Introduction: Planning versus Policy--Provisional Architectures for Care and Somatic Healing in the Arts

Hello soon-to-be festival friends! First off, I want to express gratitude to all who have put in so much care/labor to make this convening happen. Due to some bouts with illness amidst relocation to Europe, I am a bit late to the game. Our comrades from Woodbine invited me to contribute ideas a while back and I am just now getting to this as the official program has been decided. I would like to introduce myself still in case this helps facilitate a coming together with those with like concerns, possibly in the freestyle sessions (or even more informally after meals and the like).

As a curator, citizen, human, I’ve focused my attention primarily on the interrelatedness of groups, subjects, and objects within various social and political systems and, particularly, institutional bodies. Last year I realized that I was at a crucial point where focused time outside of the imperatives and logics of an institution could facilitate a necessary perspectival shift in the work I was doing, one that would inevitably alter the way I’ve been working though the convergence of contingency, labor, administration and planning within organizational bodies in the arts. Just as I slowed down, I got sick. This is how the ongoing curatorial project “Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism’s Temporal Bullying” began, out of this lived experience. (Note: “Crip” is a political reclaiming of the derogatory label cripple.)

“Sick Time” argues that care for the body in states of debility and disability (particularly their temporalities) can help us to re-imagine the ground necessary for collectivity. It proposes that better incorporation of the temporal states of rest, illness, sleep, and aging into society works against the Eurocentric conception of progressivist linear time that finds its corollary in neoliberal capitalist logics and drains humans of their life blood. Dragging on, circling back, with no regard for the stricture of the work week or compulsory ablebodiness, sick time is non-compliant. It refuses a fantasy of normalcy measured by either-in-or-out thresholds and demands care that exceeds that which the nuclear family unit can provide. (A set of curatorial notes/manifesto can be found here and more info about the first exhibition in the series can be found in the PR here)

I’d hoped to offer a bodily communication workshop centered around how we communicate about illness, but perhaps some of the artist’s practices/experiments in this show might be interesting to discuss. Much of the work being done by the artists and communities of care in “Sick Time” relates to a distinction articulated by Stefano Harney and Fred Moten in their 2013 book between policy vs planning. In short, policy comes from above and pronounces others as incorrect, while planning invents the means [of social reproduction] in a common experiment. “Planning in the undercommons is not an activity, not fishing or dancing or teaching or loving, but the ceaseless experiment with the futurial presence of the forms of life that make such activities possible. Planning is rooted in a black radicalism, which hopes against hope…in order to survive in the deplorable present" As Harney and Moten further detail, “Management looses not in workplace but economic management can not win in realm of social reproduction…here, management encounters forms of what we will call planning. In the undercommons of the social reproductive realm the means, which is to say the planners, are still part of the plan."

One example to look at might be the Canaries. Canaries is a support group and art collective for people with autoimmune diseases that operate on crip time amidst a scarcity of language to address rapidly unfolding chronic illnesses. For the publication project, Notes for the Waiting Room they contributed texts and images addressing the question: “How do you take care of yourself during a flare-up of your symptoms?” The resulting publication, distributed in art contexts as well as in doctor’s waiting rooms, challenges the unilateral and hierarchical transmission of information from doctor to patient and, much like the overall art and advocacy work of Canaries, fosters solidarity and embodied knowledge sharing instead. Or another example is the work Cassie Thornton has done. She has investigated the impact of economic systems on public affect and behavior for some time and, like Canaries, is currently exploring methods of social healthcare by testing a model for de-financialized care that responds to the experience of crisis.

By constituting new cultural rituals and creating provisional non-hierarchical infrastructures, these artist’s works question the very borders of a body and provide myriad radical possibilities for gaining agency and negotiation with the problems of the body by using a political relational model that views dependency with others positively. While the space of the arts has long been a site for new modes of self representation, critique, cross-disciplinary experimentation, the envisioning of alternatives, and challenging the dominance of mind-centered epistemologies that dislodge us from our bodies, it could be interesting to discuss how it allows for a reconfiguration of structures of care that then does or does not trickle out. Of course there is a certain experimentation of forms that is germane to the arts, but there is also the way arts critiques just helps institutions optimize under neoliberalism etc to consider…

Looking forward to discussing this and more!

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Here are the links to some Canaries materials mentioned (As a new user I could only link 2 things!)

The Canaries support group website and Notes for the Waiting Room publication.

Hi @tneh and welcome to edgeryders. Thanks for formatting your text, it’s easier to read now without the screencapture/ picture in it. Yours seems like a culturally sophisticated way of ensuring some deeper awareness and peer support of which others have been talking about around here. I guess I am having a little problems reading it due to some new terminology - 'undercommons"?

Otherwise, I think @amelia and @kate_g would really enjoy your work.

Amelia wrote a beautiful post a few months back about invisible illnesses..

Looking forward to meet you in person. We’ve included you in the list of participants and the email which Natalia sent earlier today.

@tneh Welcome to the platform! Really excited to have you come to the festival. Some of us have been following the work of the Canaries in NYC and we have resonated with the discourse around “sick time”. We find the tension between what our natures demand and capitalism expects to be an area to delve into the topics of care and care as a revolutionary force. Looking forward to connecting with you!