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In Search of the Pluriverse
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In Search of the Pluriverse

Author: pluriverse

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Can we as humans and other living beings learn to live together, in difference? Can we create a future that actually has a future? Join Sophie Krier and Erik Wong in their search for alternative perspectives, for radical imaginations, for a world in which many worlds can thrive. A search for something that is already present: the pluriverse is all around us.

Wong and Krier have adopted a perspective put forward by Arturo Escobar in his book Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical Interdependence, Autonomy, and the Making of Worlds (Duke University Press, 2018). What are the consequences of these pluriversal notions in daily life?

For their search Wong and Krier visit five locations at the fringes of Europe: İstanbul, Casablanca and Berlin (often seen as gateways to and from Central Asia, North Africa and old Europe) and two rural areas: the Isle of Mull and Asturias (as places for self-sufficient living).

For every edition four makers join Erik and Sophie, two locally based, and two based in the Netherlands. Every conversation and encounter builds on the previous one in an effort to create a vibrant network that connects different places, different types of knowing and ways of living.

Listen in, the door is open.
64 Episodes
After living a week under one roof, working together at the farm, walking together in silence, sharing breakfasts, dinners and thoughts, the group talk comes quite naturally. Here we are: Chiara, Ana, Pascale, Cynthia, Sophie and Erik, sitting in a circle in the shade of the biggest building in Spain, built during the Franco regime: Universidad Laboral de Gijón. After a tour of art centre LABoral and a soothing minute of silence we look back on the days we spent together. A talk about capitalism and workers cooperatives, about poverty and looking for a better future by walking away from the harsh rural life. About the pros and cons of the revitalisation of industrial cities as Bilbao and Aviles.  What did we learn, what do we take home? These are complex and confusing times, but our talk ends on a positive note: united we stand, plants and humans, and however small, changes can be made. There might me no ’them’ in capitalism, this week there was definitely an ‘us’.  References: LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial, Gijón/Xixón: Universidad Laboral de Gijón, Spains’s biggest building: Interview “Asturias, a wasted agricultural paradise” between Elena Bandera and Emilio Ricco Gijón page on regional newspaper La voz de Asturias (the voice of Asturias) “Memorias culturales de un pasado industrial”, a film directed by University of Oviedo researchers Irene Díaz and Rubén Vega: On radical unionism and the worker’s struggle in Spain: 
Pascale Gatzen fell in love with fashion as a child, became a designer and quickly fell out of love with the competitive, capitalistic fashion system. In New York she co-founded the workers cooperative Friends of Light that fabricated custom made woven jackets from local wool. This experience evolved into the Dutch ‘Linen Project’ an – also – cooperative attempt to create a value chain from growing organic flax to making linen products with the harvested and processed fibres.  Collaboration comes with communication. Gatzen got interested in ‘empathic communication’ and made that the core of an artistic Master she set up in Arnhem, The Netherlands.  A conversation about getting in touch with felt emotions and underlyning needs, ‘should thoughts’, the succesful Mondragon cooperative and the love for making beautiful things that will never fade.   References: The Linen Project Friends of Light weaving cooperative: Nice read: Take back Fashion! by Pascale Gatzen for Apria/ArteZ: About non-violent communication (what Pascale calls ‘compassionate communication’): About the Mondragon worker cooperative: 
We decide to have the conversation in a parked car, with an enormous hand made world-of-wool-map on our lap. As if we are on an imaginary roadtrip through Cynthia Hathaway’s practise. It fits her way of working: creating fun, momentum and dialogue. Canadian born Hathaway came to the Netherlands in the late 90ies. She calls herself an artistic ‘searcher’ without the re- attached. Always looking for surprising angles and ways to connect different fields of working and thinking. From miniature trains to giant vegetables, from founding a disco in an academic institute to growing potatoes to embody Gilles Deleuze’s Rhizomatic thinking. Her latest intervention: a wool march. A walk with a herd of 250 sheep, shepherds and dogs straight through the centre of the Dutch textile city Tilburg. To raise awareness for lost connections between humans, animals and landscape.  A talk about the art of not knowing, the dedication of amateurs, the loud Asturian hills, the global versus the local and the ongoing beat of disco music. Yeah.  References: More about Cynthia Hathaway: More about Wool Alliance for Social Agency: System D Academy, Sandberg Instituut: The Department of Search (Zero Footprint Campus): 
