iou1 conversation – Anne

her “so if people give you a gift what do they get back, in return?” – “that’s not what a gift is” me – too glib for my own liking even at the time even though facetious even though playful I change tack – serious “everything I do will be a gift I want to make a gift of everything I do”. Anne gives out money for a living – she gets paid to give – the heritage lottery fund has funds they pay her to give out funds she gives them out it’s a living – maybe it’s different but there’s an overlap a definite connection I’d like to investigate. “What if we’re all taking out and nobody’s putting back in? What if everyone decides to do nothing? What if I’m gifting and other people are taking? Isn’t it our nature to be out for ourselves, to be individualistic?” And I talk about how I believe this is an ideology made up forty years ago – the ideas themselves are not new but the idea of building an entire economy an entire society on the bedrock of these assumptions – the assumptions contained in these questions we now take to be common sense – this is a recent phenomenon.

As an aside:

[How terrible it would be to not be useful. This we all feel. Yet we cannot shake the belief that other people would choose to be useless would choose not to work not to make themselves useful to others not to make things or apply themselves or seek to shape the world or be active within it or do. Do things. How unhappy they would be. How unhappy they must be. How unhappy they are (they are unhappy). How low our opinion of others. How low our opinion of ourselves. I had a beer with Tom last weekend – that’s another post – noted that money was no incentive for him or me that he would write software anyway that I would make theatre anyway. He says “but we’re different”. But we’re not different. I do not believe we’re different – this is the gamble I am prepared to take. There is an assumption an assumption abroad a shared assumption that money only money is the incentive but when I ask others when I ask people when I ask other people if that’s the case for them when I push them prod them prompt them they answer “no, the incentive the want the desire is located elsewhere”.]

Back with Anne we talk automation and debt (and is it real) and unemployed truck drivers and driverless cities and what are holidays “if money was taken out of the equation I would behave like I was on holiday” “yeah sure for a bit, but after a while you would get bored of that you’d want to work” “yes” “you like to work” “yes”

We’ve been talking a long time. Anne logical methodical implacable un-ostentatious. I hope she’s enjoying working through this she seems to be someone who enjoys working through things thinking things through unpicking things and this – this is useful. The gradual unpicking of an idea. The gentle tugging at threads. As things come apart they come together too.

“With this project it takes a long time to explain what the project actually is” she says. “Yes” I say “but that’s the project”.

Thanks Anne, I owe you one.


iou1 conversation – press night at the Young Vic

Will is just the right side of manic – he’s had a beer.
Poppy is just the right side of lary – she’s had some beers, and some wine.
Hannah glances at her watch.
Rachel… it’s funny, it sounds like she’s playing the hostess, which she is I guess, because she’s introducing people. But she’s also not overplaying the hostess. It’s a subtle performance.
Alex is bright and deadpan, I tell him he looks like Ben Whishaw.
Lily is sober and upbeat.
I’m sober too, and in the mood to explain the iou1 project. In fact, I don’t introduce it, Will does. We’re doing introductions (we’re always doing introductions at these things), so I introduce a game where we introduce one another. Will is being waffly and modest about what it is he “does”, so I big him up a bit and say he’s worked at the ROH, and then Hannah, who’s a publicist introduces Poppy, who’s a director, and then Will introduces me and sets in motion The Conversation. I start off talking about the relationship of exchange and the relationship of gifting. How the project, the iou1 project, is a bid to push back against the all-pervasive logic of financial exchange, and introduce a relationship of gifting into areas of my life where it does not, as of yet, exist, to ask people to think about money and value, to have a conversation about what work is and why it is necessary (it is necessary, I hasten to add, but not as a chore, not as labour for the sake of labour, labour for the sake of subsistence; as a society, we are productive enough for that to not be necessary; but work is necessary, work produces meaning). Poppy says “this sounds serious”, laughs, delighted. She is genuinely delighted, I believe, but I don’t know if she will remember any of it the following morning. Hannah glances at her watch. Rachel and Alex need to leave “be in touch”, “call me”, “bye”, wave. Will has heard it before. He’s going to give me podcast when he does his radio course. But with Lily, Lily to whom I spoke before, it seems to land (or maybe she’s just being polite and a good listener). When I tell her about it (and it’s actually been a while since I’ve had The Conversation, so maybe I’m out of practice) I stumble a little. I do the porridge bit, which works well, but get lost in how the relationship of exchange, the logic of exchange needs to find new areas of activity to expand into, that this is capitalism, that with the emergence of new technologies which reduce the need for labour and therefore profit, capital must find other activities where a profit can be made. I forget to tell her about why it is important to me, why I believe it is dangerous for the logic of exchange to trump other logics. In retrospect, I tell myself this is something I must not forget to include But she is a good listener and it seems to have landed.


