Chapter 2 / ABOUT THAT MEETING OF MID-SEPTEMBER
PREAMBLE: Without having the aspiration to change the world, we wanted to make the process as transparent as possible, to face the problems and contradictions in our small system:
As a curator,
How can you curate consciousness?
What motivates artistic choices?
The desire was to create a structure that did not reproduce inequity in our daily work, but to explore and expose our power; looking for a model of collective and shared curatorial leadership.
We asked ourselves if it was better to start with invitations or rather to make an open call; when you want to work on accessibility issues, you often ask yourself how to reach and add as widely as possible. However as professionals we know that the form of the open call is not always the right one to meet someone, therefore we preferred to proceed by invitation, working with the resources that were already there, to share and include —these words again and again— artists and colleagues in the curatorial process. Working in the field of culture makes it difficult to build an endurance, because our attention and resources are often split between different festivals or venues or projects; we wanted to try to hold these encounters: Jamila Johnson-Small, entered the process spontaneously, questioning us about the purposes and aims of WACF when we met her in Palais de Tokyo, just after her performance Fury1. Kopano Maroga - performance artist and writer - who was a guest of Vooruit during The May Events festival, and wrote I Don’t Know If We Are Winning as result of this experience. Bieke Purnelle, freelance journalist and blogger who works as director for the Knowledge Center for Gender, Feminism and Equal Opportunities RoSa in Bruxelles. Our colleagues Tine Theunissen, in charge of audience development/outreach at Vooruit and Raïssa Pater, who at the time was an intern for the City in Transition and Think programme, working with Marieke de Munck.
We met for the first time, formally, on September 3rd 2018, creating two days of discussion and brainstorming aimed at giving space and form (to make present what was in the imagination) to the exercise of awareness, our school-not-school. The three of us hadn’t prepared in advance a lineup to be addressed, but we wanted to open up the discussion to the others on the topics of Women and Children First to create curricula where the figures of the professor and the student circulated among us, as in a role-playing game. Starting from the themes that are institutionalized in the form the school —such as rules, an obligation to attend, categorization of students by levels, language of the lessons, partiality and specificity of classes, the importance of the result— we worked in friction, trying to imagine how it might be possible to transfer knowledge through care and softness, and how to give space to what normally would be considered useless. To what happens when there are no problems to solve, but new approaches to be discovered.
II. LECTURE NOTES: When you learn something from someone, and this exchange process succeeds, you get out of your own bubble. It is a practice, where the how and where are relevant. When you listen to a story, because those words modify you, it is not enough for them to be told; but there is a skill that you have to train, a word often used lately: empathy. The difference between empathy and sympathy is that the former is the ability to perceive and feel directly and experientially the emotion of another person as he/she/them feels it, while the other is the ability to perceive the situation in a similar way. In other words the difference between in (en - inside in gr.) and with (sym - with in gr.). So that you do not leave the bubble to fall into another, you must continuously train that skill that is listening, in a continuous exercise of techniques for empathic endurance. Figuratively you learn to always be in someone else’s place and someone else again, to breathe and re-breathe in other bodies; until you become a co-conspirator. It could be a word game, since conspiring comes from the Latin spirare (to breathe) con (with), but which strengthened with the prefix co- (with) becomes to breathe with with. The co-conspirators are those who make up a relationship of sisterhood/brotherhood and mutual assistance, sharing the struggles since the success of one means one more step towards the liberation of all. You can’t talk yourself out of structural oppression, until all are free. Without pretending that we are equal, differences are valued as fertile ground for thinking and acting collectively. In practice this meant that the idea of the school was redesigned and set aside, since the main focus became to explore “to be in” and not only the stories to be heard or told.