“The language of illness is a language of platitudes,” begins the writer and artist Johanna Hedva in a recent essay. “Get well soon. Hoping for a quick recovery. Sending love. Take care in this tough time.”
Hedva wrote this for the project Get Well Soon — a response to the raging pandemic — but their words feel just as poignant during a week of mass protests around brutal police violence:
What we’re watching happen with COVID-19 is what happens when care insists on itself, when the care of others becomes mandatory, when it takes up space and money and labor and energy. See how hard it is to do? The world isn’t built to give care freely and abundantly. It’s trying now, but look how alien a concept this is, how hard it is to make happen. It will take all of us — it will take all of us operating on the principle that if only some of us are well, none of us are. And that’s exactly why it’s revolutionary.
Taking care of one another matters.
Hedva’s essay was an inspiration for the online public program Care Practice: Recipes for Resilience, organized by Los Angeles’s Gas Gallery and curators Ceci Moss (Los Angeles) and Jenni Nurmenniemi (Helsinki). Artists, writers, activists, dancers, and more are leading the program’s four sessions, which will be used as spaces to “rehearse care,” and, in Moss’s words, “to model the world they want to see.”
“We’re hoping the Care Practice programs feel like a dance class you cherish crossed with a small reading group among friends,” Moss said over email.
Care Practice launches this Saturday, June 6 with “Creating Spaces to Dream.” The wave of protests has caused the organizers to rethink how they will approach the first session.
“‘Creating spaces to dream’ doesn’t feel possible until we’ve tackled the systemic racism that has been allowed to run rampant in this country for far, far too long,” wrote Willa Koerner, who will be leading Saturday’s discussion with Sonya Lindfors. Lindfors is a Helsinki-based choreographer and artistic director of UrbanApa; Koerner is a writer, editor, and strategist, as well as co-founder of the Strange Foundation. (The series features artists not only from the United States, but also Finland and its Sápmi region — this is because Care Practice emerged from the Together Alone initiative put together by 17 Finnish Cultural and Academic Institutes around the world.)
“We’re in such a tense, intense moment and we hope the event can create space for participants to come together in responsive ways — perhaps not to dream, but to take action,” Koerner said.
In advance of Saturday’s session, attendees will be asked to read Audre Lorde’s “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” (Gas Gallery has uploaded the essay in full here). The organizers stress this passage in particular:
In the transformation of silence into language and action, it is vitally necessary for each one of us to establish or examine her function in that transformation and to recognize her role as vital within that transformation … But primarily for us all, it is necessary to teach by living and speaking those truths which we believe and know beyond understanding. Because in this way alone we can survive, by taking part in a process of life that is creative and continuing, that is growth.
Lindfors and Koerner hope to use Lorde’s essay as a jumping-off point to consider “how we can each better use our influence and voice.”
“Writing is a moment for the self, to work things out,” wrote Ala-Ruona and Minn over email. “In this moment in time, we think that writing practices can serve the writer as a place to check in with themselves, their activism, and their embodied state in the times of the pandemic and the fight for racial equality.”
The two artists explain that their writing practices stem from their “bodily realities as transpeople.” They see writing as an opportunity to “offer the writer a possibility to land into a body that is a combination of mundane, real, fictional, fleshy, and imagined realms.” They also added, “We try to go towards pleasure in our exercises. We consider pleasure to be nourishing: it’s a form of taking care.”
Like all of the Care Practice events, this one will be free, but in lieu of a ticket, organizers are asking participants to donate to national bailout funds.
When: Saturday, June 6, 10am (PDT) / 1pm (EDT) / 8pm (EEST)
Where: Via Zoom