The latest novel pandemic has highlighted the fragility of our consumptive practices in North America. We demand that all fruit be available at all times, that our furniture complements our walls, that the price of our electronics fits within our credit limit. But when international trade is limited by illness or political ego, we’re suddenly forced to evaluate the economic oppression and exploitative relationships that were forged at the dawn of modern Capitalism and fine-tuned over the following decades. So what are the alternatives?
As a starting point towards thinking beyond our current broken models to a more equitable, just, and human society, we at ArtsEverywhere have assembled three inspired texts from thinkers who were already envisioning a more compassionate society before the collapse.
In her essay “Multi-Layered Selves,” Vanessa Andreotti offers a new way of relating to one another by changing the boundaries of what we consider to be our self, and the limits of our senses and responsibilities. This excerpt from the 2016 text holds special relevance today: “enabling a world without colonial relations…requires an interruption of harmful desires hidden behind promises of entitlements and securities that people hold on to, particularly when they are afraid of each other and of scarcity.” In this time of isolation many of us are realizing the need to re-evaluate our relationships and reforge them in healthier ways, from the micro- and macro- levels.
The indefinite shuttering of schools around the world has also drawn attention to the vital role that education (or lack of) plays in framing, maintaining, and bolstering the broken social system required by advanced capitalism. Manish Jain’s text “Radical Pedagogies as Living Experiments and Messy Affairs” engages with some of the key ideas brought up by Andreotti, and explores the implications of integrating these ideas into our education models. Jain offers prescient practices that have been imposed on many of us by the virus:
At Swaraj University, we try to support a radical pedagogy of slowing down, scaling down and unplugging in the spirit of a pause. These notions appear to be ridiculous paradoxes in the modern world which stresses urgency, speed, scaling up, and non-stop technological communication.
One of the many ways that people have decided to slow down and re-connect with themselves and one another is through creative exploration, a tactic that anchored Ashon Crawley’s presentation at the 2018 ArtsEverywhere Festival. In his talk Crawley describes the joy of exploring new avenues of expression — in his case, dancing with paint…or painting with dance. He uses this hybrid art form to access joy and exuberance without the social gathering of a church service. Watch his full presentation “The Lonely Letters: Otherwise in the Flesh”, which was presented as part of the event Meaning or movement? Objects or rhythm?
If you have an opportunity to slow down and reflect during these weeks (or months) of consumer quietude, we hope that you come out the other side— of the social distance—with new insights as to how to foster more creative and humane relationships with one another.
Banner image from Ashon Crawley’s painting experiments.