Caring through uselessness: an experience evolving into an Openvillage offer

My skin is vibrating with the power of all that is moving here. All your projects, your ideas, your courage, your gestures of care, your incredible initiatives of change… WOW. Simply being with this is nourishing.

And so in an aligned way, there are multiple pathways in which I’m experiencing care to share. While some of the language may seem a little abstract at times, the essence is practical and inclusive. So I invite you to walk with me a moment through some of my explorations of care and towards a shared possibility at OpenVillage…

An apt start are the personal practices, such as what I call “tending to the fray” : : the act of witnessing myself falling apart. The acceptance that fraying at the edges can be generative and liberating, and that sometimes we just need to give space to our unravelling in order to grow.

Through to my research in shifting our thinking around what “care” actually is
: : referencing post-feminist psychoanalytics and decolonialism to explore an “expanded self” rather than you-me power dynamics that drive so much of how we understand care.

On to practicing commons-based living and a refusal of neoliberal mechanisms of power
: : where collaborative initiatives unleash sustainable pathways, where the many facets of care cycle around and where people of all walks of life can move beyond the limits of capitalist “labour” towards individual, collective and planetary wellbeing.

And through and with much more of how care is lived in the worlds I encounter.

So as a part of Open Village’s “revolutionary care” theme, I wanted to offer an evolved version of a project I experimented with at Elsewhere: a living museum last year. If our community and the festival curators agree, then it will be a simple and subtle installation that festival go-ers can engage with at their own pace and within their own limits.

“Caring through uselessness” is a shared reflection on how in order to reimagine postures, mechanisms and systems of care, we sometimes need to render what we know useless. The experience of letting go of what one knows in order to move into a new paradigm - both at an individual and systemic level - can be disruptive, divisive and induce paralysing fear. It refers to “use” not in terms of resourcefulness but rather how the dominant frames of reference for “useful” are based on unjust capitalist notions of utility. Caring through uselessness offers itself as a companion to this process of moving beyond outdated notions of care.

It appropriates a psychological notion of the “transitional object” and “transitional phenomena” developed by D.W. Winicott. Examples are teddy bears, thumbsucking, rabbits, the mother’s breast, the mother herself. Winicott talks about the ‘transitional object’ as the first not-me relation, as the first possession, as the comforter. I believe that as changemakers we need to make sure we care for ourselves as we care for change. Akin to much shared in other stories and the festival’s whole framing, I believe that as changemakers we have the opportunity and indeed responsibility to engage in practicing new paradigms of care as we address new mechanisms of care.

If accepted as an apt and quiet offering at Openvillage, Caring through uselessness will install a curated selection of hand-held found objects - discarded pieces deemed useless - for attendees to pick up and take with them to the talks, panels, conversations, walks and encounters of the festival. Think a tin, a keyring chain, a plastic fork, a battery, a bracelet… These objects are offered as care companions for you. A little, quiet, personal and mobile site to host you in your own process of care and the many movements of Openvillage.

Regardless of what unfolds with Caring through uselessness, please feel free to introduce yourself to me here or at the festival if you’d like to share in some space with these ideas and practices.

With care, in solidarity :tulip:

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@noemi @woodbinehealth @winnieponcelet @gehan @matthias Curious to hear your feelings and thoughts about this… :cherries:

Yes! :slight_smile:

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I like the idea of having a useless object with me, and the notion of a transient artifact. Then again, a critical mind would ask if a plastic fork counts as useless, a neutral stance, or toxic, because it is in fact non-recyclable waste. Except in art, perhaps, since I don’t think we can afford to do certain objects the favor to coin them as ‘just useless’.

Curious to explore what meaning I might attach to it during those festival days.

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Really like this idea @anique - its important to create ways to form a relationship with these themes that take us out of the ‘head’ and into embodied spaces. There’s so much tied up in the dominant paradigm that’s so implicit we can’t see it - this kind of experience can help us get a glimpse of the un-seen. It’d fall into the kind of de-schooling processes that need to happen. What are the things we need to unlearn? Like the notions of utility that you mention.

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I’d love to have a precious / useless object as a companion piece over the course of festival … and I’d be curious to see how attached I would get, what kind of meaning I would ascribe to it, what kind of uses it would take on, how it will feel to let it go, and how it’s materiality will interact with my body… – Eugenia M.

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@anique.vered sign me up for this, it really is interesting. Do you need anything in the venue setup to be able to do this, or do you work with each of us individually?

@alex_levene add this to the calls for freestlye sessions/ activities? either on a board or through speakouts, people would pitch their ideas in plenary in a few seconds, otherwise there’s no way to find out since they’re coming so late in the game.

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( gratitude and alignment to all these reflections ) ) )

So @noemi yes, I think it looks like there’s enough momentum for this happen :sparkler:
What that means is:

  • I can give you a couple of sentences for the activity section in the program/ board (will do later today)
  • I’ll just need a little corner of each venue - ideally somewhere close to the entry - and a table, although I can also make do with a plinth or crates if need be.
  • I’ll set-it up Wednesday afternoon when you’re all preparing the space (perhaps it’s a good idea to share your number so I can get in touch if need be), and if for any reason that doesn’t happen will come early Thursday to install.
  • I’ll include a very simple print out of what it is and how people can engage

Otherwise that’s it! It really is just a quiet self-organizing activity that people can connect with or not as they wish.

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This is a very beautiful meditation about what it means to care and what it means to be cared for, how it brings together people not in their power to assert themselves, but as two fragilities meeting each other and supporting each other. I look forward to your workshop.

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@noemi Here’s what can be included in the program if necessary

Caring through uselessness
an offering from anique yael vered and various found objects to you

when:
participatory installation / self-organizing experience throughout Openvillage

where:
near the entry and with you

what:
Caring through uselessness is a shared reflection on how in order to reimagine postures, mechanisms and systems of care, we sometimes need to render what we know useless. The experience of letting go of what one knows in order to move into a new paradigm - both at an individual and systemic level - can be disruptive, divisive and induce paralysing fear. Referring to “use” not in terms of resourcefulness but rather how the dominant frames of reference for useful are based on biased capitalist conceptions of utility, this project offers itself as a companion to the process of moving beyond outdated notions of care.

Caring through uselessness is a curated selection of hand-held found objects - discarded pieces deemed useless - for attendees to pick up and take with them to the talks, panels, conversations, walks and encounters of the festival. These objects are offered as care companions for you. They are there to open a little, quiet, personal and mobile site to host you in your own process of care and the many movements of Openvillage.

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Not sure if @owen has time to include this in the materials we produce(d). But I would suggest to bring this description on a small piece of paper which can be made available at Check In, with your contact - so people can find you in the times you’re not around.
So.Cool :slight_smile:
xx

Yeah no worries at all!

But just to clarify, this is completely self-guided and there won’t be any facilitation by me now will I be there to explain (the print out will do that). Of course I’m available if people want to reflect or have questions but it really is an installation and self-organizing activity for people to engage with at their own pace.

You must be getting excited, sending :hearts: for the final preparations

Thank you Anique for the wonderful reflection.
I completely agree about the caring power of what we could consider useless. This apparent lack of meaning creating space for adding a new meaning, make it our own.
Emptiness as an opportunity, beauty instead of utility, caring instead of exploiting.
Hope to have the opportunity to meet you and share your ideas!

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Caring through uselessness has begun!

Your care companions have been found and cleaned, and the first protoype prepared…

We’re looking forward to sharing with you :seedling:

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@noemi @alex_levene FYI I’ll be arriving around 8:15am tomorrow morning to set up the installation.

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