, 2011.

Dundee Live, with Scottish Dance Theatre, 2011

If the city were a commons what would it look like, taste like, sound like, feel like, and smell like? How would artists and other creative individuals develop their skills and hone their practice?

(Actually they might create a Dundee Commons Festival.)

Through a series of artists talks, workshops, field trips, residencies, and reading groups, On Site Projects offers the provocation that the city is a commons – if only we dare.

Exploring the relationship between art and society the programme offers a year-long critical framework to share, renew and develop individual and collective art practices in an engaging and supportive environment.

Everyone is an artist – so everyone is welcome.

On Site Projects, If the City were a Commons, Dundee Commoners, 2015

Some of the regular Dundee Commons folk out and about exploring the Dundee Commons, 2014

WHEN: Commencing on 30th September 2014 and from thereon fortnightly between 7-10pm.

WHERE: Roseangle Arts Cafe, 132 Perth Road, DD1 4JW.

NOTE: The venue and regularity of meetings are subject to change. Please see below for dates and programme details.

Programme details (developed in conversation with participants):


July 21st: In response to a number of issues arising from the Dundee Commons Festival we’ll be discussing the ethics of corporate sponsorship and product placement as it relates to arts and culture more broadly. We’ll also be considering tagging as a form of branding and its relation to public space and personal voice. For background viewing see 1, 2, and a site visit to the hoardings running from the direction of Magdalen Playpark to Dundee Science Centre.

July 7th: Tonight we’ll be exploring commons travel, community gardens and labyrinths. Meeting at Roseangle we’ll be heading to Ninewells Community Garden – variously on bike, foot, bus, and in the Commons camper van – for a tour with Sarah Griffiths before moving on to the Maggie Centre labyrinth. There’ll be lots to experience and reflect upon.

June 23rd: Tonight we’ll be meeting and moving with Roundabout Collective to consider and experience the dance-based aspect of the Dundee Commons Festival.

June 9th: Making the most of the lighter evenings we’ll be meeting at Roseangle Arts Cafe before stepping out into the Commons. This week we’ll be discussing two texts in the open air: an interview with Massimo De Angelis and Stavros Stavrides alongside a chapter from Lucy Lippard’s Lure of the Local. (For copies of the latter please email JB.) If you’re running late you’ll probably find us on Magdalen Green or in the bandstand.

May 26th: Today we’ll be developing the festival programme through the practice of walking and mapping. We’ll join Tina Scopa on her proposed festival walk after which Joanna Forster will lead us in a visual mapping of the programme to date. To reflect on these activities – their connections and disconnections – Robert Smithson’s Theory of Non-Sites is a recommended read.

May 12th: The deadline for Commons proposals are due this week. We’ll be thinking about commons curation and reflecting on a text by Maria Lind. (If you’re not on the mailing list and you’d like a copy of the text please send JB an email.) We’ll also be discussing the recent election and watching Welfare Cuts: Impact and Action in Our Community by one of our Commons partners.

April 28th: This week we’ll be discussing the Dundee Commons Festival, establishing dates and hearing suggestions for the programme.

April 14th: Reading week

March 31st: In this workshop Caroline Gausden will consider feminist inspired responses to the idea of commons, looking particularly at two projects initiated by artists within the field of social practice. Both the current Sick Sick Sick Readers project initiated by Glasgow based Emma Balkind and Laura Edbrook and the online Women’s Audio Archive initiated by Marysia Lewandowska approach concepts of commons through the question of missing and repressed histories. By looking through their research methodologies it’s hoped the workshop will approach other narratives of missing history that can feed into new imaginings of common futures. (Caroline Gausden is a PhD researcher at Gray’s School of Art writing on feminist manifestos and social art practice.)

17th March: Off site reading and proposal development week. A useful starting point might be Daphne Dragona’s Artists as Commoners in the Years of Indebtedness.

3rd March: This week we’ll be hearing about three age-related proposals for the Dundee Commons Festival – by Kate Clayton, Neil Crutchley and Owen Daily – watching and discussing Andy Wightman’s Conquest, Colonialism and the Commons, and joining Jeannette Ginslov in some movement research for her own Dundee Commons Festival proposal.

17th February: Joanna Foster will lead this week’s workshop, ‘Opening Up the City through Story and Song’, a gathering and harvesting to help us think collectively about stories in the city and the way we journey through story and song. Please bring a story or song to share. A story can be anything – an experience of your own that relates to, or took place in, Dundee, a story or song you know about Dundee, or perhaps your vision for the city.

3rd February: In part one we’ll be reading and discussing two texts, Klein’s Reclaim the Commons and Sennett’s Open City. In part two we’ll be mapping out proposals for the Dundee Commons Festival.

20th January: ‘If the City were a Commons I would …’ a post-holiday catch-up and planning session for 2015 plus a community screening of ‘The Great Tay Road Bridge Mystery’ – a documentary exploring some of the historical background relating to Dundee’s ongoing waterfront development.


9th December: Reflecting on discussions to date, this week we’ll be co-devising the 2015 programme. This session will be framed by three questions: how big is here? how long is now? who is here now? (Download David Hayley’s article for a discussion of these ‘ennobling questions’.)

CHANGE TO SCHEDULE – SATURDAY 6th December 11am – 4pm: Karen Spy, Jonathan Baxter, Gerry O’Brien, and Tom Wallace will explore the related themes of ‘home’ and ‘education’ as they relate to the commons and contemporary art practices.

11th November: Gemma Lawrence will introduce her work with Creative Carbon Scotland and explore the relationship between participatory art practices and sustainable development. Gemma’s talk will be followed by a workshop exploring participatory decision-making and asset mapping.

28th October: Ellie Harrison will discuss how her art practice has developed in response to climate change and what bearing this has upon her understanding of the commons. Holly Keasey, from the Generator Committee, will give a talk at Generator about their latest exhibition, VIEW, and how Generator provides an artists’ commons in the city. (The after-talk sauna is optional.)

14th October: Tara Chaloner, Lesley Kamel, Duncan McLaren, James Murphy, and Gerry O’Brien will introduce examples of artworks, theory, and poetry that shed light on the commons theme: expect PowerPoint artworks, Common Weal conversations, gossip about philosophers, insights relating to Paul Noble’s Hobson Newtown, and the line: ‘Petals, on a wet, black bough.’

30th September: Introduction to the programme and to one another – facilitated by Jonathan Baxter.

If the City were a Commons is supported by The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and The Foyle Foundation as part of The Art of Living Dangerously, a year-long programme offered by Fleet Collective. If you’d like to learn more about that programme please contact Fleet Collective directly.













































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