Ecologies of Care

Networks between seaweed, mushrooms, insects, people, fungi, soil, starfish, rocks, cows, algae, slime… (+ another species) all differ in specificities, yet ripples of connectedness are in constant symbiosis with one another. Inherently interconnected in its environment. And so the ARIAS network wonders, how do they and their research fit within this wider ecology that they are situated within? And importantly how is care punctuated in that ecology? Care means wanting the best for the natural world and its inhabitants, bringing joy where possible, expanding and opening up networks, giving compassion and empathy, holding values and beliefs, going beyond basic needs. Routinely, information from different researches and their methodologies cross a multi of eyes, disciplines, species, societies. They interact, change directions, clash, and join. These ripples are what ARIAS pays attention to, and how they organise in the midst of what Donna Harroway names the Chthulucene.

‘Ecologies of Care’, granted, is a wide title. It circles around a huge compass of meaning in which ARIAS does not intend to imprint on too far in its framing. Though by bringing this ecology to the forefront ARIAS wishes to pay attention to its articulation as research continues to be undertaken in the network. With respect to that, in the broadest sense, the words of Francesco Salvini can help. He says ecologies can be understood as ‘practices of organisation in the middle of troubles’ and he speaks about ecologies of care as: ‘the role of caring in constituting the social modes of organisation in an ecology.’ It is in the relations of which come to be through ‘care’ that make up its ecology. And obviously, the world needs more of it. For many, this notion points immediately to philosophers or cultural theorists that sit within medical humanities, gender studies, biology, for example. Though by listening to the matter ARIAS sees that notions of care are transcending through a plethora of other disciplines. Researchers sitting anywhere between the sciences and the arts can see that care needs weaving and punctuating in their working processes.

Yet ‘care’ and its relational value in a conditioned world that forwards competition and fear against itself, can get lost, become diluted, or simply was already lacking. Isabel Lorey writes that although people are mutually dependent on each other for survival, the precariousness of all bodies is not protected in the same way. It is the governance of care that creates social difference: “some are better protected than others”. What changes could the breaking of apathy bring to these social differences? If the breaking apathy is even possible. In artistic and maker practices these ecologies of care have started to open up as people see that what they do is not separate from the social, techno, political, issues where they are situated. For example, in an event convened in 2019 named ‘For Your Convenience’ ARIAS brought together artists and cultural theorists that were taking a step back from what they do to examine their processes. The point of the meeting was to ask how they weave and entangle care and ecological balance in their artistic practice. They were wondering in which way they bring care into their work, and avoid implanting themselves as a vulture into other cultures or situations.

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