“There’s enough theory around us, but not enough hands politicizing gestures of care.”
Athens, Greece, 22 March – 1 July 2020
I am a Peruvian artist, living between Athens and Vienna, doing a PhD at the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, with a project about possible ways to collectivize processes of mourning connected to the crisis in Greece. Because of this, I’ve been following the news about these three countries and am in constant communication with friends and family from the three places as well, in a way that was stressful at the beginning of the quarantine, but is becoming more controllable now. [This paragraph was written on March 22, 2020 at the beginning of the diary; the quarantine began in Greece on the 13thof March.]
In recent years, writing is becoming an important part of my artistic practice. And I’m afraid it will be even more important from now on, since I’m not sure when I will be able to continue the kind of work I was doing for my research, which implied social gatherings, reading groups, discussions and exercises with the body in shared situations of intimacy. At the moment of writing this, I am in Athens, living alone in a small flat with my cat T. We live in a neighborhood near the center of the city, which here is considered low class or even dodgy by some, but that for Latin American standards is pretty safe and quiet.
I wake up and N is still sleeping, so I dedicate myself to read all the pending WhatsApp messages and some Facebook posts. I always have many messages now when I wake up, because of the time difference with Peru. My sister will visit my father today, there, but before doing so, she sends me a voice message, asking if I think that’s a good idea. He’s 69 years old and she has been feeling some symptoms, although more connected to the flu than to what is supposed to be Corona. She adds that anyway she’s now staying with my mother and her husband, who is even older, so maybe it doesn’t make sense to worry so much about visiting our father. I tell her that I think it’s ok to visit him, if she has been careful these days, and being mostly home. That he’s lonely and needs to be visited once in a while.
I make two screenshots while looking at Facebook posts:
In one of my WhatsApp groups, a friend has shared an image of reggaetón super star Bad Bunny, having a sunbath naked, at his place, asking his fans how they are spending their quarantine. I’m surprised and decide to follow him too on Instagram.
N finally wakes up and starts talking, still sleepy. We cuddle and kiss each other. I tell him that we are very lucky to have each other these days. He says, “Yes, otherwise quarantine would be too boring”. I say, “yes”, but think to myself that it would also be too sad. Don’t know why I don’t say that out loud. And then he jokes, “Yep, quarantine lovers”.
When he’s fully awake, we decide to do yoga on his balcony. I had been trying to convince him into that for years, and he just accepted to learn it a couple of weeks ago, before all of this started. So, this is the second time we’ll do it on his balcony, in the open air, where the neighbors can see us and we can see them too. I wonder if the neighbors feel any kind of interest in this practice, or if they look at us through the lenses of the quarantine.
Most of my friends do yoga, and are using it as a way of staying active now at home. My sister sent me last week a picture of my mom doing it, although she’s not so much into it, and I sent them in reply a video that the yoga studio I used to go in Lima has released for their students to keep practicing in quarantine. Another friend just posted a video of himself teaching a class, since he just stopped doing it in Vienna, and another friend invites us to join her virtually through fb while doing it now. A Mexican friend asked me today to find a way to do it together virtually, so we’ll try to find a moment in which the time difference isn’t so complicated for both of us.
After an hour of practice, I decide to go back home to feed T. I go out wondering if there are still taxis in Athens, but after walking a couple of blocks, I see there are. Not many people in the street, a few with plastic gloves or masks, a couple of old women. I see some posters, which seem to be criticizing the government’s measures regarding COVID19. Posters made probably by antifascist and anarchists’ organizations, but I don’t have time to stop and read them, and now I regret that I didn’t take a picture of them. Just remember one had a character saying to the other that the measures seemed exaggerated. I’ll try to take a picture next time I see them. For now, I have this one, which I took a week ago:
The taxi driver receives me with a great smile. He’s wearing blue plastic gloves and I wonder if he feels concerned about the level of exposure his work implies now. When he drops me off at home, I go to buy eggs in the nearest mini market, and realize they just added gloves and portable disinfectant soap next to the cash. I think about buying it for a second, but finally I don’t. I buy a dessert and think how food has become so important these days for everybody. At least for those who can stay home without worrying about how to survive,
Once at home, I have some lunch, thinking about the productive things I’ll do in the afternoon. Read a lot, write a bit … I start reading and I feel sleepy. I end up taking a three-hour nap. When I wake up I check my messages and two friends had been trying to contact me because we said we would go to a park this afternoon. We wanted to do that because from tomorrow on, all parks will be closed and people will need written permissions to be out, with specific reasons: buying food, medicine, helping someone in need, or work. One of these friends, S, told me that she was actually not feeling well, so she preferred to stay in. I saw her on Friday after a long time, and after hesitating for a second, we hugged in the middle of the street where we found each other.
