#1 Working Title _ chapter 1 of The Exercises in Awareness
(or side notes about the process behind Women and Children First)
How to make the invisible visible? This was a phrase spoken by Jamila Johnson Small during our mid-September meeting. To show not only what is behind, but also what is invisible due to the lack of space for its materialization, because it is not recognized or recognizable. As curators we are called to deal with visibility, not only in the sense that we decide what to programme, who to show and to whom; but also in that we have the privilege of power of care, which means more than to whom to give and don’t give space. We choose the words to use and the points of view to suggest, but as women and feminists, we cannot believe in the right to speak for someone else. So we decided to start to make visible the process behind the construction of WACF. It began about a year and a half ago when Matthieu Goeury, artistic coordinator and performing arts programmer of Vooruit, proposed the challenge to explore the topic of feminism through the lens of privilege:
How much privilege do I have?
How privileged are you?
Who is the most privileged among us?
As soon as we approached this issue, we clashed. With the partiality of our perspective and more, because measuring privilege means being able to quantify, judge and finally categorize. “That's so macho” we would say laughing. There are a whole series of nebulae that prescind the definitions for their fluidity, that accept the challenge of being interstitial; as in the arts as in the person identity. So it could not be for us, who claim the value of the collective process, of the heterogeneous and multidisciplinary in our work and everyday life to be able to classify linearly. Instead we naturally decided to start frome exchange, at the beginning, between the three of us.
STEP 1/ FROM DERRIDA TO OPRAH
We cover different roles in Vooruit - Marieke De Munck is a full-time curator at Vooruit, Róise Goan is part-time guest dramaturg and Camilla Carè is a freelance curator and former stagiere. We also come from different contexts, experiences and even geographies (Belgium, Ireland and Italy). Each of us brought insights, questions, provocations and artists, performances and texts into the reflection. We did not want to develop a thematic path around inclusiveness and equality, but rather to collect works that had in common a singular way of looking at and letting themselves be looked. Even at the expense of sounding naive, it must be said that the privilege of working in the performative field is that in the end there is almost always a body that shows itself and is shown to someone; and we looked for works that underlined this relationship by playing with cliché: about feminine pleasure, male power, inclusion of refugees, the voyeurism of militancy and about those who were born gentle unicorns. The theme of privilege had naturally shifted.
We use this word, "naturally", because we followed a step by step development that did not immediately aim at framing themes and events; but that proceeded smoothly through suggestions and exchanges. We had meetings at the mall, we talked about fat-shaming and the Kardashian family, we went for a walk to take some air and we went back several times to the words to use. The aim was to build (together) a work universe that could be permeable; repeatedly afraid of making mistakes, more than once we tried to embrace the error as part of the process. And then once again acknowledging the privilege we enjoyed to take time for reflection, thanks to the support given by working in a big institution.
The term "collectively" is often used, but its meaning or practical application changes with contexts and actors. We saw shows, traveled and talked with artists and there was no need to do it always in three; instead we have taken the luxury of trusting; to sometimes be missing. None of us saw all the performances programmed in WACF, for example; but we all shared the reflection behind choices. Kopano Maroga, during the same mid-September meeting, said that every ritual implies a sacrifice, a receiving that at the same time is a loss. Sometimes you give up individuality, to build collectively: that is our ritual.
Vooruit aims for inclusiveness as a house in transition (perhaps forever in transition, as a natural process), and the reflections on privilege and feminism aim to make it a home in which to feel welcome, a centre that can be a physical place and at the same time emotional and socio-political space of shared-care. So it was clear at a certain point that we had to build a horizontal mechanism that could, on the one hand, extend the exchange beyond us, and on the other hand work within the institution: taking free inspiration from the apparatus of the School of Love by Adva Zakai, we decided to create a school that had no masters or pedagogy, but an imaginary space from which we can all learn what we do not yet know we did not know. An integral part of WACF’s program, which could recreate an atmosphere of collaboration devoted to the process of (never ending) learning and not to a hypothetical final exam.
by the Curatorial team