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.
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 abuse²; 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
“Autoreduce: Weaving Circles of unreproductive Autonomy” is a project by filmmaker and artist Kerstin Schroedinger, based on a series of interviews and conversations with childless (i.e. unreproductive) women in Egypt and Germany, displaying a utopian-revolutionary potential of radical non-violence, which she connects with the activities of refraining, omission, willful avoidance, non-participation and a long- standing (feminist) strategy of sabotage, aiming to eliminate the nation state. Schroedinger is working with workshop-based formats in order to exchange knowledge through handicraft techniques and to share (personal) stories.
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
In asking yourself “what is already (t)here?”, one has to critically reflect on the status quo and its own point of departure. Caring for each other and collective practices must be the focal points here and I would therefore like to invite the performer and choreographer Jeremy Wade for the lecture performance „The Battlefield Nurse Presents: You OK Bitch?“, which „is an irreverent, fierce and no bullshit form of propaganda for the complicated now centered on the relational ethics of care and repair that queers of all kinds and disability culture espouses to and demands challenging normative movements and appearances of bodies and addressing the chaotic state of care politics.“
All Lectures will be streamed via YouTube:
Jeremy Wade (choreograph, performer, Berlin)
Tuesday, 19. May 7pm
Adam Feldmeth (artist and program director of the Southland Institute, Los Angeles)
Tuesday, 26. May 7pm
Kerstin Schroedinger (artist and filmmaker, Berlin)
Tuesday, 09. June 7pm
Prof. Dr. Silvia Federici (feminist writer, teacher and activist, New York)
Tuesday, 16. June 7pm
³ Silvia Federici, Beyond the Periphery of the Skin. Rethinking, Remaking, and Reclaiming the Body in Contemporary Capitalism, Oakland: PM Press, 2020