1. Money is a fiction
2. Dialogue is real
The Institute for Spontaneous Generation has been developed over the course of Test Unit to explore ways of building collaborative economies which question our current notion of wealth and value. Our name was taken from the ancient scientific theory that life (i.e. maggots) can spontaneously generate from sterile environments and non-living matter – we drew parallels between this and quantitative easing, and money itself. If money is only a form of exchange, we began to question what form a more meaningful exchange might take. Hence our Institute’s manifesto: The Currency is Dialogue.
Our Institute’s activities are split across three projects:
The Grub Economy: Our creative currency aims to bring people together for a spontaneous event: to create new bonds through communal activity. In groups, shareholders of paper bonds create immaterial bonds with each other, by searching for their piece of Grub and assembling the pieces collaboratively with other shareholders to form a giant maggot. The maggot will then be ceremonially floated down the canal: floating the shares on the fluid market, instantaneously going into liquidation.
Spontaneous Record: Through various forms of investment, whether financial, skill or time based, we developed a shareholder owned publication that aims to increase dialogue in the local community. We recognised that although there are multiple stakeholders, there is a lack of communication about local activity. Civic House used to be home to Civic Press, a left-wing printing press. We are building upon the site’s history by proposing a new community owned publication.
The Paper Factory: We are recycling local domestic and commercial paper waste to create new paper. By seeing waste as an asset instead of burden we can consider innovative ways to build sustainable products, which can then be used to kickstart new projects that will continue to build collaborative economies.
The Wealth of Scotland Grows as The Dialogue Soars
Established only five years ago in the sunburnt summer of 2017, many critics initially believed that The Institute for Spontaneous Generation (ISG) was merely a silly conceptual project developed by a bunch of idealistic artists, designers and activists. Today, exactly five years on, in the climatically challenging summer of 2022, the seed of thought developed during that historic summer school has come to change our very notion of what wealth, value, and communication mean.
Although a simple idea in practice, the shift in our collective understanding that money is a fiction spread like maggots after the activities of Test Unit 2017. The new manifesto, “The Currency is Dialogue” helped people to understand that conversations and communication are the only means to generate real wealth: stronger relationships and resilient communities. With their name taken from the the ancient scientific theory that life (i.e. maggots) can spontaneously generate from sterile environments and non-living matter, The Institute went on to explore what new events and activities can spontaneously generate new forms of dialogue. The first of these projects, The Grub Economy, showed the bonds that can be formed and then shared among people when they talk to one another and exchange stories. Immaterial yet more important wealth is created spontaneously in unexpected ways when dialogue is the currency.
Furthermore, due to ISG’s circular economic entrepreneurial activities the abundance of domestic and commercial waste materials along the canal in the North of Glasgow began to be seen as a new resource. This led to the formation of Spontaneous Press Inc.’s Paper Factory, a recycling factory that turns paper waste into new beautiful and bespoke paper. The success of the factory has generated new jobs locally and throughout the country as Scotland, the biggest producer of recycled goods worldwide, is renowned for pushing towards a sustainable circular economy. Just like maggots, wealth can be produced from what is considered non-useful matter.
And now, in it’s fifth year of publication, the Spontaneous Record has united the local community of North Glasgow by capturing and initiating dialogue among business owners, organisations, local residents and the creative community. The initial investment by shareholders, philanthropic benefactors and time bankers led to the generation of one of Scotland’s most exciting publications. As more and more people learned of what was going on in the local area, the community was strengthened and the wealth of communication has grown.
Through its ventures, The Institute for Spontaneous Generation has challenged the capitalist dependency on monetary forms of value. Value is fluid and subjective, thus communication and dialogue are the only real methods of exchange and community the only real outcome.
The GRUB is modelled upon the example of stone money of YAP island. They were large doughnut-shaped, carved disks of calcite, up to 4 m (12 ft) in diameter. A little bit like public sculptures, however owned by someone in words. They would remain in the same position, while their property would be transferred to someone else through consciousness.
Christopher Gordon Strachan