THE LABORATORY OF COMMON INTEREST
The Laboratory of Common Interest was a year-long work, produced with individuals and groups across Limerick city, including artists, activists, community organisers, women's groups, men's shed, academics, students, trade unionists and small businesses. A dialogical process culminated in an experimental, public event space that ran from 15th – 27th April 2019, timed to coincide with the centenary of the Limerick Soviet, a 12-day takeover of the city centre by workers protesting the occupation of the city by British forces and the conditions of labour under capitalism, in 1919 .
Action #17: The Living Commons; collective design workshop at The Laboratory of Common Interest, Saturday 27th April, 2019.
The collective of people and groups assembled for The Laboratory of Common Interest worked together to make spaces of exchange shaped by values of the Commons. The emerging social movement of the Commons is an ecosystem of value production based on principles of anti-enclosure. It is also an action concept; the commons come into being through practices of 'commoning' at micro- and macro-scales. Different kinds of infrastructures (social, aesthetical and material) were put in place to support a reimagining of 'the “we” and the “world” that is amongst us’ (Marina Garcés, 2009: 207) in the context of a shift to a Commons paradigm.
The Laboratory of Common Interest was a 'real-time composition', exploring themes of alternative economies, modes of commoning and the politics of bodies, inspired by the centenary of the Limerick soviet. It manifested publicly as an event-space (April 15th - 27th 2019), an assemblage of disparate elements and actions: discussions, workshops, printmaking events, visual presentations, mapping actions, a temporary 'currency', peer exchange sessions, screenings, a pamphlet library, a sourdough-kneading session, an interlocutor's station, actions in public space, a Chai tea-ceremony and political board games. These actions were proposed by and/or produced with a group of people who participated in various related activities between 2015 and 2018. The Laboratory of Common Interest was hosted by FabLab Limerick.
The film above captures a flickering camera obscura, an inadvertent projection of the outside street onto the participants of a workshop by The Living Commons group (#17: The Living Commons; collective design workshop). This kind of polyvalent hybridity, a moment when one reality opened onto another, was not uncommon in the event space; these moments emerged as folds in a fabric of common experience produced through processes. of collective sense-making.
The Laboratory of Common Interest was an element of the longer research project Free*Space, undertaken as part of a PhD at GradCam, TU Dublin, 2015 - 2021, funded by the Fiosraigh Scholarship programme. Supervised by Dr Glenn Loughran and Prof. Noel Fitzpatrick at GradCam (2018 - 2020), and by Dr. Anthony Haughey and Dr. Alan Grossman at SEPR (2015 - 2017).