We asked Chiara Sgaramella to join our Asturias edition because her practice as an artistic researcher focusses on the connection between art and agriculture. She was born and raised in the heel of Italy’s boot, but currently lives and works in Valencia, Spain. Sgaramella sees art as an integrated part of daily life, as a collective effort. From this perspective she studies the relations between soil, food and culture. We all know paella as a dish, but what do we know about rice production in Spain? When and how did rice arrive as a crop in Europe? Chiara developed a travelling trolley about the subject.  A talk – that took place in the hazel forest close to PACA – about eco-feminist art, the Zapatistas, radical interdependency and the impact of scarcity.  Immediately after the group talk (#8) Sgaramella needed leave for Piemonte, Italy, where she took part in a 1 year residency. Chiara worked with abandoned tools, found in a barn. She reproduced these ‘extensions of farmers hands’ in large prints, as an ode to agricultural gestures.  References: More about Chiara Sgaramella: About the symbolic association between Covadonga (a prechristian place of worship near  Picos de Europa) and the Spanish/catholic identity: Another Possible World, exhibition including works by Zapatista in Museum Reina Sofiá: More about Chiara’s Oryza rice trolley: ‘Dona arbre’, Fina Miralles, 197oies: 
Ana Carreño takes us to public beach in Gijón/Xixon that is sandwiched between two industrial sites. While we look for a spot for our the interview we pass three women on a bench. One of them is singing. She says she used to sing a lot when she was young. Singing is a rural tradition. As a young woman she moved to the city for work and stopped singing.  A job in the mines or the steel industry was an escape from rural poverty. But since the 80ies, when Spain joined the EU, mines were closed and industry declined. Architect and researcher Carreño studies the post industrial landscape. What happens when the activitity disappears, but memories and remnants are still present? This spatial confusion – or heterotopia as Michel Foucault calls it – comes with challenges and opportunities. Carreño grew up here, her grandfather drove the coal train from the mines in Aviles the harbour of Gijon. What kind of future does she picture for this shrinking city? How to deal with degrowth? We dive into the economic history of the region and talk about the current spatial quality of the city. We look the revitalisation of Bilbao: from industrial community to cultural hub. But not every jobless mineworker can become a barista in a glossy coffeeshop. We also touch upon Ana’s own practise as an architect and artist. Does she consider Heterotopia as her habitat? References: More on Ana Carreño: About ‘heteropías’ (plural places): More on regional singing: 
Our guests, Ana Carreño, Chiara Sgaramella, Pascale Gatzen en Cynthia Hathaway have arrived. Before we dive into our 1 on 1 conversations, we try – as always – to truly arrive where we are. To ground, to temporarily root and sprout. To share this ‘vertical field trip’ we take you on a sonic tour. From Madrid's busy café's, to our cross-country train ride. Once you arrive in Asturias you witness a morning full of farm stuff and in the afternoon Ana Carreño takes us (and you dear listener!) on a silent sound walk through the industrial landscape that surrounds the farmhouse we stay in. And what a loud landscape it is! Enjoy.  References: More about PACA, Proyectos Artísticos Casa Antonino: ‘Panera’ or ‘hórreo asturiano’ (raised granary barn): More about the blue vegetal dye harvested from Isatis Tinctoria:  Interesting read: ‘Nothing Compares to the Past. Industrial Decline and Socio-Cultural Change in Asturias’, by Rubén Vega and Matthew Kerry 
We have arrived in Asturias! We stay in a wonderful former casería (farm house), turned into a residence: PACA, Projectos Artisticos Casa Antonino. Before our guests arrive we have time to walk around the premises and talk with Virginia López founder of PACA and our contextual guide for this week.  But first: why are we here, in central Asturias, Spain, at the rural fringes of the (post)industrial city of Gijón/Xixón? We travelled here wondering if the strong working class identity of the region with its unions, strikes, and hard fought victories still lives on today, as the industrial decline that started in the 80ies, continues. At the same time, we see that tourism and leisure are becoming an important economic activity and ‘rewilding’ is high on the agenda of policy makers, making it food for marketeers who advertise Asturias as a ‘natural paradise’. Reality is obviously way more complex than a marketing slogan. Will the worker’s culture of solidarity be the social foundation for Asturias future? And can this future be a plural future – that doesn’t deny Asturias’ pastoral past and – more rural – ways of helping each other out? In this talk we learn more about the region and reasons why Virginia returned to her home ground. A talk about forgotten connections between people, animals and crops and the confused state of the landscape as a result of this. We look at Virginia’s artistic practice and her role as placemaker. López sees herself as an outgoing swarm of bees and a solitude seeking hermit at the same time. Where will this paradox take her in the near future? References: Agropolitana exhibition: Habitantes Paisajistas: Trailer of the Red Difusa documentary by Green Cube Network: English summary of the publication ‘Culturarios · Humus De Iniciativas Culturales En El Campo’ (scroll down): Concierto de Pitos y Flautas, by Fernando Oyágüez Reyes: 
