On International Women’s Day 2022 we participated in “Feminist Night Scapes”, a simultaneous walk happening, which could be joined from everywhere around the world via zoom, curated by Elke Krasny together with Sophie Lingg and Claudia Lomoschitz.
Walking is Weaving
Berlin, 8th March 2022. This short contribution was born of our reflections in preparation for a project, but overwhelmed by events we didn’t finish it. Rather, we have decided to share our emotions and are still struggling to find the right words for this moment.
Wherever you are, whether you are wearing a warm coat or enjoying a fresh breeze, whether you are walking in daylight or darkness, if like me you are in Berlin. This walk is taking us through landscapes with different expressions of urbanity, there are many portraits to draw of this city. We pass through garden colonies, different streets, narrow and wide, cobbled, the canal, former horse stables, cemeteries, balconies waving peace flags. Along the way, we meet different kinds of creatures, bacteria, plants, small and large animals, including several humans, some are accompanied by dogs. Some are considered native, others invasive, some harmless, others dangerous, all of them sharing the same living space.
In the last few days, I have wondered, in the words of the writer and philosopher Edouard Glissant, ‘what continues to keep us together’. DNA, heritage, national belonging hold us together in the past, but what is it that can give us continuity in the present and the future? The concept of togetherness describes us as human and non-human, living and inanimate agents of the urban space as relational selves, standing in an intricate and intimate web of connections within the world.
I read somewhere that relationality is a promise, an ethical potential to act responsibly by acknowledging our interdependence. But in times of patriarchal escalation, relationality turns into a problem, generated by the denial of this interdependence, a kind of pathological and lethal otherness that allows one to act on others and not with others, a (non-)relation of domination, oppression, exploitation and extermination. To counter this, we need to reaffirm relationality as an ethical promise, to recognise others and to take responsibility, not for but towards others. To walk through the city is to weave relationships.
I was prepared to talk about walking, how it is anchored in my artistic research and curatorial practice, and in my activism, at every International Women’s Day, at every march for the right to the city, at every mobilisation for peace. A few days ago a series of images appeared in the media to contrast mine: Munich, Moscow, Minsk, every time conflicts escalate, I sew tables around which sit white-skinned men with sparse hair, conceited, ignorant and power-hungry, altering the lives of thousands of people in the blink of an eye.
Each war deepens and exacerbates the inequalities of the existing patriarchal system. In her article “A Feminist Reality-Check on the Ukraine Crisis”, published a few days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Bénédicte Santoire reports that “…residents living near the line of contact (in the Donbass area) face many challenges, including poverty, unemployment, destroyed infrastructure, lack of social services, essential goods, transportation and primary health care. Research has also noted the increase in human trafficking, survival sex work, sexual violence and alarming HIV epidemics linked to displacement and a strong military presence.” Women are more exposed to violence, care infrastructures are bombed, relationships of care are destroyed. How to imagine a reconstruction of feminist infrastructures on these ruins?
In times when a left-wing European newspaper may publish the words: ‘Hate is the ugliest of emotions. But for oppressed nations, hate is a hidden treasure….”, we may keep walking, not in search of hidden treasure, not in hate, but in love. As we walk, let us murmur together the names of all our lovers. Let us silence hate speech, let us listen to words of togetherness, such as those of the feminist author bell hooks: “the practice of love is not simply aimed at giving an individual greater life satisfaction; it is extolled as the primary way to end domination and oppression”.
Today I want to cry out for love together with women in Ukraine, in Russia, in Palestine, in Syria, in Yemen, in Afghanistan, in all countries in conflict and in all homes where violence is experienced on a daily basis. Let us shout together how indispensable and vital it is to keep walking, to weave relations, to stay in motion and immerse into the worlds that we create, to ally in an international and intersectional feminist revolution in the face of conflict, oppression and violence.
Wherever you are now, you are putting one foot in front of the other, advancing at a rapid or slow pace, confident or hesitant, alone or in company, it doesn’t matter: every step is a gesture of resistance.
Denken mit Glissant – One World in Relation, Manthia Diawara, USA/Mali 2010, 52min
All About Love. New Visions, bell hooks, New York: HarperCollins, 2000
A Feminist Reality-Check on the Ukraine Crisis, Bénédicte Santoire, Ottawa: McGills University Blog, 14/02/2022, last consulted 4/03/2022: https://www.mcgill.ca/rnwps/article/our-blog/feminist-reality-check-ukraine-crisis
Why Vladimir Putin has already lost this war’, Yuval Noah Harari. The Guardian, 28/02/2022, last consulted 4/03/2022: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/feb/28/vladimir-putin-war-russiaukraine
Manifestos, reflections, pamphlets, songs, and scores composed the virtual collective nightwalk with contributions from Justine Bell in Copenhagen, Maddalena Fragnito and Zoe Romano in Milano, Angela Dimitrakaki in Edinburgh, Sylvia Sadzinski in Berlin, Lucy Delap in Cambridge, Nina Prader in Berlin, Lara Perry in Brighton, Héléne Frichot in Melbourne, Małgorzata Markiewicz in Krakow, Elke Krasny & Sophie Lingg & Claudia Lomoschitz in Vienna, Mara Sánchez Llorens & Sálvora Feliz Ricoy in Madrid, Matilde Igual Capdevila in Valencia, Natalia Avlona in Copenhagen, Tara McDowell in Melbourne, Zaida Muxi in Barcelona, Kirsten Lloyd in Edinburgh, Marvi Mazhar in Karachi and others. Mascha Fehse and Licia Soldavini contributed a small text that we republish here and tuned in from Essen and Braunschweig.
Who are We? is a discursive, self-reflexive event format that strives to accompany its participants’ independent spatial and artistic practices of sensible, urban transformation. Its first session happened in 2020 in Berlin. The initiative aims to encourage a discussion on collaborative organisations: Who belongs to them? What are the existing power structures? Which communication and decision-making cultures are prevailing? Which projects, spaces, cities “we” design and build accordingly? How do they influence the way “our” city is produced and represented?
by: Licia Soldavini & Mascha Fehse