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Convention: working sessions

Usufructuaries of earth. Chapter three, convention


Friday 24 May 2024
Working sessions
11.30–16.00 hrs


“Beyond Value” convened by Denise Ferreira da Silva and Massimiliano (Mao) Mollona.
“Taking Debt Out of the Closet” convened by Verónica Gago and Lucí Cavallero.
“Germinating Resistance” convened by Samanta Arango Orozco and Arelly Collazos of Grupo Semillas.
“Failing, Dreaming, Doing: rehearsing abolition” convened by MADEYOULOOK (Molemo Moiloa and Nare Mokgotho) and Yvonne Phyllis

A small number of participants can join the working sessions (maximum capacity of 12 people per session) through the following open call: Please send an email to opencall@bakonline.org by midnight 14 May 2024, wherein you introduce yourself, indicate which working session you would like to join and and a short written motivation of no more than 200 words.

Working Session “Beyond Value”
The “Beyond Value” working session, convened by Denise Ferreira da Silva and Massimiliano (Mao) Mollona, continues on from their ongoing conversation about a critique of bourgeois value as articulated from the point of view of Black aesthetics and radical political economies. Rooted in elemental materialist philosophy, unhinged from the racial fetishes of beauty and profit, and exceeding the anthropological and legal bounds of the western subject, Ferreira da Silva and Mollona approach value as a gathering of matter that resists containment, capture, and possession and could instead be considered as a reclamation of an aesthetics of matter that takes opacity, relationality, and hapticality as its starting point.

What is the value of labor of those subjects who are not self-possessed? What is the value of those debts which are never extinguished? The working session engages these questions with reference to the colonial and neocolonial history of Brazil—and, specifically, the process of land occupation by racial capital through the figures of forced labor and unpayable debts—and in the historical forms of the plantation, the “modern” industry, and the financialization of poverty and dispossession. Thinking with feminist Black philosopher Beatriz Nascimento’s reflections on the quilombo as a form of cultural and material resistance, “Beyond Value” imagines a more-than-human relatedness in excess of value generated by radical refusals of labor, possession, and indebtedness within the fields of art and political economy.

Moreover, in bringing together artists and researchers working in and with different forms of visual culture, “Beyond Value” reflects on visual and “(un)aesthetic” strategies that critically reflect on value, that is, through non-bourgeois categories of political economy.

Focus reading:
Denise Ferreira da Silva “Unpayable Debt,” The Documenta 14 Reader, 2017
– Massimiliano Mollona, “Old and New Land Questions: Capital as Land,” Brazilian Steel Town: Machines, Land, Money and Commoning in the Making of the Working Class, Berghahn Books, 2019.

Background reading:
Denise Ferreira da Silva, Unpayable Debt, Sternberg Press, 2021
Denise Ferreira da Silva, “Reading the Dead: A Black Feminist Poethical Reading of Global Capital,” Otherwise Worlds: Against Settler Colonialism and Anti-Blackness, Duke University Press, 2020.
– Massimiliano Mollona, “Beyond the Cinematic Mode of Production: Film Labour, Manual Labour and Intellectual Labour in the Making of ‘Steel Lives’, Sheffield,” Art/Commons: Anthropology Beyond Capitalism, Zed Books, 2021.*

This working session is held in English.

