Kate Rich and Feral Trade

June 17, 2023
David Sunnyside

In an age of heightened climate and economic uncertainties, the work of artist Kate Rich offers a convivial setting from which to contemplate broader changes to our economies and societies, where conventional supply chains for food delivery and cultural funding might go belly up. Rich runs Feral Trade, an art endeavor and long-range economic experiment that has been running since 2003. It traffics goods over social networks using people’s spare carrying capacity on trips they would otherwise make anyway. Rather than relying on official distribution channels, Feral Trade imports groceries directly from their suppliers and circulates them locally in an underground freight network.

As an independent business, Feral Trade generates no surplus or jobs and does not produce any profit. It does however build what sociologists refer to as ‘social capital’, that is, a collection of social obligations that can be turned into economic value in certain circumstances. In doing so it also challenges a culture of exclusivity and status that is inherent in the current commercial art world.

KATHERINE: With Feral Trade you are importing and exporting goods over social networks and the word ‘feral’ suggests something that is wilfully wild as in a pigeon, not romantic or nature-wild as with wolves for example. Could you please tell me what motivated you to start this project?

KC: The main motivation was to do something different, to try to take back control of the economy in a way that is more ethical and democratic. In addition to this, I wanted to explore new strategies for building extended community economies that are more resilient than the ones currently in place.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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