2015/16 Seoidin O Sullivan’s artwork ‘Seating System’ is on loan to Third Space

Seating System by Seoidin O Sullivan

‘Seating System was commissioned by Dublin City Arts Office and was made in collaboration with architect Karol O’Mahony. Seating System can be used for talks, reading groups, exhibition and library. The boxes are modular and together form a closed circular system, the boxes can be separated to make smaller dynamic sets. The seats are a kind of nomadic school system. The audience can break away from the feeling of a conventional lecture space, and shift into formations suitable for intimate conversation or public discussion. The design has been influenced by my involvement in activism and research into critical pedagogies, it aims to create a space for commoning, creating a space of empowerment and possibility.

Patrick Bresnihan from The Provisional University whose current research is on ‘The commons’ and ‘commoning’ has responded to the piece and its relationship to ‘commoning’ with a short text.


“1. The commons are not a ‘resource’. The commons are based on ongoing relations between people, animals, plants and things. The commons are thus not understandable as a resource, whether forests, water or knowledge. The separation of commoners from their living, grounded relations with the earth is where the tragedy begins. Commons are thus better understood as a verb, as commoning.


2. The commons are non-instrumental. The commons are produced in response to specific, concrete questions. How can we arrange these wooden boxes into a space of learning? The commons thus emerge from and relate to the specific needs and desires of the people involved. This means that the activity of commoning and the value which is produced through it are inseparable. This differs from wage-labour where the value of the activity is measured by and subordinated to money.


3. The commons are non-hierarchical. Because there is no ultimate separation between the process and the product, there can be no external authority who claims to know what is best for everyone else. While expertise is still required in specific situations there can be no lasting hierarchy of knowledge which categorizes people on the basis of intelligence. The only way to create a collective space is by doing it collectively.


4. The commons are non-exclusive. While the commons always involves specific collectives of people acting in a specific situation, there is no ‘community’ which exists outside the actual activity of commoning. Thus, anyone who is actively and materially involved in the use and reproduction of the commons is a commoner.


5. The commons are materially and socially productive. Through the arrangement of boxes an empty space is transformed into a space of learning. As well as transforming the physical space, the activity of commoning produces new social subjects: the activity of working together produces vital and nourishing bonds of trust as well as expanding our individual capacities. We learn new skills but we also learn how to relate differently to people and things, to recognise previously unknown potentials.”

Patrick Bresnihan, The Provisional University, 2013