Commons Convergence: crafting a collective path to artistic resilience

A review of the workshop

Commons Convergence, an event organized by documenta Institut in collaboration with Casco Art Institute and supported by The Supporting Act Foundation and AFIELD brought together artivist communities, funders, creative institution practitioners, policy-makers and scholars to explore a maintenance model that enables more sustainable socially-engaged art practices. 

The event featured a role-playing game The Alchemy of Commons and a public sharing moderated by Mi You and Aiwen Yin. The game has been in R&D since 2022 and its development is led by Aiwen Yin and Yiren Zhao, which allows the participants to probe at different aspects of making commons through a collectivity. The game takes the form of a “playable script” based on extensive research on the Dinghaiqiao Mutual-aid Society (DMaS) —a community of art, culture and social workers in Dinghaiqiao, a working-class neighborhood in Shanghai, which was active from 2018 to 2021. The scripts follow the personal journeys of DMAS members and its milestones, and the players are asked to project their own stories, ideas and actions into them. At the same time, the game operates around an ontological diagram of the community, which uncovers the underlying structural challenges inherent in the complex inter-relationship between individual and collective practices, including the entanglements of space, labor, relationship, economy, and the mission of the community.

The Alchemy of Commons functions as both an enactable archive for a socially-engaged art collective, distilling its practices and experiences, and at the same time, as a generative game for counterfactual histories, possible futures and insights focused on community building. The game mechanism allows individuals to explore and understand the dynamics of communal art practices. The game is designed to emphasize the Healing missions of intentional communities, which is nurturing the sense of belonging within the members of the community while also engaging within a broader social context for a just society. To achieve this goal, the game suggests a community must be able to secure Space (of safe space and open space), Relationship (of internal relationships and supportive networks), Labor (of maintenance labor and productive labor), and Economy (of community economy and general economy). The game suggests community members need to collaboratively ensure the health of these dimensions, in order to  transfer the knowledge and healing effort of the community to the broader environment.

The playing experience of Alchemy of Commons activated expanded conversations among the participants around the common challenges of community building, the necessity of economic shift to achieve sustainable social practices, as well as the healing potential of archiving collective practices through these playable scripts. 

in partnership with 

Casco Art Institute 

with the support of 

The Supporting Act Foundation and AFIELD


Laura Benetschik (//KOMPOST Ensemble)

Grégory Castéra (KANAL, AFIELD)

Haro Cumbusyan (EK BİÇ YEİÇ, AFIELD), 

Marieke van Doorninck (Kennisland)

Teresa Koloma Beck (Creative Impact Research Center Europe)

David Morris (Afterall, Central Saint Martins)

Susanne Ritzmann (Kunsthochschule Kassel)

Manuel Rivera (Research Institute for Sustainability Potsdam)

Abi Tariq (AFIELD)

Oleg Zurmühlen (//KOMPOST Ensemble)

Moderated by Mi You (documenta Institut) and Aiwen Yin (Alchemy of Commons)

With the help of Muyang Lyu and Franziska Rozicki

The "Alchemy of Commons" game

Research and Game development: Aiwen Yin and Yiren Zhao

Project assistant: Nuo Lu, Muyang Lyu, Yubin Zhang 

Data design consultant: Mengyang ZHAO

Mechanism design contribution: Gary Zhexi Zhang, Magnus Persson