In a thematic statement for “Together,” the inaugural Afield Study program held in summer 2021, 2017 Afield Fellow and programmer Massimiliano Mollona (Mao) wrote,

As the global pandemic forces people across the world into isolated and fragmented existences, new practices of mutual aid, radical care, and demonetized and socialized economies are redefining our way of being together.

Living during a pandemic, we are learning new imaginaries and collective practices revolving around our bodies and new rules of intimacy, solidarity, and proximity. In the current conditions of radical uncertainty, we also experience a common refusal to go back to normality—the model of continuous growth, hyper-financialization, flexible labor, and overconsumption that generated much social injustice and ecological disruption.

And if the explosion of Black Lives Matter into the civic realm following the murder of George Floyd shows that democracy cannot be kept in lockdown, violence against women, lesbian, gay, and queer subjects and instances of a deeply ingrained structural racism are increasing, asking us to rethink the whole model.

To a certain extent, the radical political imaginary inaugurated with the Paris Commune in March 1871, 150 years ago—based as it was on notions of solidarity, commoning, cooperativism, gender equality, and general reciprocity—turned out to be Eurocentric (reflecting the supposedly superior point of view of Europe), anthropocentric (assuming human mastery over nature), patriarchal, and heteronormative. But can its terms be revitalized from a postcapitalist, ecological, and non-heteronormative perspective?

Following the feminist economist J. K. Gibson-Graham, I propose that we consider postcapitalism as a “non-capitalocentric” and non-Eurocentric understanding of the world—as differentiated, queer, and in ongoing transformation—as well as a set of tools and practices related to the “socialization of the economy,” such as universal basic income (UBI), crypto-economy, peer-to-peer and gift exchange, and cooperativism.

Both art and anthropology operate at the threshold—in the “zone of contact”—between the human and more-than-human world, engaging in practices of dialogical interpretation, micro-encounters, political prefiguration, and practice-based theory-building and fabulation. What are the skills that artists and curators (and anthropologists) can bring to imagine and implement a postcapitalist world?

Emerging from “Together,” this video series consists of three public talks delivered by guest speakers and three Afield Trips, virtual one-on-one exchanges in which one member of the Afield network “visits” the context of another. Afield Study emerged from a desire within the Afield network to open up the existing program to more accessible and horizontal forms of sharing resources and pooling ideas and practices. The annual program sought to nurture synergies between like-minded socially engaged practitioners, allowing for mutual exchanges of skills and knowledge around common themes. The 2021 program was divided into three strands: “Images as Assembly,” “Ethnographic Encounters and Pedagogies of Unlearning,” and “Mutual Economies.”

For “Images as Assembly,” 2018 Afield Fellow Filipa César led the workshop “Learning with the Mangrove” alongside the historian Sónia Vaz Borges. Elizabeth Povinelli was invited as guest speaker. Following Maori filmmaker Barry Barclay’s description of cinema as a form of gathering (hui) and communal assembly that entails collective knowledge production, reciprocal exchange, and an ethics of connectedness, “Images as Assembly” aimed to foster a conversation around decolonial and radical imaginaries in which cinema is a political, ecological, and epistemological zone of contact. “Images as Assembly” ventured beyond aesthetics to engage with film in terms of enduring relationality, human and nonhuman entanglements, cine-kinship, commons, degrowth and nomadic attachments, reparation, and non-anthropocentric, more-than-human forms of dwelling.

“Ethnographic Encounters and Pedagogies of Unlearning” comprised a workshop led by Afield Advisor Dora García titled “No Use to Close the Door, Big South Just Walked In,” and a talk by invited guest speaker Apolonija Šušteršič. This strand considered art as a model for the kind of practice-based, dialogical, and multimodal knowledge production that can emerge in the contact zone of human encounter. Embodied practices, dialogical ethnography, queer attachments, coproduction, and restorative justice have the potential to heal, cure, and reconnect what has been torn apart by mental, cultural, and physical enclosures, namely the marketization and monetization of all human and more-than-human life.

In the strand “Mutual Economies,” Afield Advisor Binna Choi led the workshop “Home Is Economy. Economy Is Home,” and Caroline Woolard was guest speaker. Since John Ruskin and William Morris pondered, in the late nineteenth century, art’s capacity to critique political economy, this question has remained at the core of artistic engagement. To counter art and cultural enterprises that sustain planetary economies based on rent extraction, gentrification, mass tourism, and hyper-consumption, socially engaged curators, cultural producers, and artists have sought to build alternative economies. Prefiguring postcapitalist scenarios through new political and artistic practices, such as universal basic income programs, cooperative labor, crypto- and feminist economies, and commoning, these initiatives speculate on the new artistic skills and practices that the artist-as-entrepreneur, -carer, -investor, or -commoner can use to build a more equal society.

Peers invited to participate in the workshops included Awa Konaté (Denmark), Maya Claire Scherr-Wilson (Mexico), Suinbike Suleimenova (Kazakhstan), Zikri Rahman (Malaysia), Vidisha Saini (India), Sabrina Fernández Casas (Switzerland), Ana Campillos Sánchez-Camacho (Spain), Hema’ny (Nancy) Molina (Chile), and Sophie Jerram (New Zealand) as well as the 2020 Afield Fellows Rojava Film Commune, represented by Sevinaz Evdike (North and East of Syria).

Afield is a network of social initiatives from arts and culture. Through peer-to-peer exchanges, a study program, and a participatory grant, it fosters an infrastructure for mutual support and aims for the development and visibility of like-minded initiatives across the globe. Afield was initiated in 2014 by Council, an art organization that fosters better understanding of societal issues, founded in 2013 by Grégory Castéra and Sandra Terdjman.

 

Preview image: Massimiliano Mollona, diagram for the Afield Study Program “Together.” Courtesy the artist.

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