Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures (2017- ongoing)

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 (www.decolonialfutures.net), 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.

As part of this work, since 2017 we have been hosting yearly an experiential and intellectual “laboratory” in Gorca, Slovenia. Within the context of the Gorca Earth Care Summer Program participants are challenged to test the limits of their ideas/prototypes for social change against dissenting perspectives, where they are sensitized to different understandings of fairness, wellbeing and global justice, where they are supported to face their complicity in systemic harm, where they may unlock “adjacent possibilities” for global justice work in their own contexts of practice and where they start to feel comfortable with uncertainty, complexity, plurality and improvisation.

We envisage this as a space where participants can

  • step back, look at the bigger picture and “dig deeper”

  • clarify, test and unpack assumptions and the implications of ideas without fear of judgment

  • acquire/develop languages/vocabularies to name and productively host tensions, conflict, and paradoxes

  • form relationships not mediated by knowledge, identity or understanding

  • engage with difficult questions without relationships falling apart

  • become comfortable with the discomfort of facing fears, contradictions and projections

  • find peace and strength in vulnerability

In the creation of the “living lab”, we are experimenting with hosting a process/space based on four orientation-invitations to develop discernment and relational wisdom in face of complexity, uncertainty, ambivalence, asymmetry, paradoxes and incommensurability:

  • 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)

We use the “eARTh CARE justice framework” and the “Gorca eARTh CARE questions” to connect people and to deepen conversations about global change, alternatives, and education.

More info on Gorca Earth Care program HERE​