Care Practice: Recipes for Resilience | Review
Care Practice Sessions, Gas Gallery L.A.,
Care Practice: an insight in Recipes for Resilience
How can we explore new forms of interaction and communal care while we are stuck at home? Los Angeles-based Gas Gallery’s online programme Care Practice: Recipes for Resilience, developed by curators Ceci Moss and Jenni Nurmenniemi, tries to formulate answers to this question. The programme’s objectives are to inspire its participants to practice new forms of creative community, with an emphasis on sustainability and taking care. The Care Practice sessions are organised on a weekly basis through Zoom and they consist of participatory exercises and conversations led by guest presenters. The main aim of the sessions is to let the participants develop their own sets of building blocks to create a sustainable art and care practice in the future: a recipe for resilience.
In this review, we will take a look at the first pair of Care Practice sessions that took place on June 6 and June 13, 2020.
Creating Spaces to Dream
The first Care Practice session started with embodied writing exercises led by Finnish performance and visual artist Ana Teo Ala-Ruona and dramaturg and writer Elina Minn. Writing together can create a sense of solidarity and comfort: everyone has his or her own space, but the mere fact that everyone is writing together at the same time connects and creates a space of solidarity. The first ten-minute writing exercise, The Magic Words, invited the writer to look for words that bring pleasure. The writer was invited to explore words that sound appealing, to utter them while writing them down, to look for words that bring pleasurable memories or images to mind.
Ala-Ruona and Minn provided the participants with time to reflect on their writings and gave them the opportunity to share their experience. The second exercise, Pleasure Body Fiction, was a twenty-minute reflection on how the individual can write about and towards pleasure in his or her own body. The writer asks him- or herself: what does my body need at this precise moment? Again, the exercise was treated as an invitation, so the writer had freedom to experience feelings of resistance and awkwardness and was allowed to either embrace these feelings, engage with them, ignore them or actively resist them.
The writing exercises were followed by a listening exercise and a discussion led by choreographer and artistic director Sonya Lindfors and writer and artist Willa Koerner. How do we create spaces to dream? And what role does our own individual voice play? Can we find balance between remaining silent, listening to the other, and voicing our own beliefs and truths? Lindfors reflected on Audre Lorde’s essay Turning Silence into Language and Action, discussing what the function of the individual is in translating silence into language. The core questions posed during the discussion revolved around creating spaces to make our voice heard, contributing to both individual and collective growth. How do we create spaces to dream by living and speaking our own truths? Can we listen without feeling the need to constantly understand, giving space to show solidarity? During the listening exercise, which included listening to a twelve-minute sound piece by Zen Jefferson which featured a poem by Pat Parker, the participants were invited to listen with their whole body to create a multisensory experience and explore the limits of your own ability to listen.
Within the space of this first Care Practice session, the participants and presenters created their own spaces to dream, in freedom and in solidarity.
Building Caring Communities
This session started with a community chorus as a warm up exercise, led by Carolyn Pennypakcer Riggs. Pennypacker Riggs managed to let the participants explore their own voices through several exercises. This part of the session started with a deep listening meditation by Pauline Oliveros and voice warm-up exercises. The deep listening meditation and exercises were followed up by a so-called freedom chord, in which all participants were free to sing any note they wanted, creating a caring community through singing together.
The community chorus was followed by a discussion led by Mandy Harris Williams of Women’s Center for Creative Work and Helsinki’s Feminist Culture House (FCH), an intersectional feminist organisation that supports people of colour and trans, non-binary, gender non-conforming, black, disabled or immigrant artists in Finland. Its co-founders are Katie Lenanton, Neicia Marsh, Orlan Ohtonen and Selina Väliheikki. Feminist Culture House aims to function as a supportive structure for artists in Helsinki.
Central to the discussion was the idea of care as an experimental orientation instead of a fixed destination. Other questions posed in the group discussion regarded the way one negotiates their activism within and in relation to organisational structures, whether they are an outside institution or a self-organised entity. Activism is not only a necessity for creating sustainable communities and healthy progess in society, it is also a form of creative work.
The session ended with sharing some positive words with each other.