Martín Vizcarra (Peru’s president) is sharing the floor each day with his ministers, asking them to explain the issues that concern them. They are all sited leaving a meter of distance in between, and this might be the first time in which the people there feel so reassured with a President’s way of communication, for what I can see as commentaries in social networks. That, excluding of course those who find it extremely difficult to prescind from a day of work in such a precarious context. I am definitely relieved by hearing him speak without using the rhetoric of war, as the authorities do in Europe, at least in France, Greece or Portugal, and instead using metaphors connected to sports and the collaboration that is needed from a team to win a game.
I go back to chatting, N is concerned because stricter measures will be in place tomorrow and the community kitchen where he works will have to find a way to continue producing food for the refugees who use their services. After offering takeaway for a week, they will try to start doing delivery, but they need to find a way to communicate this to the users, translating the information clearly to Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, or other languages.
I am also a bit worried about tomorrow and the upcoming days. I don’t have that much food and should go to buy some, somehow. I also chat with a friend concerned about her legal status in Europe. We should be in Vienna now, but our flights got cancelled and we are not sure about how to proceed regarding bureaucracy. But I didn’t want to think about that now. She made me worry and I was trying to avoid that right now. I’ll go back to that tomorrow.
In the morning, fragments of sleep and dreams are mixed with pieces of news and articles read the day before. This is the first time this happens to me in this context, maybe because today is the first day with the quarantine becoming stricter in Greece. Written permission is required to leave the house now, but people are already commenting that the website and phone lines set up to carry out the procedure are not working so well.
Whatsapp call with J.: She comments about the real state of the health system in Greece, the kind of information that the media won’t share and that is the reason why she has been in quarantine before the government commanded it; also, the reason why she thinks I should be more careful. This made me think of Peru, where yesterday a doctor was detained because he was denouncing the lack of safety materials such as masks and the like in the hospitals. Yesterday, there too, a soldier said to someone on the street that he was “forgiving his life”, while detaining him walking in the street after 8 pm, the start of the curfew. Today in Athens, policemen are watching the obedience to the new rules. My neighborhood is calm, but N says over his place a helicopter has passed already three times.
Some useful articles shared with me today:
I also receive this video, with the measures taken by El Salvador’s President, a young 38 year old man, Twitter expert, they say, who declares suspended all kind of payment for everybody during three months (rents, water, electricity, debts, mortgages) and who will give $300 each month to each family. I wonder if their economy is as strong and it seems according to his security while declaring that: https://youtu.be/8ob-8Nyd2EM
I talk with V. who is in France. One of her sisters is staying in a dark apartment without windows, only a small one in the ceiling. She says that tomorrow she’ll get a ladder to go to the roof for light.
I was tempted to avoid having another skype meeting because the amount of virtual communication is getting overwhelming, but I had it anyway and it didn’t make me feel as bad or anxious as I thought it would. I speak with Ch, in Rio and Ñ, in Lima. In Rio, people are still going to bars and restaurants. Ch. is trapped without knowing how to go back to Peru. She says even their hosts believe things will solve up eventually, and are planning public events for June and July. She has told them that no international guests will go, that they should stop doing that and face the upcoming scenario, which she perceives as a very complicated one, since Bolsonaro is not encouraging people to respect the quarantine.
I go out to the supermarket, a bit nervous because I didn’t fill up the form, but as I imagined, inside my neighborhood there are no policemen controlling that. There are some people on the street, coming in and out from bakeries and the supermarket. Half of them with plastic gloves, a few with masks, keeping distance from each other while waiting in line, outside of the bakery, inside of the supermarket. On my way, there I see this poster:
We have a zoom class for the first time. The first time we had seen each other in about a month, albeit virtually. Everybody is speaking from different European countries: Austria, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, and France. Everybody says they hadn’t been able to focus, do homework, or prepare this week’s discussion. The teachers say they were oscillating between giving a proper structure for us to work or let us looser, depending on our capacities. They ask us how we feel. We agree on meeting virtually but nobody is up for going into much writing on their own. Everybody is disoriented and even finding the sole idea of the PhD projects out of place now. But we do feel like meeting virtually and some of us say that we appreciate the motivation to have specific and concrete tasks to do during the day.
My friends recommend me more articles:
I’m reading them slower now, trying not to feel that I should keep up with the rhythm of their appearance. Only in that way I am able to work a bit and feel more at ease.
I make a video call with D in Peru. She’s using the time to put her house in order, an old house that has been put on for sale for a few months now, but which probably will be frozen that way until commercial activity reactivates there. She says that she can hear laughs from the neighbors and that she thinks people are playing these days, parents playing more often with their kids during the quarantine. We are worried about the increase of domestic violence that must be happening, but comment that this as well might be an interesting change of families who normally don’t spend time together. She tells me that these days her boyfriend G. is working from home in Madrid and trying to keep the routine. He wears a shirt as if he were working in an office.
On his daily report through the national TV channel, the Peruvian president, Martín Vizcarra, comments on the beneficial consequences for nature in Lima due to the quarantine. That for example, the quality of the air now is within the recommended parameters by the WHO, once everything has stopped in the city.
