Columbian-Mexican Documentary Theatre; Migration Archive; Pandemic Project: Changing Spaces; Sound Register; STILL LIVE about food production; Sonoric Archive; Intimacy; Ediciones Sin Sentidos- a social experiment; Osikán: Vivero de Creación; Social Creation; Action Research; Knowledge from Aborigines; Rewriting the ritual space; Collective Germination; Living Away Network; Network of Affections for Cuban Community in USA; “Living Away Fest” - a social distance and domestic arts festival; La Chambre Ouvert; How to translate something that is not translatable; authentic voices; non-privileged spaces; Gender Warrior; The space of not knowing; What are you prepared to give up for me?; loneliness; precarity; re-invent yourself; todo lo que está a mi lado; creation of an international digital platform for curators with audiovisual film production for internationalisation; Projecto CASA - video art production; Festival Próximamente; Workshops at home; Todo mundo em paro; Festival Danza em Casa; Practicas de danza pensante; Temporada Alta - how to share videos online; Project La Fabrica; Tu Cuerpo el mio; Prática de vida cotidiana; Virtual infrastructure; Social programming; Hiper productivity versus paralysation; How to coordinate the virtual production; Project Tacto - platform for collaboration and co-production through exhibition of the creative process; ProChile - creative economy; Flexion o mia; Auto martónica; Pandemic as catalyst; Panorama Festival; Going backwards with Bolsonaro; Panorama Luto; Panorama Raft; Shoshana - online meetings USA and Latin America; Capacoa Canada; Cohorte; Living with 1 Dollar a day; Injustice; North/South injustice; “Staying with the trouble”; Art can open other books; domination by the North; Power connections; Connectedness;
What kind of changes are important for us now?
While writing this essay, Russia invaded Ukraine, launched an unprovoked war which has only escalated over the last couple of weeks. The IPCC approved its latest climate report, as millions of Ukrainians are driven from their homes by violence. The climate crisis is simultaneously displacing people, species, and entire ways of life. Again, we have to activate a strong bond of solidarity beyond our own needs for stability and security. The world is not a safe space but became a brave space. By this day, around 2 million refugees from Ukraine entered neighbouring states and need support and care. The practice of care is in the forefront of our times and we do better train our skills in it. While during lockdowns we could still care by being responsible of not spreading the disease, this war gives us the feeling of helplessness and despair but also a strong sense of courage and hope. Again, we are confronted with the questions, what is the role of the arts in all this and how can art make a difference? Crisis shows us new ways of social interaction, the value of international connectedness and collaboration and forces us to stay resilient, open-minded and care for each other.
One of these “care” initiatives is the online Kitchen talks, created and organised by Carmen Mehnert and Anne Schmidt from Plan B Hamburg. During recent lockdowns and the stand still of the performing arts scene, it felt like an urgency to find spaces for exchange, sharing knowledge and creating new narratives around the arts. With a focus on international artists, producers and organizations, the different episodes of the Kitchen talks showed us how enriching it is to hear different spoken languages, stories from other parts of the world and witness powerful actions which resist devastating moments and existential threats during the pandemic. Most of Latin American artists, for example, in contrary to European ones, remained with little or no support from governmental organizations. Nevertheless, there was no lack of innovative ideas and initiatives to transport artistic creations into online platforms, new formats for knowledge exchange, dialogue and discussions, even creating new partnerships and collaborations and finding new funding bodies. Watching these actions mentioned during the talks, made it clear that this was the moment to go inside, go deeper into subjects and themes since there was time for it. Re-think, re-organize, re-invent, re-everything. At the same time, we were strongly reminded that the world does not end with the walls of our homes but rather can be expanded and shared in a new and multifaceted way. The discovery of the virtual experience was necessary as a future tool, to complement and even enhance live arts and nourish the knowledge exchange, but not to substitute them all together through online formats. After sitting for months in front of our displays, we certainly feel how essential is is to come together in real physical places, where we can feel, smell, listen, resonate to energies, bodies, moods,landscapes and spaces.
By choosing the title Kitchen talks, Carmen Mehnert and Anne Schmidt suggested a sensorial, haptic and informal atmosphere which reminds us immediately of the smells, tastes, sounds and the togetherness in a relaxed talk while we are cooking, we care.
Mayfield Brooks and Bush Hartshorn embraced this idea in their talk about “vulnerability” and showed us how to transport intimacy into an online dialogue by creating a moment of ease and playfulness while talking about existential fears, grief, black lives, gender stress and how strength emerges from weakness, even trauma and how they deal with the unknown and again, how they can care for each other. They provided us with a metaphoric experience while cooking roasted pumpkin.
Suddenly, our doubts about the role of the arts starts to vanish and we can see very clearly what is it about. Connecting to other human beings and exchanging about the present moment experience is deeply satisfying and gives us a feeling of belonging and existing, even in dark times.
