At The Operating System, our vision is a community where permission is freely granted, where access isn’t behind lock and key (perceptual or actual), where tools, information and resources are equitably shared and made easily available. Creative people from all disciplines are encouraged to work with one another, to explore every and all media freely and without fear. Both creative output and practice / process are equally valued. Those who are new to creative practice are encouraged to engage, explore, make mistakes, and play, without shaming. Degrees can be useful but do not grant any special privileges — rather, it is the responsibility of those of us with resources (be they intellectual or more classically capital in nature) to gather, document, make accessible, and pass along skills, information, and other salient lessons to those without.
Our vision is a community that is intentionally present but with a constant awareness of both past and future. Original voices from all disciplines, across the spectrum of gender, sexuality, race, religion, ability, age, as well as geographic, linguistic, and cultural backgrounds not only have a place here but are invited in — understood as essential components to making, building, listening, and teaching in service of a more just and equitable world. Our community is comprised of those united by their commitment to transformation, service, justice and social progress FIRST, and a shared understanding of creative practice as an instrumental tool of individual and collective change for everyone, everywhere.
Our vision is a stepping stone towards an evolved, transformed humanity, and a respected, honored planet — facilitated by the connections making and sharing creative work makes possible. When we engage with our bodies, minds, and senses, we are able to break down barriers in ways that are becoming less and less viable through the institutional structures nominally in our service.
To make possible an equitable space for art access — both as practitioner and observer — is a complicated venture. Which is why directly and visibly addressing this question and how it plays out is so critical. For The Operating System, it is essential to our mission not only be a presenting organization, educational resource, and publisher (creating real, physical space for art making, performance, and archival documentation), but also to engage in, document, and make available research around all aspects of creative industry.
Every project of The Operating System is presented as experiment — indeed, the entire organization has been posed as “a question, not an answer,” from our very beginnings. This is to say, the framework and process of how each production is made possible — and making visible that framework — is a vital part of what we do. Inspired by iterative Open Source design and Peer 2 Peer modelling, The Operating System presents and documents its evolution to contemporary and future creative practitioners as a live, ongoing analysis of an artist-run and operated, agile experiment…that others are encouraged to join, use as a blueprint, and continue to evolve. Whatever tools we have, whatever we gather and learn, we share — it is the project itself, the ability to produce a catalog of books, countless events, etc., and to teach others how this is possible financially, structurally, etc. that is our endgame. In addition to continually keeping our own story transparent, and having an open-door consulting policy for collaborators, community members, and colleagues, his takes the form of constantly creating and updated shared resources, workshops, skillshares, and publishing on a creative commons license.
Along the way, our day to day mission is primarily archival in nature. On the surface, this often looks like “being a publisher,” but it misses the point: the Operating System makes “books” as a radical act of canon correction. We actively seek out and make room for work that might have in another time been referred to as “avant-garde” but the label is unimportant; what is critical is that the most groundbreaking, unorthodox, visionary work produced in any era is all too often in danger of being lost, and we are committed to carving out space for those voices.
With a crippling, particularly noxious brand of global capitalism on the rise, the likelihood of erasure is even more true: as funding for the arts dries up, as people abandon or never explore art out of rising costs of daily life, as presenting organizations and publishers choose financially less risky work, and for countless more reasons. Countries across the globe continue to silence voices considered potentially damaging to political and religious interests — places where humans risk their lives for expression.
At The Operating System, we model what we refer to as Print-Documentation as a form of collective citizen patronage from the bottom up. Without capital, we are able to model a viable practice of archival citizenship: actively looking for work in danger of being silenced, across disciplines and across oceans; putting that work into print, circulation, classrooms, prisons, libraries and archives; and pairing with each document additional archival information about the practitioner and the context of the work’s making. Sometimes, this process involves facilitating and co-writing the making of a manuscript from non-textual or ephemeral forms — visual art, choreography, film, music, and so on — adding to the archival record vital practice from visionary creators that would otherwise be lost entirely. We also make room for para-academic experimental scholarship on the fringes of institutional education, strangled by an industry on its knees and by academic publishers not willing to ruffle feathers.
Inspired? The OS is growing every day, with more exciting projects, partnerships, resources, and collaborations than ever.
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Psst: missing our chatty, hyperbolic description of our mission from our early days? You know we’re archivists, right? It lives on, here. We feel sentimental about it, too. Thanks for asking.