Before we travel to Asturias, we decide to make a pitstop in Madrid and visit the headquarters of INLAND:  CAR, Centre For Approaching The Rural. Back in 2009, Fernando Garcia Dory started an agro-cutural-artistic community in Asturias. This was one of the reasons for us to set up our pluriversal camp in this region. This initiative evolved into a much bigger, international movement: INLAND/Campo Adentro, linking territory, culture and social change. While Fernando Dory travels the world to manifest and communicate the ideas of INLAND, Amelie Aranguren runs the Madrid office, which turns out to be much more than that. A house, a home, a neighourhood hub… A talk about cheese as a narrative, transhumance, worthless wool, tensions around common pastures and foremost: making valuable and durable connections.  References: More about CAR (Centro de Acercamiento a lo rural): More about INLAND: 
Artist, cook, boxer, musician and cultural producer Yemoh Odoi was fascinated as a child by the desert and its nomadic inhabitants. The silence, the space, the absence of people and references. He left Ghana at the age of 18 and travelled his way up to Casablanca via Senegal and the magnificent Sahara.  He founded The Minority Globe to give voice to migrant identities through art. On our last day in Casa, the exhibition ‘Look at me’ opened. Photos of migrant women, taken by migrant women. “A migrant isn’t given anything. You’ve got to take. These women are taking their space.” A talk about emptiness. About how the absence of ‘everything else’ brings out true creativity. As Yemoh says it: “In the desert you can only hear the songs that are composed in your heart”.    References: The Minority Globe Look at me Yemoh Odoi on music as a cultural mediator
As a kid Grocco  – artist name, his real name is a well kept secret – wanted to make a difference “I’m gonna be King of Casablanca!”.  He worked hard and became a grafitti legend. His tag Trick54 can be found all over Marocco and is unavoidable in the urban Casablanca area.   Covid kept Grocco inside and he started to draw more. From his sketchbook, faces started to appear in the public domain. Ambivalent, yet tranquil faces, with holes and phallus-like bulges attached to them. Who is this creature? A visitor, is it Casablanca? Recently even more enigmatic works appear in the streets of the city: three-dimensional fragments, compositions, carefully layed out on the pavement. Is it trash, are they messages, is it language? For Grocco everything is a trick. Life is a trick, art is a trick.   Listen to a trickster who became a legend at the age of 30.    References: More on Grocco: Grocco’s film: Untitled Life Experience
We meet at Musée Collectif with all participants of this ‘who owns the city’ edition: Mouna, Bodil, Rubén, Samba and Mohamed. Maria could not make it but is present in spirit. Some new voices join: street artist Grocco/Trick54 (more on him in talk #4 and #9), cultural producer Jamal Abdennassar (who Wong & Krier worked with in 201o) and artist/curator Yemoh Odoi (who organises artistic residencies for underrepresented members of the migrant population with his organisation The Minority Globe). Last but not least: Francien van Westrenen from Het Nieuwe Insitituut is also present in this circle of Casa-voices. Musée Collectif is located close to a public fountain in Le parc de la Ligue Arabe. Miraculously our host Mohamed Faridji was able to turn it off, just for the length of this group talk.  We share the experiences and conversations of the past days and try to make sense of it: Casablanca as phoenix that burns and rises from its ashes, over and over again. The city as amplifier of notions, movements and manifestations. This migrant city invites to start over, to let go of what was. But how to solidify, to secure things in the long term? How to activate a collective memory? At the end of the talk Mouna thanks the internet. Is that the place to store Casa’s memories?   References: Les années de plomb (1956-1999, years of cultural repression) Ancien théâtre municipal de Casablanca (1922-1984) L’Uzine Casaprojecta ICI Casa, Ville Inventive (2010)
Mohamed Faridji co-founded Atelier de l’Observatoire in 2011, around the same time we – Wong & Krier – lived and worked in Casablanca for three months. At the time we did not meet, now we do. We were attracted by Le Musée Collectif (part of Atelier de l’Observatoire) a roaming museum, housed in sea container, presently located in Parc de la Ligue Arabe, which locals still call Parc Yasmina. Faridji is an artist/activist who attempts to cultivate a collective cultural memory of Casa: Is an obsolete polyester Mickey Mouse with one ear missing a piece of trash, or does it have cultural value? Faridji tries to answer this question by collecting, archiving and displaying cultural artefacts like this one-eared Mickey. His approach is inclusive, participatory and citizen driven. We chose the Musée Collectif as location for our final group talk.  We meet in the parc, where Sophie’s brain needs to work twice as hard as in in other talks: Mohamed speaks French, Krier interviews and translates at the same time. Well done, both Sophie and Mohamed! A talk about the absence of constructive cultural policy, cultural rights and how to deal with that. How to keep institutions that disappear – like the Casablanca Aquarium – present in the shared Casa memory? How to activate the imagination that is linked to those memories? Why? Faridji: “We need to celebrate humanity”.    References: Atelier de L’observatoire, Musée Collectif L’Aquarium imaginaire Parc Yasmina
