Experiments in Collective Care

Project Details


What is the research project? What are the initial research questions that you want to explore? Why does it matter? How is it new? How does your project specifically connect with Brigstow’s areas of interest around living well? Address the key aims (including values) in the Brigstow Seedcorn Guidelines. Max. 500 words.

Bringing together art, archival research and community engagement, Experiments in Collective Care (ECC) is an ambitious DIY project on self and collective care, taking inspiration from the Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM) and building on our successful Ideas Exchange What the Future Holds.

Current provision aimed at improving wellbeing and mental health often heaps responsibility on the individual, demanding they make themselves better and become more resilient to ‘challenges. Our research rejects this neoliberal approach to self-care and seeks an alternative view that politicizes care and places the emphasis on interdependence rather than independence.

Our archival research at Feminist Archive South (FAS) has led us to define collective care as: when an individual’s needs aligns with a group’s needs creating a sense of shared responsibility, leading to problem solving, practical action and creativity. By contrast self-care is often a quieter practice as it involves specific physical and emotional needs which the individual seeks to resolve through smaller, often repetitive actions. Central to our research is a curiosity around the contemporary dilemma between collective care and self-care. ECC also addresses how space impacts care, as access to free communal spaces is under renewed threat given the recent closures nationally of libraries, artist spaces and community centres.

Experiments in Collective Care aims to:
1. Identify stories of self and collective care drawn from the WLM (Greenham Common, Womens Aid, Radical Therapy in FAS).
2. Create an artwork for window display: Collective Survival Kit.
3. Co-create a Carekit.
4. Facilitate a free communal space for existing and emerging collectives, co-ops and political groups.

Research Questions:
1.What are the stories within WLM which make self and collective care more tangible and possible?
2. Activist art was central to the WLM; how could a contemporary artwork and Carekit embody this collective spirit?
3.What impact does the provision of free, communal space have on a community?

The politicizing of care has been one of the enduring legacies of the WLM, including how they valued and created spaces, relationships and practices to take care of each other and oneself. Lorde writes ‘self-care is not self-indulgence it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare’ (1988, 112), and highlights how self-care contributes to the survival of marginal and often fragile political communities.
This movement from self-care to collective care is also visible in Ahmed’s KillJoy Survival Kit (2017). She writes that feminist protest enables us re-assemble ourselves through the joint work of looking after ourselves and looking after each other. Her suggestion that living a feminist life involves surrounding yourself with feminist objects that create different horizons and remind us of our connections to shared struggles speaks directly to our concern to create tangible collective care experiments.

ECC contributes to Brigstow’s Living Well agenda by asking what kinds of collective care practices can nourish and replenish us emotionally and politically. Our co-produced critical making experiments also address Brigstow’s commitment to risky research, spanning across city, exploring likely and unlikely connections.
Effective start/end date9/01/1931/07/19


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