I received this email from a chain of mails that are circulating through different artists and cultural workers who are participating in a big event that now is postponed. All the messages are very touching; most of them are in Spanish, some in Portuguese. And this one in English made me feel very connected to the state of mind that the sender describes:
Thank you for these conversations and efforts to create a connectedness from different parts of the world. I have not much to say at this moment as things here too in South Africa are changing fast with a 21-day national lockdown taking place from thursday and army presence in the streets to enforce the lockdown. I fear for the collective trauma this will induce in people and the rise in domestic violence. With all this happening it is comforting to know a network of people going through similar things exist and we can find and strengthen solidarity through these time. I too will try be active here when I can, my silence is not disinterest, my silence is me taking care mentally and emotionally.
I truly hope that you are all able to keep loving yourselves and others ever so fiercely. I really look forward to one day gathering with you all to live, love, learn and heal collectively.
One last thing, if anyone needs to skype or email chat for sanity, for love, or just for the sake of it feel free to write me.
A conversation in a chat group with colleagues degenerates in an argument with one of them.
There are strong differences in the capacity of some of us to relate to speculations regarding possible decisions taken over our access to health services, over our salaries, working rights and migratory status due to the current situation. For others these issues need to be addressed right now, to be prepared to possible changes and to analyze the way neoliberalism operates. For some, including me, it’s an additional anxiety to an already stressful flux of information.
I go out with the intention to go to the closest park to my house. After a week of being inside, it’s the first time that I go further away than 5 blocks (distance to the closest supermarket). I don’t fill up the online form or send the required sms. I assume that there won’t be police if I walk only through small streets. It’s the first day of nice weather after three cloudy and rainy ones, so the park seems necessary. While I start to get closer to it,
I passed two of the entrances; they are both locked with a chain and with tapes making a big X, one of them has been cut. But I see people inside the park, walking or exercising. As I try to find the open entrance, a woman asks me if the park is open. We talk a bit and I realize a group of policemen starts to come, with their motorbikes and their helmets. Only the vision of it and the sounds they make, scares me and makes me walk immediately in a different direction. I imagine it wouldn’t be such a big deal to excuse myself from not having any official permission to walk, but I just don’t want to even discuss that with them.
I cross the street and go to a small, fenceless park. This one is always abandoned, empty, and I decide to give it a chance. There is only an old man sitting in the middle of it, and I run into a young man on the way. I enter it and find a quiet, hidden spot. I decide to sit there and start to take pictures and make small videos with the chirping birds around. I text a friend in case he’s walking his dog and wants to meet me, he’s a neighbor. After ten minutes of peace, the young man I ran into comes and tells me that the police is coming in this direction. I stand up and start walking away from the park.
I start to drift around, a bit in the direction home, but still with the need to feel the sun on my skin. I walk in all the sunny sidewalks I find, guessing through which little streets the policemen won’t come. My friend texts me. He’s walking the dog and he’ll help me to make a paper saying that I’m outside because I’m walking the dog as well. I meet him after a while. He makes one of those papers, handwritten in Greek, for me. He says he’s always adding ten minutes to the time he actually left the house, and he does the same with my paper. Now I have a cover. We go to the same small, abandoned park and sit to talk, at a meter of distance each. He doesn’t have a job because he normally works in tourism, and they told him that all packages are cancelled until late May. He’s trying to use the time to clean his house, meditate, be with himself. He has savings, so he’s not concerned and sees this period as an opportunity, as a gift of time. We talk for a while, always alert of not hearing any sound that would be a sign of policemen approaching. We can walk the dog, but we are not supposed to sit there chatting. We should be on the move.
I speak with my father through a video call. He’s starting to take things more seriously and even considers to start a small business now, producing masks with the help of a seamstress he knows. I tell him the masks need a special kind of material, he insists that it can be just simple cotton. The seamstress has told him that she doesn’t want to leave the house because she’s afraid to be sick, but he told her that someone would leave her the material and pick the masks from her house, that she shouldn’t worry.
I make two screenshots:
I speak with a friend from Vienna on the phone. He says he “doesn’t believe” any of what is happening. That China is profiting now from this situation and that there must be something behind this need to control the population and reduce mobility. He says he hasn’t been able to find any images of hospitals that are actually out of their capacity and he finds the whole situation exaggerated. I don’t want to argue, but feel a bit annoyed by his conspiracy theories. At the same time, it still feels awkward to defend states’ right to lock everybody down and control our movements. I end up doing that. He is not in such a bad situation because he got a job doing delivery from a restaurant to old people and so he can handle this, because usually he needs to move a lot and be surrounded by people.
