Q:  When thinking about the major value perception shift that’s characteristic of this new cooperative era we’re living in, we see that alongside the drastic political events that have taken place for the last 30 years, art and culture also seemed to play a big role. It’s been said that the biggest contribution of the “infrastructure counterculture movement” for instance, is not so much the equitable infrastructure, but on a more abstract level of matching people’s perception of “cool” with “fair”. Do you agree ? 

A: So, about this “infrastructure counterculture” title, I’m not sure we endorse it and kind of wish it would go away. But yeah, I think our movement ushered some sort of shift. I mean, we were just so settled and defeated back then, in our complete lack of options outside of capitalism. You know, besides voting and having to wait for a political planetary governance of some kind to reverse inequality and guarantee earth’s ability to continue to sustain human life.

Nothing seemed worse than being stuck in this place, and even though we thought of ourselves as a community of independent artists that made art work (visual, sound, written, performed or what have you) that could carry some sort of possible alternative, or at least a feel of it, we saw that it didn’t really, I mean if it ever did. It was frequent that the most poetic or subversive of art objects and experiences (and we ourselves who were creating them) were continuously associated or financially dependent—directly or indirectly, voluntarily or not—with some type of billionaire clothing, beverage or media conglomerate, hedge funds, crooked collectors, big tech, dubious institutions or an overall advertising and financialized order of doing things.  

We felt cornered and we decided that instead of making better art about it, we were going to try to make our own sponsors, patrons and institutions. So we thought, “How about we finally capture some of the upside of the economic contingencies we create?”  It was just so evident that a lot of consumer goods became attractive, even in the mainstream, because of their relation to artistic subcultures.  What we—musicians, writers, painters, designers, actors—used, wore, drank, even smoked, became what was appealing for a lot of people to spend money on, and a brand-new opportunity for a lot of companies to make money from.  

And then artists hijacking this opportunity became somewhat of a trend. We started dividing ourselves, our time, interest and work, half in making the music, the visuals, and the attitude that shaped a culture, and the other half in learning, setting up and running the organizations that would make us own the products that materialized that same culture. We joked that instead of our art being made to function as business, we started doing business as art. 

So we built the infrastructure to fabricate these things that people had confirmed they would not ever stop buying: shoes, beer, computers, clothes, cellphones, energy drinks, cigarettes, eyeglasses, weed, software, spaces, you name it. What made this “business as art”—and not as usual—was that all companies,  and their subsequent federation,  were conceptualized and measured as artworks. The criteria, we as a community, elected to do such evaluation related to how beautifully the companies implemented cooperative governance statutes, resolved systemic labor issues in their hierarchy, funded the art practices of their community, were financially accessible, reduced the amount of fossil fuel used and deployed technology elegantly to facilitate all these endeavors. 

But getting back specifically to your question, the more unforeseen consequences of finally arriving at this place of being an economic force with stabilized livelihoods and practices free of greedy capital, was that we also kind of meddled with the way people identify themselves with the stuff they desire and spend money on. The products we make are the ones we associate with our culture and through that we’ve engraved in their aesthetic subjectivity a direct relation to the backstory of their fairly, equitable and community-centered manufacture. Because of this, now everyone seems to think they look more beautiful and taste better and are way more tolerant if they don’t have the maximum functionality of their corporate counterparts. This, in turn, made it un-stylish and vulgar to own and use expensive products from investor-owned monopolies with unethical labor and environmental practices. Nowadays kids only want the shoes from the artists/workers that seized the means of production, and through that are generating a cooperative economy, reducing its industry’s CO2 emissions and funding the artistic and labor class. So yeah, maybe cool and fair did get kind of mixed up in the process. 

*this interview was edited for clarity