iou1 / The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

I’ve been reading Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (An-Ting is working on an adaptation of it with her company; I went to see a work-in-progress showing of it at the Royal Academy of music). The following bit put me in mind of the iou1 project (it reminded me of the potency and significance of insisting on paying for something):

‘Then you won’t take the book?’ I asked, more mildly than I had yet spoken.
‘I will gladly take it, if you will let me pay for it.’ I told her the exact price, and the cost of the carriage besides, in as calm a tone as I could command – for, in fact, I was ready to weep with disappointment and vexation.
She produced her purse, and coolly counted out the money, but hesitated to put it into my hand. Attentively regarding me, in a tone of soothing softness, she observed, – ‘You think yourself insulted, Mr Markham – I wish I could make you understand that – that I – ‘
‘I do understand you, perfectly,’ I said. ‘You think that if you were to accept that trifle from me now, I should presume upon it hereafter; but you are mistaken:- if you will only oblige me by taking it, believe me, I shall build no hopes upon it, and consider this no precedent for future favours:- and it is nonsense to talk about putting yourself under obligations to me when you must know that in such a case the obligation is entirely on my side, – the favour on yours.’
‘Well, then, I’ll take you at your word,’ she answered, with a most angelic smile, returning the odious money to her purse – ‘but remember!’
‘I will remember – what I have said; – but do not you punish my presumption by withdrawing your friendship entirely from me, – or expect me to atone for it by being more distant than before,’ said I, extending my hand to take leave, for I was too much excited to remain.


#iou1 conversation – Simon

I’m driving to Suffolk with Simon I’m not driving Simon’s driving he’s late got caught in traffic the voice at the end of the phone is crackly – hard to hear – he’s having “one of those days” it’s taken him an hour and half from Fulham to Vauxhall when I meet him outside the Vauxhall Tavern he’s worried that he’s made a bad impression already – he hasn’t –  and we set off to Suffolk to try and catch the end of the opening of Jess’ exhibition at her Dad’s bookshop //// It takes us a couple of hours to get there and The Conversation emerges naturally out of the conversation with a small ‘c’ talking about the value of things talking about music – he’s a musician – talking about a revolution and debt always debt which is when I bring up David Graeber and his for-me-seminal book //// We bond over a shared love of Stewart Lee – “Bloody French Huguenots, coming over here, doubting transubstantiation” //// We return later the same night and the conversation extends into the return trip – the need to focus and work always work but not to the exclusion of everything else not to the exclusion of life not to the exclusion of everything else because work is everything else and work is life there are no boundaries there is no work and no leisure that distinction does not apply //// We establish that as well as writing I need to make some theatre and put it front of an audience //// We make plans //// The trip’s on him that’s what he’s given to me

Thanks Simon, iou1

#iou Conversation – Jack

I call on skype cos he’s in France it’s been a long time since we’ve spoken it’s hard to get in touch in spite of a million different ways to get in touch or maybe because of it who knows //// I’m running through everything that I’ve been doing lately and I mention I’ve got a project about money would he like to hear about it “Sure, why not” so I give him The Conversation //// The Conversation turns to what it is to accept a gift and the expectation of something in return and how is it possible to owe somebody one if you feel you’ll never be able to reciprocate not just materially but in the way you live what if you feel like you’ll never be capable of living your life in a way which reciprocates what you’ve been given? //// It’s a conversation which turns personal inevitably beyond my art-life project beyond theories of money and debt it’s a conversation which turns practical – practical advice is sought but I don’t feel like it’s possible to give practical advice it’s not up to me to decide one way or another all I can do is say I’ll be there to support and listen and I hope that’s useful I hope it’s something even if it’s not enough and at the end of the conversation a long conversation we arrange to speak again the day after tomorrow