I speak with my Peruvian friends. One is locked in Puno, a province in the highlands where she went because of work. Now she’s sharing a flat with 6 colleagues that she only knows from working together. They organize themselves to clean up and “use” each other as examples to motivate themselves to do the work they still need to finish. She’s concerned about what’s coming up now, in terms of how this will affect our habits. She will soon go to Lima and won’t be able to touch her relatives and see them up close. She’s affected by the lack of physical touch and wonders until when this will be so. I usually try to avoid thinking about that, but we talk about it for a while, with the other friends as well, and it affects me. A couple of friends say for them is not so difficult because their families are not so physical anyway, but for me it’s a very different situation. This is a major concern and after finishing the video call, I cry myself to sleep. For the first time in the two weeks of the ongoing quarantine.
The text “What protective measures can you think of so we don’t go back to the pre-crisis production model?” by Bruno Latour is for me one of the most meaningful of those that are circulating these days. Especially by the way it ends:
“Let’s take advantage of the enforced suspension of most activities to set out the inventory of those among them we would like to see not coming back, and those, on the other hand, that we would like to see develop. Reply first individually, then collectively, to the following questions:
- Question 1 : What are some suspended activities that you would like to see not coming back ?
- Question 2 : Describe why this activity seems to you to be noxious/ superfluous/ dangerous/ incoherent and how its disappearance/ putting on hold/ substitution might render other activities that you prefer easier/ more coherent. (Write a separate paragraph for each of the activities listed under 1).
- Question 3 : What kinds of measures do you advocate so that workers/ employees/ agents/ entrepreneurs, who can no longer continue in the activities that you have eliminated, are able to facilitate the transition to other activities ?
- Question 4 : What are the activities, now suspended, that you hope might develop/ begin again, or even be created from scratch ?
- Question 5 : Describe how this activity appears to be positive to you, and how it makes other activities easier/ more harmonious/ coherent that you prefer and can fight against those that you judge to be inappropriate. (Write a separate paragraph for each of the activities listed under 4).
- Question 6 : What kinds of measures do you advocate to help workers/ employees/ agents/ entrepreneurs to acquire capacities/ means/ finances/ instruments allowing for restarting/ development/ creation of this activity ? (Now find a way to compare your description with that of other participants. By tabling and then superimposing the answers, you should start to build up a picture composed of conflicting lines, alliances, controversies and oppositions.)”
I receive this email through my student account at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna:
Music action March 28 // please share //
Many of us lost a lot of their income. At the moment, we are lacking concrete answers from responsible politicians about how this can be compensated for artists, creative workers, people in precarious job situations and many more. While our income is absent, rents still have to be paid. Some people do not have housing. Some people are forced to live in extremely confined conditions .This is why we call for this solidarity music action! Tag your 5 (or more) musicians and ask them to participate in the action day. Everyone who knows they are going to take part in the action day is supposed to also tag 5 musicians. The reason: housing is essential. We are asked to “stay at home”. But what do we do, if we cannot afford the rent? We are asked to “stay at home”. But how, if we do not have a home? We are asked to keep distance. How is that supposed to work if we have to live with many people in small spaces? Oh, and if you do not play an instrument or sing, you can just put speakers in your window and play your favorite song connected to the topic!
#housingforall #NoOneLeftBehind #rentstrike #coview #HousingActionDay2020
My mood has been changing constantly the last two days. I’ve been crying for things I wouldn’t normally cry about. I’ve been feeling lonely from time to time, or felt sad by feeling that others are/were lonely. Friends reach out but I can’t reply to all of them as much as I would like to.
In Peru, a new method will be tried to prevent people from leaving their homes. So, from today on, men and women have different days to go out (apart from people that must leave every day because they work in primary care). A friend writes this in Facebook:
Hoy el presidente del Perú Martin Vizcarra en su mensaje sobre las nuevas medidas para las próximas semana, donde implementarán que unos días de las semanas salgan mujeres y otros hombres tuvo la delicadeza y amor de decir esto:
“No tengan ningún temor cuando hablamos de varones y mujeres. No estamos teniendo solamente en cuenta una mentalidad (una/otro) binaria. Sabemos que dentro de una igualdad de género en su concepto más grande pueden haber ciudadanos que se encuentran en otro tipo de sentimiento.”
Para un país como el mío, escuchar del propio presidente ésta frase no sólo es emocionante, sino también reconfortante y necesaria.
“Today the Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra in his message about the new measures for the next weeks, where they will implement that some days women can go out and other days men will, had the delicacy and love to say this:
‘Have no fear when we speak of men and women. We are not only taking into account one mentality (one/other), a binary one. We know that within gender equality, in its wider concept, there can be citizens who are in another kind of feeling.’
For a country like mine, to hear from the very president such a phrase is not only exciting, but also comforting and necessary. Thanks, president”
Another friend shares this image, since now the men will have to go shopping (because the women can’t on certain days).
I receive this compilation of articles from different left-wing spaces around the world, reporting on how they are experiencing the pandemic. I started reading it, but couldn’t finish it. Seems like a good archive: https://gregsholette.tumblr.com/post/613864982180954112/futurity-19
And I receive this track, made by some Peruvian friends. According to them, it is “Music inspired by the four elements: earth, fire, air, water. Created with the intention of being used in meditations, with or without body movement. It is available for free (copyleft) and is an offering to the Earth in this time of global transformation.”
