Art for UBI (Manifesto) - a tool for social transformation and social equality
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The elaboration of a Art for UBI Manifesto aims to mobilize the art world in favor of Universal and Unconditional Basic Income as a tool for social transformation and social equality highlighting values, needs and desires opposing the present inequalities generated by neoliberalism and the ecological unsustainability of capitalism.

Description of the tool

Art for UBI Manifesto claims present in a coincided way a series of key points stating the urgent need for the implementation of Universal and Unconditional Basic Income as the best measure to free art and cultural workers from the blackmail of precarious labor, to recognise their rights, to compensate them for the invisible unpaid work which extends also to the sphere of care. The Manifesto as a tool for social transformation conceives society in its ecological dimension thus it extends beyond the art world being applied to society as a whole (universal) and in the form of a monthly income not restricted by any condition (unconditional). As a tool for social equality and social change it must help everyone to live above the poverty threshold, and it is meant to acknowledge the many contemporary forms of invisible work, starting from the reproductive labor mostly carried out by women and caregivers all over the world.

Steps of application

Manifestos are a tool to drive awareness on political values and a tool for social transformation highlighting values as “ideas of needs” and desires.

“The political value system is always the value system of a particular class, of a specific stratum as an organized social force. Thus political values are ideas expressing the attitude of large social groups as wholes toward the needs of other large social groups and of society as a whole, in respect to the awareness of their own needs.” (Miroslaw Karwat, 1982)

While the art market confirms his status as a safe-haven assets provider for the financial elite, the current pandemic has highlighted the fragility and precarity of art workers around the world, a condition common to a growing portion of humanity. In this situation a UBI (Universal Basic Income) would then represent a solution and indeed an urgent measure to implement. But UBI is not “only” a response to poverty, it is a necessary condition in order to rethink our extractivist ecological model, to correct many race and gender asymmetries and, last but not least, to change the art world’s present neoliberal structure (Fumagalli, Lucarelli, 2008), UBI must be seen as a tool to open up new subjective spaces as an alternative to the dominating entrepreneurial individualism and moving the focus to support practices of coommoning and care. If artists are already creating new collective economy models and alter-institutions, these small scale experiments will be much more valuable when connected with those growing social movements around the world fighting for a Universal Basic Income.

The first idea towards an Art for UBI Manifesto was discussed publicly within the framework of the “The School of Mutation” an open re-learning platform on the future of art and cultural institution conceived and activated during the very first months of the pandemic in march 2020 by the Institute of Radical Imagination - a group of curators, activists, scholars and cultural producers with a shared interest in co-producing research, knowledge,  artistic and political research-interventions aimed at implementing post-capitalist forms of life.

Two webinars were launched to discuss the idea of working on a manifesto. Ideas were gathered thanks to the participation of artists, thinkers, cooperatives, grassroots associations and social movements:

  • State of the Arts, Belgium - an open platform to reimagine the conditions that shape the art world today, working on art labor and organization will report their recent discussion based on UBI
  • La Murga cooperative, Barcelona, Spain - on a similar manifesto “Gent que treballa en cultura, per una renda bàsica universal i incondicional
  • Commonfare and BIN, Italy - focusing on the differences between some of the existing European income tools and UBI and the potential of bottom up welfare organisation
  • POE, Politics, Ontology, Ecology, Italy -  addressing the ecological implications of UBI.
  • Il Campo Innocente, Italy - Italian network of performing artists and cultural workers. They recently spoke against corporatism and the drive towards an utter fragmentation into hyper specific professional figures. Instead they see UBI as the unifying goal for all the art and culture workers,
  • S.a.L.E. Docks, Venice Italy - focusing on the importance of UBI and dis-identification in the organization of art and culture living labor.
  • Common Wallet, Brussels, Belgium -on the example of an artists’ community socializing their personal income on mutual aid principles.
  • Macao, Milan, Italy - experimenting self organized Basic Income redistribution within the community of Macao (see tool CommonCoin)
  • L’Asilo, Naples, Italy - on UBI within the framework of The commons as ecosystems for culture on EU scale a  Basic Income of Creativity and Care 
  • The Lab, San Francisco, USA - as a testimony on art workers basic income implementation in the city of San Francisco
  • Circles, Berlin, Germany - example of a blockchain based basic income made to promote local economies

Future actions developing and implementing the tool:

  • Identify common values needs and desires > to finalise a first draft of Art for UBI Manifesto to be published
  • Raise Awareness > by designing, coordinating and launching a campaign to gather commitment by a larger number of individuals and organisations
  • Networking > by mapping meaningful experiences moving towards UBI
  • Explore and expand > by experimenting other situated practices moving towards UBI

The Manifesto as a transformative tool is open to experimentation, implementation and contributions. Any grassroot organisation is called to join the campaign,  to map and connect local art workers networks claiming for UBI, and connect or initiate experiences of new creative practices exploring in its direction!


Art for UBI Manifesto was born during the COVID19 Pandemic, a time of unprecedented economic crisis proportions, even worse than the financial crisis of 2008 which, in a very short period of time, involved every country. In this new unexpected and abrupt context the art and cultural workers in structurally precarious working conditions, found themselves highly exposed and with no valid safety net measures. With the exception of the few “virtuous” countries, in many European and Extra-European countries art and cultural workers protests rapidly spread, claiming for immediate visibility and for the urgent recognition of their rights. The pandemic as a magnifying lens highlighted the faults of neoliberalism and capitalism. The health crisis showed the fundamental role of the many invisible precarious workers as those in charge of delivery, cleagning, houseworkers, caregivers and  the art and cultural workers nourishing with contents the internet or the balconies to face the drama of isolation. The pandemic also highlighted the urgent need for change towards a more sustainable way of living and climate justice. But already before the pandemic, in the last decades it was more and more self-evident that the automation of the production and the digitalisation of services saw unemployment irreversibly increase. That’s why the distribution of wealth through waged labor already was considered not anymore a valid paradigm before the pandemic, and today even more so. 

Art is "also the product of modes of production and social relations that condition and subordinate it and in this sense it is by no means autonomous. Art can produce surplus value, but its production manifests an intrinsic resistance to integration into the productive forces. And not because art is always revolutionary, but for the obvious reason that without a margin of freedom it simply ceases to exist. The resistance has nothing to do with the artist's content and political orientation. Art can only be an indicator and metaphor for an alternative, not the tool; it does not have the power to change capitalism from within and it is not its job to do so. Artistic and political activity are in fact different subjects, even if there is a homology between artistic consciousness and revolutionary inventiveness, which have in common the ability to design something other than the existing, but starting from the existing. The horizon of emancipation is the overcoming of the freedom-precariousness equation, or that kind of destiny for which the choice of a job, which involves talent and passion and which allows one to escape the alienation of wage labor, must then be paid with the price of precariousness and in many cases of economic hardship or bi-professionalism. Those who compensate for the gaps (of activity) with the other price of services are few, that is, the truly established artists, are the exception and not the rule. The community of art and cultural workers and the “immaterial workers”, do not recognize themselves as an élite or an artistic or political avant-garde. (Cirillo, 2014)

Context of origin

Visual representation




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