Thanks Jack, iou1 (I did anyway – it’s not like the conversation really changed that – but maybe it’s useful to state it explicitly)

#iou1 conversation – Esteban

MC asks would I like to have lunch with her and her new man – he’s Esteban he’s round for lunch he’s back from Argentina he’s making quinoa and vegetables he’s a very good cook “would I like some?” – and over quinoa and vegetables – I concur he is a good cook – MC brings it up she says something along the lines of – but I can’t remember the wording or the circumstance not exactly – she brings up the project so I give him The Conversation //// Esteban speaks with ease and confidence and occasional flourishes the language of popular and alternative economics – the vocabulary he has made his own the arguments he has made his own in his mind he has mapped the territory full as it is of contradiction and anecdote and metaphor and now he navigates and surveys it – there are unknown corners places where contours are drawn but details shift but that’s the nature of the territory he’s an explorer and this is a reality which is in a constant state of flux [the extended metaphor is mine – apologies] //// “You don’t know about positive money? You have to google it!” and “where does money come from?” and “fractional reserves” and “how is the value of a house determined?” “and how will it change” asks MC “how will change come about?” “through projects like Ben’s through people deciding to live differently like Ben” I think he’s over-selling me a little but I appreciate the support and The Conversation extends – how to pronounce hegemony as in neo-liberal as in American as in world domination The value of giving things away for free Planting a tree under whose shade you will never sit Nepalese prayer flags How the sugar content of coca-cola varies from country to country The sweet Argentinian tooth Petro-dollars and gold //// “I’ve got stuff in storage lots of stuff stuff that I’m looking to freecycle what kind of stuff do you need?” he asks “warm clothes for winter” “great we’ll work it out” “I’ll link you guys up” MC says she means with the email //// Esteban has brought Havanna chocolates back from Argentina we have one each for dessert they’re melt-your-face sweet

Thanks Esteban, iou1

#iou1 conversation – Hussein, store manager at TFC

It’s been a few weeks I’ve been trying to have The Conversation with the store manager at TFC every time I go in there to do my shopping – it’s where I do my grocery shopping I purchase tomatoes courgettes aubergine carrots onions peppers hummus-in-a-large-tub goats-cheese-as-a-treat (but not often cos I eat it too quickly when I get home) tins of borlotti-kidney-butter beans chopped tomatoes and sometimes dates figs dried apricots walnuts (but not often cos I eat them too quickly too) – but whenever I’m there, it’s the assistant store manager not the manager who’s there and the assistant store manager says I need to speak to the manager to tell him about the project and finally he’s there //// “Can I tell you about my project?” I ask and he says “Come over here where I’m working” “It’ll take five minutes” he was stacking cans of chopped tomatoes – not the ones I get another brand – “Come over here and you can talk and I can continue to work” – so I give him The Conversation as he’s stacking cans //// “That’s social currency” says another customer “Sorry to interrupt” says the other customer – I was talking about porridge about how when my housemate makes porridge in the morning she gives me some and I owe her one – “but what you’re talking about it’s social currency we use it in Turkey it’s like money” – the store manager knows him he’s a regular – “if he comes into my store and needs my help I know him I trust him” for a moment all three of us are in fluid conversation “it’s like with socialism but the other one what’s it called?” “capitalism?” “yes capitalism!” he says “you can’t get round it” the other customer moves away to get some mushrooms “so you started off as a theatre director and now you’re asking for things?” “It’s all connected” I say but I see that he is busy he’s still stacking tomatoes but he wants to get on with his day and he can’t give me tomatoes he doesn’t see it really he’s not on board with it really and he wants to get on with his day “if there was another way someone would have found it” he says so I thank him for taking the time to chat to me and I introduce myself “Ben” and he smiles “Hussein” and I shake him by the forearm because he’s wearing gloves