#WithForAbout2020 — A statement on a slow conference for a fast evolving crisis, by Cecilia Wee and the vacuum cleaner

Cecilia Wee
Jun 5 · 5 min read
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Unapologetic Coughing, Youngsook Choi, Raven Row 2020, in support of Asia-Art-Activism. Photo Credit: Nurri Kim

bell hooks: ‘I want to talk about what it means to maintain that marginality even as one works, produces, lives if you will at the centre’.

Edgar Villenueva: ‘Everyone has a role in the process of healing….All our suffering is mutual. All our healing is mutual. All our thriving is mutual’.

adrienne maree brown: ‘It is not a privilege to practice coevolution through friendship — it is the deepest work’.

the vacuum cleaner: “Yooooooooo kittens. I know that art/creativity/making/doing/activism/whatever can change lives, sure. But I think we have to be a little more ambitious than that. We’re dying out here, they are murdering us. Black, LGBTQ+, Disabled, Woman, all kinds of folx — and it (art/creativity/making/doing/activism/whatever) has a role to play in saving lives, building new communities and confronting structural injustice in a confrontational way. We have to do this in ways which are inclusive of a huge range of bodies, minds and experiences. It’s a fucking ridiculous task, and so bloody exciting. Also don’t forget the puppy pictures and kitten gifs. As the amazing anarchirst organiser Emma Goldman said ‘If i can’t have kitten gifs, it ain’t my revolution’.”

#WithForAbout2020 conference introduction by James and Cecilia

#WithForAbout2020 is an online conference responding to the additional challenges that Covid-19 creates for many marginalised people and communities, asking:

What creative solutions have marginalised people developed to survive before Covid-19?

What creative ways of being and organising are being made now in response to Covid-19?

How do we embed and share these solutions, ways of being and organising now and into the future?

Over 4 episodes from Wednesday 27 May — 17 June 2020, weekly presentations, performances and provocations bring together a range of voices and experience from across the world. Themes will be mixed together to allow a truly intersectional understanding of CARE WORK, CLASS, COLONIALISM, DISABILITY, ECOLOGY, FEMINISM, LAW, MENTAL HEALTH, MIGRATION, MUTUAL AID, INTERNATIONAL ORGANISING, LGBTQ+, RACISM, SOCIAL PRACTICE, SURVEILLANCE — all under the framework of Justice and Rights based approaches.

We wilfully ask in facing this crisis, another ten years of austerity, ecological collapse, harsher borders, more racism and deeper ableism within deeply divided societies — how can artists, activists and organisations make vital change within our communities and beyond?

What are we trying to do?

This year’s Heart of Glass annual conference is co-curated by artist and mental health activist the vacuum cleaner and curator and cultural agitator Cecilia Wee with support from our partner organisations.

#WithForAbout2020 is a space to share knowledge and radical practices, consciously centring and prioritising work and experiences of artists, activists and academics from marginalised communities around the world.

We’re interested in the making of equitable ways of living and working, and how artistic practices and activist practices work together and in tandem to create and institute change in society, in other words, engaging with movements that make the future, today.

We are keen to give a platform to challenging ways of working, hold space for discussions that are difficult, taboo or little heard (whilst ensuring that the space is safe), as well as honouring actions and initiatives that are delicate and tender, celebratory in their capacity to connect us, taking us through a spectrum of emotion.

As curators, we feel blessed to be able to learn from all the contributors who have generously let us share their work, and we hope that we can convey some of the joy of discovery that we have experienced through our curatorial process. We intend to share unfamiliar projects, people, resources and readings. We hope it will be nurturing and exciting, maybe helping us feel less alone and encouraging us that we can all contribute to making social change.

#WithForAbout2020 features international artists, activists and academics:
AM Kanngieser (AUS) | Banmanya Brian (Afrorack) (UGA) | Bella with Selina Thompson (GBR) | Bobby Baker (GBR) | Cassie Thornton (CAN/USA) | Cheng Xinhao (CHN) | Dr Emma Young (GBR) | Fox Irving (Working Class Working Group) (GBR) | Prof. Rita Giacaman and Dr Weeam Hammoudeh (PSE) with Dr Hanna Kienzler (GBR)| Hwa Young Jung (GBR/KOR) | Jamal Gerald (GBR) | Jesse Presley Jones (IRL) | Johanna Hedva (USA/DEU) | Katherine Araniello & Aaron Williamson (Disabled Avant-Garde) (GBR) | Lois Weaver (GBR) | Martin O’Brien (GBR) | Migrants in Culture (GBR) | Navild Acosta and Fannie Sosa (Black Power Naps) (Nomadic) | Neil Bartlett (GBR) | No White Saviors (UGA) | Kat Salas and Matilda Bickers (STROLL PDX) with Roya Amirsoleymani (Portland Institute for Contemporary Art) (USA) | Touretteshero (GBR) | Cecilia Ashaley and Esenam Drah (GHA) with Dr Ursula Read (GBR) | Youngsook Choi (GBR) | Zwoisy Mears-Clarke (DEU) and more.

Why is this important?

Current structures within society are clearly failing us, from education to healthcare to systems of political governance: the covid-19 emergency has brought this complex of inequalities and injustices into sharp relief. We feel this urgency in a visceral way — within our networks and communities who have been severely injured by structural violences, austerity, toxic systems, historic abuses and overt/covert forms of injustice before the pandemic emerged, and who are now disproportionately impacted by it.

#WithForAbout2020 takes a rights and justice-based, intersectional approach to our work, learning from the rich histories (and currents) of disability justice movements, LGBTQI+ activists, labour rights campaigners, feminists, the Civil Rights movement, the Black Arts movement, indigenous climate justice activists, the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice movements at home, and in the Global South. Episode 2 is dedicated to all Black and Indigenous folx and people of colour who are fighting systemic and institutional racism and all forms of white supremacy.

We are people who work within the cultural sphere, but are also people who live in the world. And as such we are committed to and are concerned with how our beliefs and actions are entangled within broader, global contexts.

Collaborative art and social practice has historically contributed to calls to shift from capitalism, productivism, patriarchy and racism towards societies that collectively regenerate the wellbeing of humans and nature. We wish for this slow conference to contribute to these traditions of building societies where marginalised and underrepresented communities can self-determine new futures.

#WithForAbout2020 is therefore a process, moment and event, in which we hope will build bridges and connections between the making of culture and the making of systemic change in society through the ongoing actions of solidarity, commoning, cooperation, marginality, resistance.

Watch all episodes online http://www.withforabout.com

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