Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures (2017- ongoing)


Gesturing towards decolonial futures  (GTDF) is an arts/research collective that develops artistic, pedagogical, cartographic, and relational experiments that aim to identify and de-activate colonial habits of being, and to gesture towards the possibility of decolonial futures.

GTDF is about hospicing worlds that are dying within and around us with care and integrity, as well as with attention to the lessons these deaths offer, while also assisting with the birth of new, potentially wiser possibilities, without suffocating them with projections. GTDF is about facing our complicity in violence and unsustainability and its implications with the courage of really seeking to connect with the collective pain, past, present, and future.

Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures involves learning and unlearning, detoxifying and decluttering, mourning, grieving and healing, composting and metabolizing, in order to build something new, life-sustaining and life-supporting. It also involves loosening our attachments to what we think we want so that we might instead go where we are needed.

Within this collective, we experiment with metaphors of cycles of life and death to invite practices of hospicing that which is dying, and assisting in the birth of that which is new, undefined, and potentially (though not necessarily) wiser. We use three inter-dependent practices (of art, social cartography and pedagogy) to denaturalize colonial frames of reference and material architectures that make up the social context in which knowledge is produced within our current system. These practices aim to enable ways of doing, thinking, and being that are viable but unimaginable within the modern-colonial imaginary.

Despite our differences, our collective of artists, educators, artist-educators and scholars operates from the premise that if the problems of the present are created by this modern/colonial imaginary, then responses or solutions formulated within this imaginary will only lead to more of the same. As with all diagnoses, ours invites its own proposition – in our case, the possibility of presently unimaginable decolonial futures. Why frame this as a practice of ‘gesturing’, rather than one of demands, manifestos or prescriptions? Standing within a global colonial imaginary, we cannot know in advance what a decolonized world might look, feel, smell, taste like. We might have some ideas; for instance, a decolonized world as a “world in which many worlds fit,” as famously proposed by the Zapatistas. We might know that our current world is not sustainable, that it is already not liveable for many, that other worlds are possible. But decolonization is not an event nor is it a formula; it is a complex, multi-faceted life-long and life-wide practice that offers no assurances.

The sociological imperative to trace the social, political, and economic histories and contexts that shape the colonial present is a vital part of any decolonial effort; however, simply learning about colonial power relations does not in itself necessarily disrupt the dominant frames of knowing and being that are themselves made through those relations. The presumed universality of these frames circumscribes what is possible for us to imagine. Thus, artistic and pedagogical practices of hospicing/midwifery offer complementary tools and strategies that may interrupt the power of this knowledge regime and thereby loosen its grip on our individual imaginations and our collective imaginary. In doing so, they open the possibility of pluralizing not only what we know, but also how we know and who we are, so that we might learn to know and be otherwise. But this is merely a possibility, not a guarantee.

The collective seeks pedagogies capable of engaging with (rather than denying) systemic violence, our entanglement and complicity in harm, and the need for centering the earth in processes of justice and healing. The practices we create inhabit a space that we call “beyond reform,” that is, they start from the realization that the current multiple crises are a founding part of the Modern/Colonial system, and therefore cannot be addressed only with reforms, be they subtle or profound, within this system. Thus, our pedagogical experiments are based on offering palliative treatment during the decline of a violent and unsustainable system, and on assisting in “birthing” new possibilities with great care for them not to be suffocated with projections and expectations. This work draws on the many lessons learned from the recurrent mistakes of the past, in the hope that only new mistakes will be made in the future.

Four of the basic orientations-invitations we use to develop discernment and relational wisdom in face of the complexity, uncertainty and paradoxes we live in:

  • decentering ego-logical investments and perceived entitlements to expand notions of self/being (open eyes)
  • disarming symbolic (logocentric) lockdowns, affective landmines and “thick language” aspirations to embrace uncertainty/not knowing (open heart)
  • decluttering (intellectual) projections, (affective) compensations, (physical) disconnections and (existential) distractions to develop stamina for the long haul (open flesh)
  • dissolving boundaries of thought/senses/relationships/self to enable ontogenesis (open dreaming)

Some of our “compass” questions:

  • How has our education trapped us in conceptualizations of (and relationships with) language, knowledge, agency, autonomy, identity, criticality, art, sexuality, earth, time, space, and self…that restrict our horizons and what we consider to be possible / intelligible? [what restricts what is possible for us to sense, understand, articulate, want and imagine?]
  • What educational processes can override our categorical neurological wiring and bio-chemical responses (our fears, self-interest, narratives, ego, narcissistic tendencies, wounds, etc), activate a visceral sense of entanglement, responsibility, humility, generosity, sanity (not dependent on will or intellectual choices), and open up possibilities/worlds that are viable, but unimaginable or inarticulable within our current frames of reference? [what, beyond convictions, can offer an antidote to indifference?]
  • What can engender a stream of connections and a sense of care and commitment to everything that overrides self-interest and is not dependent on convictions, knowledge, identity or understanding?
  • How can we start to heal our individual and collective pain without guilt, paralysis, self-righteousness, entitlement, depoliticization, wound-attachment, transference, tantrums, re-wounding and drama?
  • How can we engage and be taught by different systems of knowledge and being, struggles and attempts to create alternatives, (a)cutely aware of their gifts, limitations, and contradictions, as well as our own (mis)interpretations, projections, and appropriations?
  • How can we tap the possibilities that are viable but unintelligible within dominant paradigms?[How to invite people to consider what is deemed “impossible”?]
  • What would dialogue, horizontality and solidarity look like beyond the imaginative boundaries of capitalism, socialism, anarchism, anthropocentric humanism and separability? [how have our dreams been tamed?]
  • How can we rigorously mobilize an “alternative way to engage with alternatives” ( walking/ dancing/ breathing/ stumbling differently together in a foggy road) without arrogance, righteousness, dogmatism and perfectionism?
  • How can we hospice a dying way of knowing/being and assist with the birth of something new, still fragile, undefined and potentially (but not necessarily) wiser with radical tenderness?