Although usually I’d probably find something like this too “hippy” or “new age”, right now I surprise myself by thanking it, sharing it with others, and playing it again.
I start to feel ready to pay attention to my PhD research again. The issue I’m dealing with is how to collectivize processes of mourning, associated with objects of loss emerging during political and economic crisis, in the case of Greece, and more specifically, in Athens. For this work, I’ve been having conversations / conducting interviews with artists and thinkers who I’ve met since I came and lived here. The idea is that depression can be related to an unresolved grieving process, and since many of my interlocutors have expressed that the city is “depressed”, I wanted to open up a discussion on how this – apparently – collective depression can be addressed, thought and worked through collectively. Central to this endeavor is an understanding of mourning as a necessary practice when facing processes of loss that demand the resignification of a symbolic world (as tends to be the case with extreme loss), and the conviction that mental health is directly connected to social and political dynamics. Far away from seeing an issue such a depression as one that concerns an individual, I join those who claim that what we call depression is connected to the effects of capitalism in the formation of subjectivities, with its atomization of subjects and the attribution of guilt or shame to the attitudes and choices that are not considered successful.
I have been trying to imagine how to create situations where people can mourn abstract losses, such as a political project, a specific relationship with time, certain bonds with nature, or a particular role or configuration in the familiar structure. In this sense, the small attempts that I’ve done so far to address these issues, have been considered as “rehearsals”, meaning, occasions to try out different intuitions and ideas as exercises that include me as a participant. Combining experimental writing with drawing, conversations and movements in the space, I’ve tried to create environments where people can share vulnerabilities, questions, doubts, and find that certain needs or desires they/we have, might have points of connections with others. This means, that we are “not alone” in the feelings of uncertainty and dislocation that recent changes might have brought to our lives – in the specific case of the Greek crisis of the last ten years – and that, on the contrary, the space of being out of place from the productive chain can be a fruitful place where we can rehearse and imagine other ways of doing in the world and of world-making itself.
The motivation to work in this direction comes from the conviction that many factors in the Greek context (progressive privatization and violent shift to neoliberal policies) can be related to a merciless movement that has tried to erase any rest of solidarity, critical consciousness and communitarian will in the organization of societies worldwide. The consequences of capitalist action to phagocyte the territories and subjectivities beyond its reach, have long been diagnosed thinkers of the global South, as another symptom of the exhaustion of a system that has arrived at a moment of civilizatory crisis. But what happens when the intention to think and work about these phenomena suddenly finds itself amidst a literal global or civilizatory crisis? Is it possible to continue following the imagined line of thought and action? What happens when a work that is based on collective encounters and exchanges faces the impossibility to precisely provoke encounters and exchanges?
“What happens when the intention to create moments of full attention, committed listening, and openness to touch and sharing stories has to be suspended, postponed to an unspecified future time?”
How is one to think about the word mourning when the threat of death appears, out of the blue, and becomes the urgent concern of almost the entire planet? And at the same time, how to keep a proper perspective while acknowledging that the threat is greater for specific groups and more dangerous under specific circumstances? How to keep a proper perspective when since the beginning one of my horizons was the awareness that, as other global south thinkers have pointed out before, the end of the world happened already, and continues happening every day, as we speak, in different places, where different worlds are constantly dying, being annihilated, disappearing?
I was trying to detach the word mourning from the connection to human losses, and consider its place within other processes that demand as well a work of imagination and desire, a deep work of attentiveness to ourselves, and the surroundings, to conceive other possible ways of living beyond what we thought available. Now the present moment seems to demand precisely that, maybe from “all of us”, maybe “at the same time”. Is it possible to pose a question regarding the simultaneity of the emergency and the challenge, without assuming a homogenous global history? How to grasp the connectivity of the problems and choices being faced today in different parts of the world without imposing a framework that obliterates the different temporalities and modernities that coexist, with their specific influences in how the pandemic is experienced? Which statistics weight more? To which deceased do we pay more attention? Whom to mourn and what to mourn? Where to do it when it is actually impossible? When is it fruitful to raise these questions?
I am trying to inhabit this moment fully. To recognize the affects that shape my body and my language these days, which live with me in my house, charging the air I breathe and guiding my movements and decisions, as tiny as they seem to be now. I am trying to avoid quick responses or to feel a need to react and comment, to extract lessons or rushed conclusions. I am trying to leave the words and reflections to come by their own to my mind, to the will of my fingers to tap them into the computer or the desire of my tongue to transform them into pronounceable words.
“I am trying to accompany myself, my own confusion, my loneliness, the strength and joy that appears once in a while, the fragility that makes itself more evident.”
