Winds of Change: Ecosocial Transition and Ecofeminisms.
Reflections from Culture.
With their power to construct new narratives, artistic practices can induce short circuits that appeal to the construction of critical consciousness. Ecofeminisms, on the other hand, operate as a force with which to dismantle capitalism, patriarchy and colonialism, which have become the three main bases of the current ecological crisis. This matrix, which brings together thought and praxis, invites us to move away from the anthropocentric view and to think systemically, which implies getting rid of the prevailing worldviews in order to counteract those narratives that have been presented to us as immovable. Together, ecofeminisms and artistic practices form a partnership that can operate as a matrix of thought and action that offers a re-reading of our cultural foundations at a time when the climate and eco-social crises demand a change of model.
The ecosocial discourse that is beginning to permeate cultural institutions only becomes effective when these emancipatory narratives of the collective are coupled with activist strategies. Finding alternative routes through culture and the arts means recognising that the future cannot be a mere continuation of the present, and developing a praxis accordingly, hand in hand with a situational and transdisciplinary approach, as a way of developing new links and a new space for the production of the common.
To outline some of these routes, I have had the luxury of being able to count on a series of collaborators for this edition, who are the cornerstones of an eco-social transition that is now more necessary than ever. In all these collaborations, the imperious need to change the cultural paradigm is clear, and this is done from a position in which optimism, resistance and struggle predominate from different angles. The authors make different proposals for transition in which degrowth becomes fundamental, as well as the revision of the way in which we have configured the world, with its myths and ideologies, in order to redraw a new world where the small is predominant. Today we see the undeniable need for commitment at the local level, in the everyday, and for the rediscovery of utopia.
Emilio Santiago Muiño opens his text by referring to William Morris’s How we live and how we could live, pointing out two fundamental differences between that gap in the 19th century and now, and affirming that “not closing the gap quickly between how we live and how we could live has an inevitable end”. The first distinction is how we are contributing to ecological catastrophe; the second is that we have lost the utopian vision. He speaks of concepts such as “communism of genius and luxurious poverty”, for which he appeals to art and creativity, because “The emancipatory transformation of the world no longer consists in precipitating dreams of infinite material abundance, but in realising the utopias of having enough in common, knowing that the common conceals a copious glass of wine that never runs out”.
The question of how to transition and from where, is addressed by Nuria Sánchez León on the basis of a sort of comparative, or connecting thread, between ecofeminisms and the transition movement, which, as the author points out, share “the ideas of the limits of the planet’s resources and eco- and inter-dependence”. For the author, the mission of both is “to build real solutions to eco-social challenges and not bogus technological solutions”, and in doing so she brings to the table examples of the practical application of ecofeminism from the transition movement.
One of the themes that has been widely analysed from the perspective of ecofeminisms is that of the problems surrounding water, an element on which Verónica Perales bases her artistic project. The artist takes up some of the pages of this magazine with a series of drawings she produced based on her research into James Joyce’s literature and, more specifically, on its ecological and empathetic dimension towards the non-human. Her drawings are “representations of a universal figure, present throughout cultures and times, an icon of some of the many links between women and water: the washerwomen”. Furthermore, through her work, sound is included in this publication for the first time.
Water is also the vehicle for Pedro Déniz’s artistic contribution, in his case to alert us to the greenwashing practices used to “greenwash” companies, corporations and some cultural institutions. The artist shows excerpts from a performance on the dangers of what is known as green capitalism “with the aim of generating a social body consciousness, which harbours traces and perspectives that concern us all; from our relationship with nature, the political, identity, social commitment and poetry”.
