undeveloping.info: navigating around the horns of development
Sarah Augusta Lewison Artist in residence, August 8-13
Good Living and Subsistence Perspectives: Grappling with, teaching about, thinking about, Progress and the idea of its inevitability
Is development constituted by having internet 24/7, by having a good coffee shop down the road, a school (and what kind of school?), by having affordable access to clean water? Must one have a road, a cash crop, or even cash? If being developed is characterized by having clean water, does the current mania by industry to hydrofrack all our extant shale formations, and the total degradation of water tables that will ensue mean that we are currently in the undeveloping phase as a nation?
I will use this Mess Hall Residency period to generate dialogue about development as a foundational idea in our society. It is my expectation that the ideas and language that emerge from this week of study will become part of a film I am working on that uses the development of the countryside in China circa 2007-2011 as a lens through which to examine the kind of rhetoric that conditions and cushions our own material lifestyles and expectations in the United States.
Some of the key ideas to be explored are the western Enlightenment rhetoric of development and its ideological grip on the present, the idea of Good Living which is spreading out from indigenous activist communities in the global south, the perspective that the idea and reality of subsistence offers to thinking about development and economic expansion, and the question of reversion or undeveloping.
The idea of Good Living departs from the epistemological framework of traditional development theory, and opposes the teleological notion of a continually “better life” that rests technologically and ideological upon the infinite expansion of capitalist production and consumption. Good Living presents an alternative that decenters human existence, focusing instead on building practices and expectations that increase awareness of ecological/economic co-dependency and build the health of aggregated communities of life. The Subsistence Perspective, as described by sociologist Maria Mies offers a sophisticated analysis on the unpaid and underpaid labor of people (I would add—and other species) that contributes to the quantification of a nation’s gross domestic product, but does not share in the benefits of even basic development- eg; clean and safe water.
Library of development: The Arguments - Open hours will be posted daily on the door and via webmail. Ongoing installation over the 5-day period
Tuesday August 9, 6-9 pm: Slow Development — A Pickle Making Workshop Bring your garden vegetables, crocks and jars to Mess Hall and make slow salt brine pickles and soured vegetable with us. What is natural development? Where does it come from?
Wednesday August 10, 3-5 PM: Field Research 1 – Slow Development Soil as a Hyperobject: Soil as base of good living, With guest presenter Courtney Moran. Learn about soil with us.
Thursday, August 11, 7-9 PM A Report back from Continental Drift: China, with Sarah Lewison and Dan S. Wang
Come hear about collaboration, creativity, and independent investigation in China, Continental Drift-style. Early this summer four frequent collaborators from the midwest, Brian Holmes, Sarah Lewison, Claire Pentecost, and Dan Wang, traveled through parts of China along with a self-organized transnational group of artists, writers, organizers, and activists.
From Homeshop, a Beijing hutong cultural space dedicated to creative neighborhood life and an expansive consciousness about spatial agency, we traveled around Beijing and Tianjin on foot, by subway, taxi, and boat. From there seventeen of us traveled by train to the interior megacity of Wuhan(that some call the Chicago of China) where we were met by residents of the Desiree Autonomous Laboratory, an anarchist social center and a platform for emergent creative resistance. Continuing on to the southwestern province of Yunnan by plane, a smaller group traveled to Lijiang Studio in the Lashihai valley an hour beyond the city of Lijiang, where Naxi farmers maintain traditional ways but are also losing land to development. We will speak about the people we met, the events we organized, the struggles we learned about, the massive upheavels taking place all over China and both the opportunities and pitfalls opened up by them. As we were while on the journey, during the presentation we will be mindful of the ways that these developments affect our American midwest, and the converse. We will also consider how local situations, here and there, must and must not be compared, can and cannot be linked.
About Continental Drift:
Based on principles of cooperative investigation and shared inquiry, Continenetal Drift is an open practice research project initiated by Brian Holmes and Claire Pentecost that begins with the observed facts of globalization along continental blocs of political and economic power. On the ground, it is a collective and mobile project of inquiry through which we strive to understand the extent of our interdependence, at every scale. The place where we live is the place where all these scales meet to sustain us: we call this place the territory. The territory is a complex phenomena. Physically it is merely a short radius around our homes, a space we can traverse on our own two feet. But it is much more than that: it is the matrix for our connection to others and to the earth.
Friday August 12, 1 – 6 pm: Hospitality and Good Living
Ongoing dialogue, exercises and scenarios. Prospective invitees: editors of People’s Tribune
Rethinking expectations of what constitutes an adequacy of material resources to make ourselves comfortable. Join an open discussion as to what we need for a good life that does not externalize harm or coerce others into socially and ecologically unsafe and unjust circumstances. Refreshments will be served and a theater of debate will be constructed. Come for hospitality, and to offer your opinion about development and expectations for a good life.
Saturday August 13: 4 pm-9 pm: Developing in our own ways: teaching against the grain.
A tea and workshop for learners and teachers
Please join a special session for those who teach and who treasure learning intended to value and acknowledge our own development as producers and sharers of knowledge. This open and unstructured workshop offers a platform for sharing and bringing together accumulated experience. Think of it as a collective granary for the provocation of wonder. Starting with questions such as; What kinds of questions turned you on as a student?
What was the best exercise that a teacher ever assigned or shared with you? and
What was the most successful exercise or lesson you brought to your students?
This session will culminate in the production of a small book for free circulation, with all contributors credited.