I understand this pause as a moment to deepen the capacity to hear and learn, to make clearer images of the shape we want things to take, to craft carefully sensible ways of translating dreams and ideas for a different way of world making. This task definitely will imply a huge work of mourning, transformed probably into quotidian gestures of adaptability, of change, of unlearning and accommodation. And this task will necessarily be a collective one, since it is in the name of the future collectivity that we are sacrificing collectivity today. I am starting to feel more prepared to reflect on what is happening and its connection to the research to which I decided to dedicate this period of my life.
I feel that might be a sign of an improvement in the way I have been feeling lately. But I don’t want to draw any conclusions from this sudden need to put all these words together. As most people I know, I am living this moment one day at a time. Some connections start to be made, and some affirmations occur as well. The motivations and intuitions I had when beginning this project appear stronger or at least confirmed by what we are going through. I find myself trying to become a fertile ground for the seeds of the kind of changes I would like to see happening on a wider scale. As with my research, the aim is not only to detect the loss and the grief, but also to identify its coexistence with desire and hope. And to find ways to put those desires and hopes in circulation. It is to widen the space for them to circulate that the task of mourning shall be approached with care and responsibility. So that we can let go the attachments that prevent new seeds to grow and create the environments we wish to inhabit and give shape to.
A few articles have been relevant for me lately, and I’ve shared them widely. This one, “Lettera agli amici del deserto” by Marcello Tarí, was received in different ways by my friends because of its religious references, which initially also made me prejudiced. But I feel identified with the core of its request:
“We, who have always scrutinized the inexorable flow of history, looking for the signs of the event that would interrupt it, therefore cannot stand still in the face of what is happening. An extraordinary event, which makes us realize that we don’t have enough words to describe it. The desert is also the absence of words, speeches, repetitive and pleasant sounds. Moreover, in Hebrew, the term used for ‘word’, dabar, and that for ‘desert’, midbar, have the same root: from this, we can assume that it is precisely because the desert is a place deprived of words that it is most conducive to the revelation of the Word as an event. The first thing to do, then, is to listen, to tidy up inside oneself enough to be able to welcome the event. But to listen to what, exactly? In an interview with a nun I recently read, she says that obedience is to be understood in its etymological sense, as ob-audire, ‘to listen before, in front of’. ‘Listening to reality’ is the true meaning of obedience, she concluded in her cloister. I believe it is an exercise of this kind that the period calls for.
In the desert there are no streets, no paths that have already been traced out and need only to be followed. It is the task of those, who cross it to orient themselves and find their own way out. There are no shops, there are no sources of water, there are no plants. Everything appears motionless because in the desert there is no production. There are no bars, and there are no social centers. There is nothing that we would imagine there to be in a place considered ‘livable’. We can say in the end that there is nothing human, and that is why in the book of Deuteronomy it is said that in the desert there is a screaming loneliness. I know very well that a great part of this time we are living through seems to be made essentially of this screaming and dehumanization, and I understand the distrust and horror in which we are sometimes captured and led to despair. The vulgarity of so much of the ‘music’ that falls in the early evening from Italy’s balconies these days does not manage to cover this scream – the scream covers everything. In fact, after the euphoria of the first days, this ritual is already disappearing: many understand that it doesn’t quite sound right. Changing the scream into a song depends on our sensitivity, our tuning to the event. No, we must not twist in despair or freeze in denial. There are many ways of despairing and denying, and often, in the turmoil of which they are made and which they convey, they seem to be opposites. Let’s not be fooled. Let us truly listen to the song of reality.” (https://quieora.ink/?p=4084)
And this morning, I received a couple of articles that, for the first time in a “long” time (in “quarantine” measures), made me feel optimistic.
The Financial Times editorial on the 05/04 (https://amp.ft.com/content/7eff769a-74dd-11ea-95fe-fcd274e920ca?__twitter_impression=true) concludes by saying:
“Radical reforms — reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades — will need to be put on the table. Governments will have to accept a more active role in the economy. They must see public services as investments rather than liabilities, and look for ways to make labour markets less insecure. Redistribution will again be on the agenda; the privileges of the elderly and wealthy in question. Policies until recently considered eccentric, such as basic income and wealth taxes, will have to be in the mix.” If the FT is demanding such reforms, what would “us”, understanding an us that includes any collectivity struggling for equality and justice, would dare to demand in this context, which apparently opens up the door for unthinkable change?
As well as this one: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/coronavirus-signal-capitalism-200330092216678.html, which among other things, claims:
“But now, the unthinkable is here – all of it: Universal payments, state bailouts and the funding of state debts by central banks have all been adopted at a speed that has shocked even the usual advocates of these measures. The question is, are we going to do this enthusiastically, and with a clear vision of the society that emerges on the other side, or reluctantly, with the intent to revive the system that has just broken down?”
Meanwhile, quotidian news about the virus reach me. The grandparents of my best Greek friend just got better, miraculously, after having been declared hopeless by doctors. They are now back home, trying to recover in their beds. My dearest friend from the PhD-program has the virus now, after her mom and sisters had it too (who live in Paris, while she’s at Le Havre). She’s dealing with it while her little daughter complains because she doesn’t recognize her voice and can’t stand watching her ill in bed. So, she has gone back to pee her pants and takes twice the time to fell asleep at night.