And it would not be possible to talk about ecofeminism without the most prominent exponent of this movement: Alicia Puleo. Both she and Muiño stress the number of cultural documents, especially in film, but also in literature, music and art, where dystopian scenarios seem to be presented as the only possibility for the future, in order to insist on the importance of working in a positive direction, from the point of view of alternatives for the future. The philosopher proposes a mapping from two symbolic spaces: the ecofeminist town garden, which she draws from the foundations of Epicurean philosophy, and the labyrinth of the Minotaur, with which she proposes an ecofeminist rereading of the myth of Ariadne. She invites us to take up “that ecofeminist torch that today invites us to travel unexplored paths towards another possible future”.
Jorge Riechmann also alludes to Greek mythology when he notes that “Prometheus did not know what to do with himself…”. The philosopher departs from the traditional essay register to adopt another, that, in short chapters, approaches a summary or compendium of the end of “this world” where he talks about our values in the face of death. His text is an invitation to revisit, in the face the current eco-social catastrophe, values such as human dignity, solidarity, mutual aid, beauty in everyday life, poetry, care and community that “withstand the gaze of death: they are still worthy even when we succumb”. His words operate as “a humbling reminder of our ape-like nature” or, as he often says, that we are merely “broken apes”.
Both Puleo and Riechmann allude to indigenous slogans: Sumak Kawsay, in the case of Puleo, and “live tastefully”, in the case of Riechmann. This revaluation of the epistemologies of the native peoples is linked to a luxury interview: Berta Zúñiga Cáceres. Her life has been marked by the murder of her mother, Berta Cáceres, a leader in the defence of environmental justice in Honduras and a symbol of ecofeminisms around the world. She tells us how this experience has marked her life and itinerary, continuing with activism and the environmental struggle.
All the contributions collected in this edition challenge us to open up different discursive fields and ways of materialising narratives of ecojustice, narratives of collective futures interwoven through a new political imaginary that allows us to revalue the invisible moments and spaces – mediated by affections and emotions – that make us place life at the centre in order to combat the entrenched dogmas that prevent us from imagining a depatriarchalised, decolonised and post-philosophical society.
Blanca de la Torre – Editorial Coordinator
Blanca de la Torre is a Spanish curator, art historian, essayist and ecofeminist whose professional work is intersected by visual arts, political ecology and sustainable creative practices. Her professional activity, which she has developed both inside and outside Spain, includes, in addition to curating exhibitions, participation in various conferences, as well as directing seminars, workshops for artists and cultural managers, curatorial residencies and international symposia.
Until this year she was the chief curator of the 15th Biennial of Cuenca, Ecuador, and directs the CAAM’s Aula Sostenible, a permanent sustainability classroom at the Atlantic Centre of Modern Art in Las Palmas, as well as a series of projects with the Network of AECID Centres in Latin America. From 2009 to 2014, she was curator, conservator and head of exhibitions and projects at ARTIUM, Basque Museum-Center of Contemporary Art (Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain). She has subsequently curated exhibitions in international museums and art centres, among them are: MoCAB, Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade, Serbia; Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburg, Austria; EFA, Elisabeth Foundation Project Space, New York; Monterrey Centre for the Arts, Mexico; Carrillo Gil Museum, Mexico City; Museum of Contemporary Art of Oaxaca, Mexico; Museum of Contemporary Art Ex Convento del Carmen Guadalajara; Museum of Contemporary Art of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico; Museum of Contemporary Art of Sonora, Mexico; NC-Arte, Bogota, Colombia; RAER, Royal Spanish Academy in Rome, Italy; LAZNIA Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdansk, Poland; Sala Alcalá 31, Madrid; CentroCentro, Madrid; Fernán Gómez, Madrid; NGMA, National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, India; MUSAC, Museum of Contemporary Art of Castilla y León, 516 Contemporary Arts Museum of Albuquerque, USA, among others.
With an approach that is always close to eco-aesthetics and political ecology, and understanding art as an instrument of knowledge to rethink and reformulate our way of life, she has also published more than a hundred specialised texts in books, catalogues and magazines, regularly participates in international conferences and symposia on culture and sustainability, and is a member of the REDS Community of Knowledge and Practice on Sustainable Development.