Introduction: So it turns out we don’t control the world
In the Western context, we have long been convinced that what makes us human is our individuality and rationality, and that our bodies are mere vehicles for carrying around that most precious and holy, the mind. This drives the systems we built our (western) societies on, putting us often in hostile relationships to our surroundings and competition to each other.
Even before the pandemic, it was becoming clear that this mind-set wasn’t working, not for us, and certainly not for the world. But COVID-19 did perhaps just bring our inherent vulnerability home to us in a particularly persuasive way.
During the past period, many people have expressed the need to reposition themselves to their own preconceptions of their work and working conditions. The pandemic changed a lot of peoples working formats, some changed or lost their jobs, many adjusted to completely new formats and contexts. We are curious what the reverberations of these experiences over time will be. And what deeper or more fundamental issues these reconsiderations expose. We will aim to draw some conclusions from the experiences we are having and have had and, aligning the personal with the political, explore the potential for actual effective change.
A nurse working in a retirement home remarked that they now not only have to perform the role of medical worker, but – in their absence because of current measures - also those of relatives or loved ones. We perform when we work, and work is a performance. We conjure versions of ourselves to meet the demands of the new roles that are necessitated, without knowing in advance what these versions induce within the infrastructure of our selves. We would like to deeply examine shifting perceptions and experiences of forms of performativity within and beyond the arts – meaning also how performativity has entered into the working practices and gestures of people who don’t normally identify as performers – and the repercussions of that on performing in the arts. In this time of constant demands for flexibility, acceptance of uncertainty and a general state of the unknown, can performative practice present a strategy to rehears "new" realities and our acclimatization with it?
And we will go deeper into the valorisation of work, of labour. The negligence shown by the government during the pandemic towards, for example, sex workers, the ignorance of the realities in working conditions for professionals within the field of care, culture etc., are the results of longstanding valorisation systems based on patriarchal, neo-liberal standards.
If we could acknowledge and embrace our embodiment, vulnerability and relationality and, following Hartmut Rosa*, face the uncontrollability of the world not as an unavoidable menace but as a crucial element of our happiness and well being, what models of working and work spaces can we imagine that could make room for that? Which dispositional circumstances can we seek or strive for in our working lives, that allow for such a paradigm shift?
*Hartmut Rosa, The Uncontrollability of the world.
Having previously worked together on the publication Another Version, Thinking Through Performing, and on the series of broadcasts titled Scores for Isolation, Hoegen, Hempel and Reist combine their expertise and practices in a dynamic collective exchange, exploring performance and performativity in a broad sense. The aim is to gain insights and develop tools on the question What is Work? Through different forms of performative practice, we will test the tools, share the insights and consolidate the outcomes.
Philippine Hoegen is a visual artist living in Brussels. In her multi-stranded, predominantly performative practice, she explores the ways in which we continuously create versions of ourselves, the apparatuses and processes we use for this and what that means for our understanding of 'self'. In her work, performance is explicitly approached and activated as a research strategy: a way of thinking in which the physical is involved.
Recent activities include a series of podcasts for and i.c.w. Club Solo in Breda, About The Future and the Artists’ Initiatives (11-12/2020); a residency in Buda, Kortrijk, with the project Hey You! (06/07-2020); a series of seven broadcasts called Scores for Isolation, on Onomatopeenet / Instagram Live (04-05/2020); the presentation of her new book ANOTHER VERSION: Thinking Through Performing, during the Bâtard festival at the Beursschouwburg in Brussels (01/2020); the solo performance Ventriloquists III followed by a discussion on her research The Self as a Relational Infrastructure in Process (CARADT), at the conference DIS_SEMINAR by Art ≈ Research, Amsterdam (2019).
Hoegen is an active member of State of the Arts, and co-initiator of SOS-Relief (04/2020-present).
Julia Reist holds a master in Artistic Research and has worked on projects bridging the visual arts to dance and performance.
Since 2011, she has been working as a freelance researcher and art producer on a large range of (inter)national projects. In close dialogue with artists, bringing in her specific analytic skills, Julia is specialised in contextualising and formalizing the often still ungraspable elements in early stages of a work or project, to then develop it further and find its specific format / frame or materiality. In 2018 she started, in collaboration with Katrien Reist, the research and production platform arp.works. Through arp they are looking at other forms of working with and through artistic practices to contribute to a more sustainable culture working field.
Julia has worked as a collaborator of artists such as Athi-Patra Ruga (SA), Rossella Biscotti (NL/IT), Luanda Casella (BE/BR), David Weber Krebs (BE), Nastio Mosquito (BE/AO), Philippine Hoegen (NL/BE), amongst others, and as a gallery responsible for DVIR, Brussels. She has co-produced projects and collaborated in different public institutions such as Kunstmuseen Krefeld (Haus Esters), The Darling Foundry, Montreal, FRAC-PACA, Marseille, Museum Dhondt Dhaenens, Deurle, La Bellone, Brussels, Contour Biennale, Mechelen, Enough Room for Space, amongst others.
Miriam Hempel is a visual designer working in the socio-political and the cultural fields. She offers design and communications consultancy both for individuals and institutions, and creates design strategies across print and web.
Through conceiving and developing visual identities, editorial design as well as digital communication solutions, she aims to create bridges between institutions and people, between information and audience, between artistic and activist thinking and the aesthetic requirements of these fields.
She studied at Chelsea College of Art & Design and Central St. Martin’s College of Art & Design in London and recently finished Master in Visual Communication at Zurich University of the Arts, exploring how typographic elements can become active agents in fostering dialogue and collective thinking processes.
Recent collaborations include the visual identity of the online performance space 1000 Scores. Pieces for Here, Now & Later, the co-conceptualisation and design of the publication Another Version by artist Philippine Hoegen, several visual identities for BOZAR as well as diverse printed publications and the website of the artistic research platform a.pass. She is also collaborating with International NGOs like the Green European Foundation, Crisis Action and Greenpeace.