In Peru, things seem to be entering a dangerous path of no return, with the virus spreading inside prisons, police stations and medical workers resigning because they don’t have the proper instruments and safety devices to work (plus they are sub contracted). While in the big cities things appear to be under control and were allowing us to maintain a calmed realism, the ways the virus is reaching more precarious parts of the country foresee a tragic development, hopefully not as tragic as the Ecuadorian one.
Days before, I had been enthusiastic about the attitude of different Peruvian authorities, sharing in social media the recent adaptation of a very controversial, traditional bullring, into a health center for people in need:
We seem to have the right authorities right now, to face this enormous challenge, probably the best ones we could have, considering Peru’s recent history. But I start to think that their good intentions and spectacular measures, which have even put Peru in the international spot lately (BBC covered the emergency package that the President launched last week), probably won’t be enough to contain the effects of an extremely precarious and privatized health system, working in an extremely centralized and uneven country. I guess some other friends start to suspect the same, because commenting on yesterday’s TV appearance, which people are now used to follow, someone mentioned that the President seemed sad. Apparently, he shared just a few news, and didn’t mention how the virus is infecting police men controlling the curfew, doctors and nurses working in faraway areas.
A couple of days ago, I had an important message exchange with my friend G, who wrote to me:
“Hi, I’ll send it now in parts. Warning: people don’t seem to like this message at all, and comrades don’t seem to have been thinking along these lines at all. Still, it’s pretty obvious, and no surprise at all for people who have been involved in or even just aware of the food sovereignty movement, etc. I’ve incorporated this into my teaching for years and as you know refer to it often in my writings. But there’s a lot of resistance to this in Greece, I have to say. I talked about in Thessaloniki and at Athens Biennial many years ago. Response: here’s a foreign guy telling us to go back to the villages – no thanks, we like our modernity! Anyway, I’ll have to be the Cassandra here, because I can’t see it differently.
Comrades, it becomes more and more clear that, after the medical system crisis now unfolding, the next major crisis to arrive will be that of the capitalist food production system. This will unfold inexorably from the covid19 pandemic: the growing, picking, processing and shipping to markets of our food is vulnerable at many points, from the strikes of farmworkers, processors and deliverers responding to life-threatening working conditions to breaks and bottle necks in the supply chains. We already have a sense of this in Greece: who will pick fruits and vegetables in the fields and hot houses if the Albanians and Bulgarians stay home? Can we force the migrants and refugees from the camps in to do it?
There has been a lot of discussion since covid19 about mutual aid – delivering food and so on. But this will of necessity soon include growing food, which involves a lot of skills and so has a learning curve. We need to begin this discussion. Anyone with access to land – family village lots or whatever – could host collectives, old orchards and farms can be brought back to life with safe methods, etc. I’m not sure this can wait until either the supply chains fail or the lockdowns are lifted (which doesn’t mean the end of the pandemic, unfortunately).
There have long been strong social movements of resistance to this part of globalisation, notably indigenous-led struggles of La Via Campesina (whose current slogan is: “Stay home but not silent!”). There’s also a long tradition of sustainable growing practices, from agroecology to permaculture. Even the scientific studies concede that these practices can grow as much food as capitalist monoculture – and do it far more safely, with regards to both health and ecology. In fact they have called for a transition to these practices – ignored by capital, of course.
There was already a good understanding, written about extensively in the science journals, that our current fossil-fuel dependent, toxic chemical heavy, water-wasting, soil-depleting and ecocidal food production system is unsustainable. We can add that it is embedded in imperialist relations: over the last forty, more or less in step with the rise of neoliberalism, the so-called green revolution pushed by the IMF, the World Bank and Big Ag capital, forced every country to destroy its bases of food sovereignty in small-hold farming and to link into a global system based on a monopoly agriculture model: huge farms geared to monocultural production of cash crops for the world market, with the slave plantation system as the prototype. The global debt system was the lever to force this on everyone, with a lot of local violence in response to resistance to the new enclosures in the global South. The idiocy of this consensus is now coming to haunt us, just as the idiocy of destroying public health structures is doing.
I hope I’m wrong, and this is my innate catastrophism speaking. On the other hand, it seems rather obvious. It’s also obvious why our masters are silent about this problem: it would cause panicked runs on the supermarkets analogous to runs on banks. This problem has been foreseen by many people, some of whom have gotten practically involved in permaculture projects, etc. But now these have to be done with a new communist politics. The possibilities should be built out, as the basis for dual power. In the current crisis, this is practical, life-saving, solidarity-building politics. If I’m wrong, and they manage to keep it under control, we would still have these bases.”
