Collective Learning / Collective Care

The Lecture Series is initiated by Jenni Tischer at the Institute of Arts and Society at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. April 2020

Prof. Dr. Silvia Federici (feminist activist, writer and teacher, New York) Watch on youtube

Adam Feldmeth (artist and program director of the Southland Institute, Los Angeles) Watch on youtube

Kerstin Schroedinger (artist and filmmaker, Berlin) Watch on youtube

Jeremy Wade (choreograph, performer, Berlin) Watch on youtube

Collective Learning / Collective Care responds to our current mode of social distancing and distance learning in the light of a broader socio-political context regarding the value of Care Work and the realm of collective experience.

As a result of the arrangements introduced to tackle Covid-19, some of us are experiencing social distancing, distance learning, separation and isolation in a number of environments, such as the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. At first glance, it might seem that one can talk about a “we”, “us”, even a collective experience, or go even further and think of a global collective. Drawing on my experience as a lecturer at the University of Applied Arts, however, I do not entirely agree with this viewpoint. At a time of drastic restrictions to individual freedom of movement in public spaces, the widely differing options to deal with this exceptional situation are becoming especially clear. 1 Collective spaces of learning and experiencing such as schools and universities, as well as public spaces such as parks and playgrounds are no longer accessible and so the focus of life shifts into the private space. When jobs are lost and children can no longer be sent to childcare facilities – without recourse to a weekend home with a garden – people are confined to the small space of their homes and there is a surge in psychological and physical domestic abuse 2; when people with disabilities and elderly people can no longer be visited; when one has to clean their homes themselves because cleaning staff can no longer do their jobs and the issue of gender-specific division of labour is back on the agenda, and so on… Some of these aspects may pose a challenge to individuals, because they can no longer pursue their plans for self-optimisation, but on a fundamental level it demonstrates which work our societies rely on – namely on the so-called system-relevant and reproductive labour. We all are dependent on this work: every single body and its environment needs to be nurtured, groomed, cleaned, fed, loved, cared for, held, attended to, healed, regenerated. Day after day.

This exceptional situation again illustrates something that feminist Silvia Federici – one of the founders of the International Feminist Collective – have been demanding since the seventies with their campaign Wages for Housework. They call for recognition of reproductive labour as labour. In her latest book „Beyond the Periphery of the Skin. Rethinking, Remaking, and Reclaiming the Body in Contemporary Capitalism“, Federici looks at the different manifestations of the “body” as a ground of confrontation with the state and a vehicle for transformative social practices. “Concurrently, the body has become a signifier for the reproduction crisis the neoliberal turn in capitalist development has generated and for the international surge in institutional repression and public violence.”3

Autoréduce: Weaving Circles of Unreproductive Autonomy is a work in progress, involving performative and documentary elements that seeks to record techniques and narrative practices of radical non-violence, through a series of collective gatherings and workshops. The acceleration of violence against women to date not only parallels an ever elusive acceleration of capital. But I will argue that the systemic destruction of women’s bodies lies at the core of contemporary capitalism. We must oppose violence and counter a spiralling of aggression. Not more but less will strengthen our struggle. Going slow, fulfilling our tasks so slowly, in slow motion, so that our work becomes redundant, the flows of reproduction decelarate and regress; and the nation state reduces into disappearance. (Kerstin Schroedinger)

Although we as lecturers are physically separated from our students, our task is to integrate everybody into the dialogue and to adapt our teaching to the situation in order to address the crisis-prone nature of our lives and also to (finally) recognize it as a state that has always been here. The Southland Institute in Los Angeles stands for critical, durational, and typographic post-studio practices, approaching collective learning that makes use of what is already there. Artist and program director of the Southland Institute, Adam Feldmeth, recently co-authored a list of pedagogies including, A Pedagogy of Working with What‘s (T)here. “In working with what‘s there, we practice resourcefulness, we engage a productive constraint, we examine the conditions that are given and determine what might be done with them to change an existing situation to a better one.”4

Artist, Jeremy Wade and his 5000-year-old drag alter ego, The Battlefield Nurse, Present: “You OK Bitch??“ Tune in between the sirens for an irreverent, fierce and no bullshit form of propaganda centered on the relational ethics of care and repair that queers of all kinds espouse to and demand. Originally created in benefit of ARTE’s, United We Stream on April 19th 2020, The Nurse and a retinue of talented lovers supporting behind the scenes made this offering for the COVID Complicated Now. The piece is about 35 minutes and will be followed by a Q&A hosted by Jenni Tischer. Let’s keep each other awake!! Thank You to the lovely staff at Suicide Circus, to all who supported, collaborated and participated in previous Future Clinic events! Thank you to Darcey Bennett, Imogen Heath, Margarita Tsomou and Harald Stojan!! (Jeremy Wade)

April 2020, Vienna
Jenni Tischer Translation: Dr. Mandana Taban

3 Silvia Federici, Beyond the Periphery of the Skin. Rethinking, Remaking, and Reclaiming the Body in Contemporary Capitalism, Oakland: PM Press, 2020