After taking us to Lac d’Oulfa, Sidi Moumen and Hay Mohammedi for our vertical field trip (talk #2), today Samba Soumbounou brings us to the neighbourhood where he first settled in Casa, arriving from Mauretania 10 years ago. He is a cultural engineer and mediator: connecting dots and making these connections meaningful and productive. Samba is the embodiment of social glue, extremely approachable, always willing to ‘step in’. During our stay his phone rings frequently and many people stop him in the streets to ask something or to just say hi. It earned him the hashtag #letscallsamba! We talk about the divide between people and policy making: the lack of communication. It makes sense that this topic matters to Samba. In Mauretania the Soumbounou family is responsible for the collective memory: to pass things on. His family is also associated with playing the drum. In Mauritanian culture the drum connects and harmonises. In Casablanca there is a lot to harmonise – capital investors, builders, politics, citizens: they don’t communicate well. In the end the city is determined by people, not buildings. It is not about the ‘what’. It is about the ‘who’ and ‘how’.    References: Kandara’Lab : Villes - Culture - Patrimoine (Samba Soumbounou, field trip guide) Afrikayna, foundation for pan-african mobility Café Espace de l’enfant, au parc la foret vert 
Bodil Ouédraogo was born and raised in Amsterdam by a Dutch mother and a father from Burkina Faso. As a human being and as a designer she cherishes her bi-cultural background. She studies it, she materialises it. In her own words: “I have no choice, my identity cannot be ignored.”  After an interesting fashion walk through Casa with Mouna Belgrini, we end up in the courtyard of a fabric store in wholesale district Derb Omar. Apart from the background noise an interesting context for our conversation. We talk about the art of dressing up and how combining different existing layers can form brand new identities. Ouédragaogo just came from Burkina Faso and Nigeria and she reflects on idea howt different cultures activate different types of (creative) thinking. We also talk about the classic ‘grand boubou’ as inspiration and the interesting properties of latex. Through the eyes of Bodil everything is related to identity: from a spray painted name tag in the streets to (fake) louis vuitton bags. After the talk we go shopping for home accessories. Because life = work = life.    References: More on Bodil Ouédraogo Cafe Antic,-7.6169649,15z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x308f6d8a5b65d8b6!8m2!3d33.5930385!4d-7.6169649 Bram Owusu Alára Lagos Waffles N Cream 
Mouna Belgrini is the perfect tour guide: she knows Casablanca in and out, and she effortlessly connects places, facts and narratives. We could have roamed the city for weeks, but had to limit ourselves to a sublime day of walking and talking. Belgrini is a (photo)journalist, cultural producer and communicator. On a practical level this means Mouna is connecting, editing and distributing content 24/7. We talk about how she learned to live in this complex city, we talk about fear and joy, we look at street art and reflect on the impact the pandemic had on daily life in Casablanca. When we arrive at her apartment, we dive into what Mouna loves most: dance. From the moment she laid eyes on street dancers at art space L’Uzine, to creating a new space – both digital and physical – for creative energy/dance: Liquid Bridge.  We end the talk with a tour through digital Casablanca. What has a platform like Instagram brought to the city? And what does the future have in store for young – digital – personalities? Will they go, or are they here to stay?   References: Kabareh Cheikhats Grocco/Trick54 Liquid Bridge Casa soccer team Red Casa soccer team Green Karim Chater Cheb Pablo Size M 
Rotterdam based photographer Rubén Dario Kleimeer portrays the urban landscape and the people inhabiting it. He uses the medium photography to analyse and better understand urban spaces. With the gaze of an urban ethnographer, he explores the built environment in which we live, work and dwell.  Kleimeer picked the spot for our conversation: Place des Nation Unies, a spacious square where different networks of transportation cross. At the far end of the square, in the shade of a tree, we talk about photography in relation to time and space. If you take a lot of time to make a picture, is that time reflected in the image? Does that image last longer than an instant snapshot? What places in the city is Kleimeer interested in? And what is the perfect perspective, angle to photograph them from?  Four months after our talk we meet again in Rotterdam, to take a closer look at the photos Rubén took during our days in Casa. Do these pictures last?   References: More on Rubén Dario Kleimeer Anfa Park Casablanca Tramway Best drummers 
