Towards the Planetary Commons at Arts Catalyst
Encompassing artist film, an evolving installation and a programme of talks and workshops, the programme reflects on different ways of living and how new knowledge can emerge from struggles against current ecopolitical challenges. Featuring the work of artists Marwa Arsanios, Paloma Polo, Lorenzo Sandoval and They Are Here
Neoliberal policies imposed on communities of humans and non-humans reinforce strategies of land grabbing and monoculture, threatening the land and its biodiversity. Whilst corporations and governments alike remain removed from accountability for pollution, natural resource extraction and displacement of entire communities, across the world, in regions such as the Philippines and Kurdistan, people are collectively adopting new modes of decision-making and self-governance through approaches inspired by eco-feminism, class struggle and planetary commoning practices.
In one room of the exhibition is a rotating programme of artist films by Lebanese artist Marwa Arsanios and Spanish artist Paloma Polo, all of which are presented for the first time in the UK.
In Who’s Afraid of Ideology? Part I (2017) Arsanios addresses forms of self-governance and knowledge production that have emerged from the autonomous women’s movement in Rojava. Shot in the mountains of Kurdistan and through recorded testimony, the film tracks the practical work of the movement - how to use an axe, how to eat fish within its biological cycles of production, when to cut down a tree for survival and when to save it. It explores how individuals come to a conscious participation in the movement; how they become part of the guerrilla, highlighting group learning as essential to the movement itself. In the film, the soundtrack of testimonies, analyses, and critical histories from those within and in proximity to the movement are edited together in a single, solid density. In Who’s Afraid of Ideology? Part 2 (2019) Arsanios focuses on the ecofeminist groups that form part of the movement, honing in on the alliance between communities of women, nature and animals and problematising the care roles ‘naturally’ assigned to women.
The second phase in the programme, will see artist Paloma Polo’s The earth of the Revolution (2019) premiered for the first time. Emerging from Polo’s research in the Philippines, cultivated over three years, and during which time the artist located herself at the heart of the ongoing democratic struggles in the region – a struggle in which marginalised countryside communities are actively fighting for democratic and progressive transformations, emancipation and the common good – this new work offers viewers a glimpse into the political practices that underlie the revolution. Segmented into scenes, the film closely follows the guerrilla as they go about their everyday tasks, from lessons and habitual meetings, reporting and assessments to personal conversations and confidences, moments of solitude and rest. Blurring the distinctions between documentary and artist film, The earth of the Revolution seeks to expand our understanding of how revolution manifests itself in a contemporary context, reflecting on some of the positive human elements and processes that might arise from such conflicts.
Arts Catalyst’s second space will take the form of a ‘living room,’ an evolving installation showcasing case studies that emerge from the programme, presented within the framework of a modular environment designed by artist Lorenzo Sandoval. Works by collective practice They Are Here, artists-in-residence throughout 2019, will be presented alongside Sandoval's installation. They Are Here draw from research over the past two years into Wardian Cases, a botanical container developed in the early 19th Century to transport plants across great distances. Prototypes for New Wardian Cases (2019) are material structures modelled on non-European architectural histories that function as a form of speculative design. In the context of the public programme, They Are Here will present a live-mix of their new audio-visual work, BRUNO, an enveloping, free-ranging meditation on the relationships between ecology, migration and the urban environment.
Towards the Planetary Commons is part of Arts Catalyst’s Test Sites programme, an ongoing co-inquiry exploring the rapid transformations in human and non-human lives caused by environmental change. Featuring works by international artists, this next phase in the project opens up the programme to broader planetary perspectives. An accompanying programme of talks, conversations and workshops will be announced soon via Arts Catalyst’s website.