In times of emergency, pre-existing community support strategies often fall short. States of constantly changing urgency furthermore lay bare the overlapping frameworks of oppression that undermine support networks. In light of the current health crisis and its political responses, it has become clear that it is necessary to quickly develop new tactics while anticipating likely near futures and grasping at possibilities beyond. A global pandemic means widespread, totalizing crisis, but, in opposition to the official messaging here in the Netherlands and elsewhere, the virus does discriminate—and that is where solidarity comes in. New tools and resources need to be enlisted, focusing first on those most in need and those missing the most fundamental of rights. Existing models need to be closely looked at and altered where needed: to repurpose, redirect, redistribute.
This is what we mean by “tactical solidarities.” As physical isolation threatens social bonds and poses ever-greater challenges to learned ways of organizing, it is imperative to find ways of being together and being for others. Physical distancing calls for social solidarity and for the practice of alternative structures of collective care created through multiple efforts of empathy, strategy, and imagination. This first edition of Prospections, then, is a modest offering of resources around different kinds of tactical solidarity frameworks, considering what these are, what they are becoming, and what they can be.
The digital forum Prospections comes about as BAK has been thinking about ways to work within remoteness, and without virtue-signaling, self-promoting, or failing to read the room (the room is on fire). In order to be useful within the means of what the institution has already built, Prospections is conceived as a humble framework to keep thinking along with, developing, learning from, and supporting the work of neighboring artists, thinkers, and activists. With plural audiences, accomplices, and co-conspirators in mind, the contributions are presented in several language forms—in vernacular, in anger, in forms of the theoretical and the poetic. While the entries appear in a mix of English, Dutch, and sometimes other languages, little is translated: original forms are prioritized. In each of the focus points of the forum, the aim is to move beyond reactivity. Rather than attend to “topics,” the contributions anticipate next steps, to be ready to support, and to respond, using imagination- and experience-based tactics, buoyed by the co-extensive urgencies of the present and certain urgencies of the future.
This edition of Prospections, under the title “Tactical Solidarities,” includes documentation, publications, new reports, and a live online event, which assemble here to propose a few suggestions for reconsidering and enacting solidarity. Looking back at the recent multi-part program Trainings for the Not-Yet (14 September 2019–12 January 2020), a video capturing Fran Illich’s public presentation details the artist-practitioner’s engagement with alternative solidarity economies as creative tools to, among other things, shift independent financial flows, alter commodity values, and form new digital cooperatives. An interview conducted by the BAK team with the advocacy groups Here to Support and Bond Precaire Woonvormen, Utrecht along with a group of locally-organizing university students, tackles diverse organizational efforts to protect and provide housing security for all within the conditions of the pandemic, reflecting on the current challenges and skill-sharing opportunities.
Reaching to other previous BAK collaborations, Silvia Federici’s contribution to the publication FORMER WEST: Art and the Contemporary After 1989 (2016), entitled “Feminism and the Politics of the Commons,” discusses a feminist commons as a groundwork theory toward solidarity and comments on the politics of reproduction and feminized labor, themes especially relevant in this time when care workers have gone in popular esteem from unskilled laborers to essential workers. Additionally, the BAK reader New World Academy #5: Stateless Democracy (2015) is available here in full, with an introduction from artist Jonas Staal that traces lessons from the Kurdish Women’s Movement of Rojava to ongoing discussions of solidarity tactics across the world today.
Finally, this edition includes a live online event, Practicing Tactical Solidarities, focused around mutual aid strategies, cooperation, and methods for “radicalizing the local” in this emergency moment. Featuring representatives from Afrikaanderwijk Cooperative, Rotterdam; the Basic Activist Kitchen, Utrecht; Brigate Volontarie per l’emergenza, Milan; and cooperative bakery and land trust Homebaked Anfield, Liverpool, the roundtable discuss various ways of maintaining local support structures and redirecting efforts to enact solidarity in the realities of pandemic and physical isolation. Cumulatively new contributions might be added as the need or conversation develops.
Yours in solidarity,
Rachael Rakes, Irene Calabuch Mirón and the BAK team