e-journal no. 2


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“It’s a heart smash but the fragments will rally”
Arundhati Roy *

Welcome to the second issue of performingborders annual e-journal.

Started in 2021, the performingborders e-journal is a space to reflect on borders, live art, community, and resistance. Centering embodied knowledge and artists’ imagination as a space of knowledge production, the e-journal is a site to reclaim our collective capacity to build and share, to nourish and connect working practices, thinking, and lived experiences.

Last year’s e-journal gathered fragments of reflections to rebuild our collective futures after two years of the pandemic and failed institutional promises of equality and social justice in a white supremacist capitalist patriarchal society (bell hooks). This year we invited contributions from artists, makers, organisers, and thinkers that have been practising those futures in their day-to-day work, step by step, fight by fight, constantly rallying to transform imaginary possibilities into realities.

The theme of this year stems from this process of rallying together, of commoning and communing, for the creation of something better and the maintenance of other ways of being. It is a movement away from disembodied discourse towards actions, gestures, and gatherings that (even for a moment) let us consider what we can do when we harness our resources, time, bodies, and care, to collectivise them.

Alongside preparation for this e-journal, we have been thinking (and re-thinking) our ways of working and finding ways to sustainably create work under a brutal and unyielding capitalist model. It still remains to be seen whether this is possible given the unjust value systems that dictate everything from funding, to working hours and support available for artists and workers, but we want to create as many interventions in this as we have the capacity to make. Other than continuing to work on organisational horizontality, prioritising fair fees, and providing access provisions to all our collaborators, as of this e-journal we are trialling a ‘solidarity pot’. The idea behind this is to provide funds for all the artists we work with (and ourselves!) to join unions, and where possible cover this membership for a year. As a part of this, we also have a pot of money for costs relating to migration and visas, although given the relentlessness of these costs what we can provide at the moment is a drop in a bucket, but is something we aim to build up. To create or even envision a path toward a cultural sector (or a world) that prioritises collective well-being, mental health, and working rights it is no longer enough to just create transgressive art, we have to find a way to create structural interventions in the way we are organised and care for each other strategically.

In part, this e-journal also came from thinking about the ease with which the struggle of resistance and collective work is co-opted and tokenized and what this has meant for the cultural sector, which so easily shape-shifts into what might seem ‘radical’ or ‘progressive’ but is in fact the same oppressive structure dressed in new clothes. In this shifting landscape, every promise of care is absurd and warped in a hall of mirrors to leave you feeling more vulnerable than before. It is a discourse that insists that we acknowledge the structures of power at play, speaking of inequalities and social justice, quoting Audre Lorde and Stuart Hall, and yet upholding the structures all the same. This is not new and in fact, follows in the footsteps of neoliberalism’s best tool: the ability to turn everything against itself for profit. Whether it is liberal feminism or ‘radical progressive’ cultural institutions, it feels that all our best efforts are turned into tote bags with catchy slogans and never into change to our material conditions.

It feels like right now existing, let alone working, feels hard, but this doesn’t quite capture the suffocating intersection that artists, organisers and cultural workers find themselves in – caught between a post-covid ‘recovery’, a crumbling arts sector, cost of living crises, the oppressive state and the hostile environment (and that’s all on top the war(s), the global rise of rightwing leaders, the climate catastrophe and all the other disasters waging war on our bodies, territories, and minds). Far from being discursive or theoretical pressures, the structures we’re caught against are actively sapping energy from workers in our sector (and everywhere), and slowly we’re realising that despite our best efforts to offer alternative working models, support, and financial means to make work, the state of the world means that things are becoming impossible for everyone (except the select few who are profiting from the disaster/s). The result of this is manifold but has a clear impact on folks’ abilities to make time for their personal lives, contribute to smaller projects, and make work, amongst all the other demands.

For this reason, and almost ironically, putting ‘Rallying the Commons’ together felt more than hard because as it turns out, the commons are exhausted. And so, Arundhati Roy’s words ring even more true. Even when we have been smashed to pieces, we must find a way to build back, to reverberate and rally, first slowly perhaps, but always remembering Angela Davis’s exhortation:

freedom is a constant struggle.

Through this work, we want to create space for those underlying, ongoing struggles that shape our present. So, rather than give up or start selling tote bags, it felt right to focus on the kind of work that is ongoing, the work that is rallying despite being left in fragments. It is work that is quietly and loudly building new structures.

We are so excited and humbled by the contributions to this year’s e-journal, from Ximena Alarcón-Díaz’s sonic migration journeys that strengthen our individual and collective sense of agency, to Sheila Ghelani’s tender reflections on the lack of care in our sector, and how this intersects personal care responsibilities. We are also excited to re-share Sheila’s Checklist of Care, now with an audio recording- a recommended resource.Helena Walsh shares important reflections on how artist groups have collectivized and organized to support feminist pro-abortion campaigns in Ireland and how the introduction of basic income for artists is creating hope in the country. Harun Morrison shares with us images and words from his project The Anchor, The Drum, The Ship (2022 – ) looking at the different ways to commemorate and remember alternative narratives and intervene in colonial histories. Elif Sarican and Dilar Dirik write on hevaltî- revolutionary friendship, a term used within revolutionary Kurdish contexts, reflecting on the required politicisation of care in times of revolution. We close this issue with two important reflections on budgeting and funding:The Question of Funding write on sustainable community-centered funding models and the use of Dayra (written by Lara Khaldi), and Jack Ky Tan shares their Budget Commission, through which we explored the imposed value systems we work with and think about all that is not captured in our budgets. This commission also includes a full annotated budget for this e-journal.

We hope you enjoy and that within these words, sounds, images, and gestures you find echoes of the rallying calls to continue to imagine better worlds, because other worlds are possible.

With love, rage, care, and solidarity,

* Author and political activist Arundhati Roy’s quote was mentioned at her Stuart Hall Foundation’s Annual Autumn keynote, 30 September 2022, London.