In other Kitchen talks settings, which where held in a webinar format, we learn about the impact of the art practice, and the characteristics and potential of the system that sustains it. It is about placing the emphasis on ideas, values, knowledge exchange, wisdom, tools for change, or as Domenico Dom Barra once said: “it is about shifting the focus from the art piece to the art practice and from the artist to the community, art can influence society with its practices. We should engage in those that can help nurture human values and positive thinking”. During the talks we were reminded of the duality between damage that can be done by European supremacy, while, on the other hand, recent Latin American online projects got support by European institutions and organizations. What can we learn from these projects? What stands out is the strong connectedness of the artists to community work. The need to bring the work close to their communities and don’t wait for them to discover them through festivals and theatre programs but rather explore multi facetted possibilities to present their artistic work. The artistic practice enters seamless into a wider public with a wider angel. The capacity to adapt and to be humble about the place where you show your work, seems a vital step to reach out. But we can also learn of the power of innovation and resistance, creating new networks and alliances of strength, imagination as political tool, how to be true to yourself and how to transport this into your artistic practice, collaborations and actions. New ways of online publishing which bring emergent visionary worldview to the forefront and a sensitised position towards minorities, equity, gender discussion, knowledge from the aborigines and deep knowledge of embodiment of human values in society. And again and again about resilience and the infinite capacity of self-management in modus “auto-maratónica”.
Bringing care and respect to those who need it more. In the conversation of renown Brazilian choreographer Lia Rodrigues with the Mozambican artist Panaibra Gabriel Canda, we can learn how deeply rooted their artistic actions are in their communities and how the care they provide for them reflects in their artistic practice.
In the last Kitchen talk between Faith Tan and me, the moment I asked her how she had felt the last two years, she first and foremost mentioned a community project which the theatre she works for had organised during the lockdowns. Artists engaged in a “care project” for seasonal workers from abroad, who had no chance to visit their families during 2 years of pandemic, while living in extremely small dormitories. Again, one more example of bringing artistic practice into the more vulnerable communities.
All together we had to deal with the shutdown of theatres and festivals and the learning of new skills, to be able to place your work and ideas online and experiment. What will happen with all this boom? What stays? What will change? How did it impact the arts world, for better or for worse? And how does it feel now, in retrospective? Was it worthwhile? Or was it more a way to feel active and needed and keep our self-respect safeguarded? Fully we will never know. It keeps being an experiment how to provide space to deepen the dialogue and show care for each other.
The Kitchen talks are obviously an act of care for the artistic community who faced a traumatic shutdown of activities. The need to provide a space to connect voices from the global south with the wider arts community and further, create a platform of knowledge exchange, while we don’t travel easily internationally. Raise awareness for what is going on in other continents and kitchens where new initiatives are cooked and new recipes are tried out.
Johana Hedva, a Korean-American writer, musician and astrologer wrote: “What we’re watching happen with COVID-19 is what happens when care insists on itself, when the care of others becomes mandatory, when it takes up space and money and labor and energy. See how hard it is to do? The world isn’t built to give care freely and abundantly. It’s trying now, but look how alien a concept this is, how hard it is to make happen. It will take all of us—it will take all of us operating on the principle that if only some of us are well, none of us are. And that’s exactly why it’s revolutionary. Because care demands that we live as though we are all interconnected—which we are—it invalidates the myth of the individual’s autonomy. In care, we know our limits because they are the places where we meet each other. My limit is where you meet me, yours is where I find you, and, at this meeting place, we are linked, made of the same stuff, transforming into one because of the other.” -
How far can artists go in social transformation without renouncing their role as creators/artists and without being instrumentalized? I believe we find good examples for it in the talks.
I would like to finish with a quote of hope from the writer and journalist Rebecca Solnit. In her article published in The Guardian with the title, “What can Corona Virus teach us about hope” she wrote: ”When a storm subsides, the air is washed clean of whatever particulate matter has been obscuring the view, and you can often see farther and more sharply than at any other time. When this storm clears, we may, as do people who have survived a serious illness or accident, see where we were and where we should go in a new light. We may feel free to pursue change in ways that seemed impossible while the ice of the status quo was locked up. We may have a profoundly different sense of ourselves, our communities, our systems of production and our future”.
So, let’s wash the dishes,
Playlist of the Kitchen Talks by the participants: Miriam Makeba: Maleika Aretha Franklin: Holy Charles Bradley: Changes Childish Gambino: Feels like Summer Hermanos Gutiérrez: Hijos Del Sol Calle 13: Latinoamérica Chancha via Circuito - Jardines ft Lido Pimienta Hembrismo, Rich Music LTD Johnny Colon & Orchestra.“Mi querida bomba”
Literature from participants
Adrienne Maree Brown: Holding Space Dona Haraway: Staying with the Trouble Octavia E. Butler: Parabel of the Sour Poetry Books of Noticias del Mar Marien Fernandez: La Masacre de las Palabras Maria Galindo: Ninguna mujer nace para puta; No se puede Descolonizar sin Despatriacalizar; Gabriela Wiener, various titles:https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4601950.Gabriela_Wiener MAGDALENA López: Failure. A Conceptual Proposal to Rethink the Caribbean. Jean-Luc Nancy: 58 indicios sobre un cuerpo. Frank B Wilderson: Afropessimism Leiths Vegetable Bible (cooking book) Luis Antonio Simas , Donna Haraway , Malcolm Ferdinand , Guimaraes Rosa, Edouard Glissant,Vincianne Despret, Isabelle Stengers Denetem Touam Bona
Links of mentioned projects and initiatives