In the meantime all four participants/makers of this Casablanca edition have arrived: Bodil Ouédraogo, Rubén Dario Kleimeer, Mouna Belgrini and Samba Soumbounou. Next to local insider Maria Daïf, Francien van Westrenen from Het Nieuwe Instituut joins us for the five day programme that in the end results in this series of conversations, but kicks off with a ‘vertical field trip’. An attempt to ground ourselves and be truly present in the Casablanca ‘here and now’. Samba Soumbounou and Mouna Belgrini take us on a dazzling tour. We start in Firdaouss, a quiet small scale neighbourhood at the west side of the city, bordered by Lac El Oulfa, a former stone quarry, now an artificial lake. We pick up trash at the shore, circle the lake and have lunch at the central square. At the borders of the lake the pressure of commericial development is tangible. Samba took us here because he works in collaboration with the citizens, trying to improve the quality of public space.  In the evening we take the tram to Sidi Moumen and Hay Mohammedi at the east side of Casa, two vibrant working class neighbourhoods. We visit a cultural centre, a local market and take a peek at colonial architectural heritage, that over the years is ‘decolonised’ by its inhabitants.  This soundscape tries to capture the moods, sounds, views and smells of the day that made a big impression on all of us.    References: Bruit du frigo (urban creation collective) at Lac d’Oulfa   Subsaharan migrants in Morocco Les Etoiles de Sidi Moumen, cultural centre Hay Mohammadi: a re-appropriated modernist neighborhood
In 2010, we  – Wong & Krier – lived and worked for three months in Casa, as locals call Casablanca. Aim was to embrace the city as a place of production and to make a portrait of its hidden qualities: We named it: ICI Casa, Ville Inventive. The resulting exhibition was an optimistic tribute to the resourcefulness of a thriving city. Many questions however were left unanswered once the residency was over: for instance the fragility and invisibility of the – quite substantial –  informal economy, and the gentrification of the city through capital investors, materialised in luxury shopping malls. More than ten years and a pandemic later, we return to Casa, in search of who makes the city, who owns it, and who is granted access to it.  We start this series of conversations with our local insider Maria Daïf. Maria spent 15 years as a cultural journalist (print and radio), then turned to cultural mediation, supporting independent art projects throughout the African/Arabic region. She is a fire starter, curator, writer and an important voice in contemporary Casablanca.  We meet Maria at the seaside, where we look out on the beach, an obsolete concrete swimming pool and the Atlantic Ocean. We talk about the late 90ies, early 2000s when King Mohammed VI took over from his father Hassan II, Moroccan society opened up and Maria’s career as a journalist blossomed. We also talk about the complicated dance between the authority, the rules and the people. Maria describes the difficult cultural climate: how things come, go and come again.  A talk about the past, present and future of a city that Daïf loves, and is about to leave. A new rural existence lingers beyond the horizon.    References: Magazine: Femmes du Marcoc Magazine: TELQUEL Creative collective Skefkef Art/cutural space L’Uzine ICI Casa, Ville Inventive (2010)
Imagine a cold, dark and rainy afternoon in November. The group (Dimitrova, Espinosa, Zahn, Wong, Krier and audiotechnician Robert) gathers under an old amusement park bumper-car-roof. We wear silent headphones with discolights. We are in the shadows of Haus der Statistik, that houses artistic and research based projects during its renovation. We use a score by Mia Habib and walk clockwise in circles. Robert stands in the middle, holding the mic.  A walking, searching conversation that covers most subjects we touched upon these past few days: fluidity, violence, urban capitalism, the relation between body, city and health. The tone of the conversation is committed yet bleak. At the end Sophie lights up the space by quoting Puddles the Pelican: “It’s gonna be alright, even if it’s not gonna be alright”.  References: Glossary of Urban Praxis, Werkstätte Berlin, 2022: Modellprojekt Haus der Statistik: Mia Habib: All, a physical form of protest: Beyoncé, Formation: Body of Bodies, Stadterweitern: A pluralistic universe, William James, 1908: Neue Kreuzberger Kunstverein: Jeremy Wade aka Puddles the Pelican:
We do realise that outside our hyperfocused Berlin bubble, this city hosts many other lives and voices that deserve to be heared and recognised. And that is why – in this short intermission – we make room for Doreen, Vasille, Fluss Puss and Johanna, Berliners we met while walking the streets. What does fluidity mean to them? What brought them here? Who exactly is Berlin? Berlin Pigeons: Fluss Pluss: 
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