[...] manifests in a broad range of questions, artistic explorations, expressions, actions, performances and practices. It can take the form of the simple act of being, holding the space, presencing, gardening or a silent walk on the land. Activism can also extend to more visible forms of individual or collective actions like demonstrations and contestations against practices that are being destructive or harmful to the living systems and the Earth. The forms of visible activism manifest as moments of real democracy in the city. Activism animates, performs, questions and transforms public urban spaces and the inner landscapes of its inhabitants by raising awareness, attention and critical reflection, triggering curiosity and the desire to have more spaces for creative research and experimentation that enable social transformation. Activism holds various multiple meanings for both individual or communities. The power of dreams, individual and collective imaginaries are often being born from awakening, increased awareness, embodied or experienced life injustices, challenges or crises. By sharing skills, learning and creating together, activists are raising consciousness and contributing to social change by reflecting on imagined desired sustainable futures. Creating and nourishing local community, feeling of being part of a collective interdependent whole (the ecosystem) is a first step of exploratory activism work that questions human beliefs, values, togetherness and the possibility to survive in close relationships, interconnectedness with each other, other species and the surrounding world, starting with our immediate environments.
[What to know more about the different types of activism? → A Taxonomy of Action]
Extract from Activism by Vitalija Petri in the Radical Survival Toolkit, 2022
Art in common
This very particular physiognomy of artistic projects emerged in the early 1990s, particularly in the United Kingdom [...]. It is about creating in social spaces rather than in the studio; over a long period and with others rather than with oneself; collectively rather than demiurgically. The work is no longer the fruit of the artist's labour alone, but of a collaboration between artists and volunteers. As we shall see later, the contribution of the volunteers does not take the form of a one-off invitation or injunction to do something in a spectacular setting (exhibition or performance), but of a long-term collaboration taking place in everyday life. Each person's contribution is a way of sharing knowledge and experience, creating new non material commons (symbols, knowledge, rituals, communities) as well as material commons (goods or spaces managed collectively). Art historians such as Claire Bishop, Grant Kestor and Shannon Jackson identified these types of practices under a number of different names: participatory art, community-based art, socially-engaged art, social practice, etc. These terms are part of an Anglo-Saxon sphere of thought in which the notions of participation, community and the social do not have the same history, and therefore the same connotations, as they do in France. This is why, on the occasion of this first book adressed to a French audience devoted entirely to these practices, we felt it necessary to come up with a new term. We propose the term art in common. Like other current names, the choice of this term creates its own system of accents. It highlights the characteristic of these practices, which is the vector of our investigation: to what extent is art capable of contributing to the reinvention of the conditions and possible forms of collective action?
Extract from L’art en commun – Réinventer les formes du collectif en contexte démocratique, Estelle Zhong Mengual, les presses du réel, 2018. Translation: Cifas.
When we talk about inclusion, it can feel that this term is interchangeable with the notion of widening access. Opening up routes for ‘othered’ people into a pre-existing context. There is an inherent power dynamic and hierarchy. Someone, usually an organisation, must do the including, and in doing so most likely dictates the terms of this inclusion. This can lead to a risk of those being “included” actually being changed, harmed or assimilated in the process. Interpellation as a concept invites us to consider that dynamic – what happens after inclusion? This political term can be initially explained much better by academic Dr Chris McGee at Longwood University: “The term interpellation was an idea introduced by Louis Althusser to explain the way in which ideas get into our heads and have an effect on our lives, so much so that cultural ideas have such a hold on us that we believe they are our own. Interpellation is a process, a process in which we encounter our culture’s values and internalize them.” Interpellation encourages us to think about power, dominance and transformation in relation to inclusion and to widen the landscape of change. If we can accept that we will always internalise the context we are in to some degree, then the problem lies with the unexamined assumptions and attitudes that make up our everyday existence. And we replicate these in our organisations too, and these attitudes tell us how to behave. They tell disabled people we don’t fit. They tell Black and Brown people they don’t fit. They tell poor people they don’t fit. They tell older people and kids they don’t fit. They tell queer and trans people they don’t fit.They tell people at intersections of several of these identities that they really don’t fit. So taking an interpellation perspective on something means being critical about the codes, rituals, behaviours, values and ideas that exist in your organisation, or project, or community. It’s not enough to include, we have to allow the context, the structure, the dynamic to be changed, for the interpellation we experience every second to enable us to thrive, not to be limited.