Participants: Asia Bazdyrieva (art historian, Berlin), Lama El Khatib (researcher and cultural worker, Berlin), Denise Ferreira da Silva (artist and philosopher, Vancouver), Stefano Harney (writer and educator, Cologne), Ola Hassanain (artist, Amsterdam and Khartoum), Louis Henderson (artist and filmmaker, Berlin), Hanna Husberg (artist, Stockholm), Mokia Laisin (cultural worker, Berlin), Marie Louise Richards (architect and researcher, Stockholm), Jasmina Metwaly (artist, Berlin), Dina Mohamed (researcher and convener BAK Fellowship for Situated Practice, BAK, Utrecht), Massimiliano (Mao) Mollona (anthropologist and filmmaker, Bologna), Claude Nasser (researcher, Beirut and Amsterdam), Vaida Stepanovaite (researcher and art worker, London and Lithuania), Nina Støttrup Larsen (artist, Amsterdam).
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Working Session “Taking Debt Out of the Closet”
Led by activists and theorist/researchers Lucí Cavallero and Verónica Gago, this working session brings together cultural workers, activists, and community organizers to delve into the intricate dynamics of debt—to take it out of the closet as it were—and examine its gendered dimensions. Disclosing how neoliberal finance exploits domestic and care labor and other forms of social reproduction, this session builds on feminist solidarities to make debt visible in order to mobilize resistance to it. It also explores strategies to counter the economic harm inflicted on marginalized communities, particularly those composed of feminized bodies—women, queer individuals, lesbians, and trans people—entrapped in cycles of debt. By emphasizing the interconnectedness of feminist movements, the session delves into various “landscapes of financialization” spanning from Latin America to the Netherlands, while also highlighting collective resistance against the neoliberal privatization of debt. Drawing from Cavallero and Gago’s book A Feminist Reading of Debt (2021), the session is aimed at developing a shared political lexicon across diverse experiences of financial oppression, translating concepts and contexts into actionable political slogans. The conveners bring images representing different facets of their activism, illustrating various efforts to confront austerity measures, forge political alliances and articulation processes. Participants are also encouraged to contribute their own images, enabling the conversation and collective comprehension.

Focus reading: Verónica Gago and Lucí Cavallero’s A Feminist Reading of Debt (2021).*

Working session is held in Spanish and English with live interpretation Spanish–English.

Participants: Lila Athanasiadou (cultural worker, researcher and architect, Rotterdam),
Clara Balaguer (cultural worker and curriculum builder, co-convener Community Portal, BAK, Utrecht), Lucí Cavallero (activist and theorist, Buenos Aires), Iliada Charalambous (artist, Rotterdam), Federica Cologna (artist and researcher, Edinburgh), Angeliki Diakrousi (researcher, artist, and architect, Rotterdam), Philippa Driest (artist, Rotterdam), Simona Dvorák (curator and art historian, Paris), Patricia Enriquez (researcher and activist, Pinay sa Holanda, Rotterdam), Verónica Gago (activist and theorist, Buenos Aires), Carmen José (illustrator, activist, and educator, member of Feministas en Rotterdam), Khadija Tahiri-Hyati (president for cleaners as part of the FNV, Federation of Trade Union), Rotterdam), Toni Wagner (researcher, designer, and writer, Eindhoven), Luise Willer (researcher and organizer, Berlin).

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Working Session “Germinating Resistance”
“Germinating Resistance” is convened by Arelly Collazos, a dedicated seed guardian, and Samanta Arango Orozco, a grassroots educator, who both work with Grupo Semillas, an NGO committed to the support of Afro-descendent, Indigenous, and peasant communities in northern Cauca and southern Tolima, Colombia. The working session unearths the profound implications of seeds in catalyzing communal and agrarian resistance. Bringing together artists, agro-ecological educators, and community kitchen and food autonomy activists, the working group focuses on the transformative potential of something as seemingly insignificant as a seed, which, despite its small size, plays a pivotal role in sustaining a livable life. Safeguarding native and creole seeds is done to ensure that seeds are continuously reproduced—not stored—as a vital, common resource, always in circulation and so that they can elude private accumulation and seed patents imposed by transnational corporations. The act of seed guardianship is inherently communal, forging solidarity within agricultural practices and economies that prioritize local sustainability and collectively organized land reservations. It becomes a means of resistance against the extractive monocultures of agri-business, whose war of private property (whether on land or seeds) perpetuates the dispossession of diverse forms of life and livelihoods in relation to land.

Recommended reading: “Micro-Resistances: An Interview with Samanta Arango Orozco,” Prospections “Usufructuaries of earth.”*

Working group is held in Spanish and English with live interpretation.

Participants: Joud Al-Tamimi (artist and curator, Berlin), Samanta Arango Orozco (grassroots educator and member of Grupo Semillas, Quindío, Colombia), Marwa Arsanios (artist and researcher, Berlin and Beirut) Luigi Coppola (artist and agroecologist, Casa delle Agriculture, Brussels and Castiglione d’Otranto), Arelly Collazos (guardian of Afrodescendent seeds and member of Grupo Semillas, Cauca, Colombia), Grace Lostia and Berend Bombarius (b.ASIC aCTIVIST k.ITCHEN, Utrecht), Eduard Hernández Nualart (agroecology researcher and activist, PLUK community-supported farm, Amsterdam), Robert M Ochshorn (software developer and activist, San Francisco), Agustín Pérez Rubio (historian, curator and researcher, Madrid), Nida Sinnokrot (architect and co-founder Sakiya, Ramallah), Paulina Solis (ASEED Europe, Amsterdam), Paloma Stafford (farmer and researcher, Barcelona), Josie Tothil (artist, Edinburgh), Lena Wilderbach and Elif Kaya (Jineolojî activists and members of Jinwar).
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Working Session “Failing, Dreaming, Doing: rehearsing abolition”
Convened by Johannesburg-based Yvonne Phyllis and MADEYOULOOK, Molemo Moiloa and Nare Mokgotho, this working session departs from the movement for radical land reform in South Africa. It seeks to conjure alternate imaginaries of life and labor with earth, beyond the regimes of colonial and racial enclosure.

The South African Freedom Charter (1950) proclaimed that “the land shall be shared among those who work it!” It envisioned a system supported by state structures “to save the soil and assist the tillers.” However, despite the new democratic dispensation in 1994 and the introduction of new land redistribution laws, the reality of near-total land dispossession persists in South Africa today. In the face of these failed dreams, and in the context of ongoing battles for and through land in places such as Palestine, where many continue to dream of and plan for return, “Failing, Dreaming, Doing” is nestled as part of the ongoing phases and practices of return—cycles of the practice of abolition.

Working session is held in English.

Focused reading:
– Santu Mofokeng “Santu’s Landscape,” 2018.
Yvonne Phyllis. “This Land is the Land of Our Ancestors,” Dossier no. 53, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, June 2022.
– Albie Sachs, “Preparing Ourselves for Freedom: Culture and the ANC Constitutional Guidelines,” TDR (1988–), Vol. 35, No. 1 (Spring, 1991), 187–193.

Background reading/viewing:
Yvonne Phyllis, “Cecil John Rhodes’ vision is alive on white-owned farms in South Africa,” Daily Maverick, 27 March 2023.
The Nyarha Farm Workers Documentary, The Forge, 2023.

Participants: Brenna Bhandar (critical legal theorist and scholar, Vancouver), Aya Bseiso (architect and curator, Amman), Haytham El-Wardany (writer, Cairo and Berlin), Layal Ftouni (researcher and educator, Utrecht), Jennifer Irving (curator and writer, London), Tareq Khalaf (design educator, filmmaker, and cultural activist, Ramallah), Gelare Khoshgozaran (artist and filmmaker, Los Angeles), MADEYOULOOK (Molemo Moiloa and Nare Mokgotho artist collaborative, Johannesburg), Marie Nour Hechaime (curator, Beirut), Yvonne Phyllis (agrarian, land and labor researcher, organizer, and educator , Johannesburg), Philip Rizk (filmmaker Cairo and Berlin), Bobby Sayers (artist and educator, Edinburgh), Shela Sheikh (researcher and educator, Paris),Kasia Wlaszczyk (curator and cultural worker, Berlin).

*All recommended reading/listening/viewing material will be shared with working session participants in advance of the convention.
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