Extract of From Inclusion to Interpellation by Kim Simpson posted on here in 2021. Kim learned this concept at a workshop hosted by 17instituto and passed it on to the participants of our Producers' Academy 2021.
Power over is how power is most commonly understood. This type of power is built on force, coercion, domination and control, and motivates largely through fear. This form of power is built on a belief that power is a finite resource that can be held by individuals, and that some people have power and some people do not. The other forms of power recognize that power is not owned by individuals but is a dynamic which is present in every relationship. As Starhawk (1990) suggests: “Power is never static, for power is not a thing that we can hold or store, it is a movement, a relationship, a balance, fluid and changing. The power one person can wield over another is dependent on a myriad of external factors and subtle agreements.
Power with is shared power that grows out of collaboration and relationships. It is built on respect, mutual support, shared power, solidarity, influence, empowerment and collaborative decision making. Rather than domination and control, power which leads to collective action and the ability to act together.
Power to refers to the “productive or generative potential of power and the new possibilities or actions that can be created without using relationships of domination”. It is built on the “unique potential of every person to shape his or her life and world”. It is the power to make a difference, to create something new, or to achieve goals.
Power within is related to a person’s “sense of selfworth and self-knowledge; it includes an ability to recognize individual differences while respecting others”. Power within involves people having a sense of their own capacity and self-worth.
Different types of power by Steven Desanghere, in the Radical Survival Toolkit, 2022, inspired by a blog post by Graeme Stuart.
[...] if we had to concretely describe a ritual, we could say that it is a sequence of activities which can include words, gestures, actions or objects, and which is performed with a certain intention, often happening at a specific moment. Weddings and funerals are good examples of it, but other moments could be considered as rituals. Indeed, even if rituals tend to be stylized, repetitive, and to occur at special places and times, they mostly depend on the intention of the participants. So to say, taking off one’s shoes to enter a specific space, celebrating the time of entering into a new season, or singing a song for a kid before sleeping can be as ritualistic as a religious ceremony. Adding to what was previously said, it is important to mention that rituals are specific in the way that their main function is to be « doing » something : going through the process of a ritual allows us to process a potential transformation that can happen on a big scale or on more subtle and hidden parts of ourselves. [...] Rituals can take an infinity of different shapes and transform through generations. Some come from our ancestors and some are invented on the spot. But all share this amazing quality to permit a symbolic, and to some extent, an effective transformation. I personally don’t think that it is a “magical tool” that works to accomplish any desire. It depends a lot on the context, on the inner availability of the maker and/or the practitioner and on their intentions. But I’m convinced that it is anyhow a great journey to discover the rituals that are meaningful to us, to eventually create ours, and embrace the potential change they offer to us.
Extract from What's a ritual? by Delphine Mertens, in the Radical Survival Toolkit, 2022.
Urbanisme culturel (Cultural urban planning)
Urbanisme culturel planning brings together a range of practices that contribute to transforming territories in order to make them more habitable. Relying on site-based artistic and cultural interventions, "cultural urban planning" creates the conditions for all those concerned to be able to act, and has an influence on the way in which territories are made. This interdisciplinary field is part of both the contemporary challenges of transition and the confluence of several histories: urban planning, contemporary artistic practices, cultural policies, popular education, etc. This approach intervenes at many points in the creation of territories: development of public spaces, landscapes, urban scenography, uses, atmospheres, social and living relations, symbolic production. Led by individuals with different profiles, "cultural urban planning" initiatives operate on different scales - human, spatial and temporal. Rooted in their territory, "cultural urban planning" initiatives also combine different worlds and constantly adjust to their context. They are characterised by their ingenuity, their ability to shift the focus, their intelligence in situations, their ability to work with and take care of. Urbanisme culturel is about practices, attitudes and ways of doing things that respect resources, in order to make territories more resilient, poetic, friendly, engaging and inspiring.