I replied this:
“Ohh thanks for sharing. This is incredibly important and it’s disappointing to hear comrades don’t pay attention to his here. It’s what I told you once about my impression at the historical materialism symposium, that things were still perceived and thought as separated from each other and no importance was given to the reproduction of life, which now finally is at the center of things. Food sovereignty issue is somehow obvious for me, coming from Peru and the current discussions there around that, at the eye of the storm with the dispossession processes and their maximum violence. It is true that Greece has a privileged opportunity, given the access to land and nature. This is an important discussion to spread here now!”
And then we continued:
Yesterday during the day, he published this comprehensive and straight to the point article:
Before publishing it, he sent it to me asking about feedback, and I replied this:
“Congrats! I think it´s a very important and much needed text. It´s political agenda is clear, is well informed and generous in sharing the info that sustains the argument and mobilizing. I hope it gets the attention it deserves.
There’s only one thing I could point to, in the sense of something “lacking”, which I wouldn’t know how to resolve and I wouldn’t expect to be resolved for this specific text right now. I think the kind of sensibility, the kind of awareness it’s trying to foster, is precisely something unfamiliar here, as we were commenting before, and I miss something more “inspiring” than the “anti-fascist” motto as the light at the end of this tunnel. I know this is a problem for the left in general, how to propose something affirmative beyond always saying what we are against? And now this problem comes to my mind again. How could we call “this” horizon that we see as urgent and that maybe this global emergency is showing as more urgent and needed than ever?
As I say, I don’t expect to find answers to these questions now, maybe if we start putting in practice some of the ideas brought in the text, those answers will start appearing in the shape of experienced practices, I don’t know… But that’s the only thing I could think now to add, apart from this comment, I’m very happy that this text exists and will circulate soon!”
Still with the optimism boost, that I got by reading some economy articles anticipating a scenario of change, and trying to think how to take advantage of it, from the point of view from social justice.
and I started receiving WhatsApp messages from people giving advice on how to handle the possibility of dead bodies appearing in the street. There was one case of a family trying to have the medical personnel collect their relative, and waiting for them hours in the street, so people are starting to criticize the government more. Although they seem to be doing as best as possible, decades of progressive privatization of the health system have created the worst context for something like this to happen, and the virus is reaching now the indigenous communities in the Amazon, probably the most abandoned of the Peruvian regions.
At the same time, the Minister of Education is doing an enormous effort to mitigate the impact of the quarantine on the children’s development, and has created content that is shown on radio and TV. The first broadcasts were very successful and reached one and a half million children. These images were passed around widely by my contacts, showing children in different regions attending the TV lessons, including an image of a child wearing her school uniform.
All the pictures were taken from public posts in Facebook
Meanwhile, my friend K. sends me this from Washington DC.
She’s organizing social distancing parties with their neighbors and participating in different networks of care and solidarity there.
A couple of articles that interested me lately:
I have been feeling better lately. Maybe because the weather got much better. Spring is showing its effects and it’s not so hard now to get out of bed. The plants are growing all around, exuberant and generous, filling the semi-empty streets with color. I visited friends on Sunday. First time I go to someone else’s house apart from N. I’m relieved to hear from them that the situation at the hospitals is under control. There’s still a lack of proper protection for the workers, but the number of patients doesn’t increase, chaos doesn’t rule, neither there, neither in the camps. These friends work at Doctors without Borders and at the biggest refugee camp in the city, so they are a reliable source. It gives me peace to speak with them.
Lockdowns are being reinforced everywhere. My father finally asked my sister to stop visiting him (something that she was doing once a week), since the rising numbers of contagions and dead people started to scare him. He has been denouncing all the mistakes done by the government, while most people were supporting the president’s handling of the epidemic so far. But now they approved more measures to save enterprises at the coast of people’s savings.
It is a hard moment there to be not able to protest in the streets.
I learn that apparently there’s a big number of recovered ones in Peru because of a vaccine against tuberculosis that was given to most people many years ago, when those vaccines were not used anymore in industrialized countries.
I receive a video of dead people being thrown into the sea on the coasts of Ecuador. The images are horrible, and a voice demands action from the government.
I learn that in Chile they were counting dead people as “recovered” ones.
Meanwhile, Trump is trying to mine the moon (which he thinks belongs to Mars):
After thinking about it a lot, I finally dared to write to many Peruvian friends to participate in a project I came up with because of the quarantine. It’s an invitation to collectively reimagine other institutions to govern the country. I send the invite to forty or so people. Maybe fifteen have replied already, all of them saying yes. The only one who didn’t agree is a friend who replied that he’s experiencing a horrible moment right now, that he feels in a personal hole and is trying to find ways to distract himself, because he’s hypochondriac. I can’t imagine how hypochondriac people might be feeling right now. I hadn’t thought of that until reading him. It must be devastating.
Another friend, who is feeling very lonely because she’s passing this period alone, wrote that she was begging for a hug to a friend that lives nearby, just to find out that her friend broke her arm and can’t hug her now. We try to cheer her up via chat. I suggested her to adopt a puppy. I know I would feel terribly lonely without my cat right now. Probably I’d be extremely sad without her, especially when going to bed.
A friend comments her abrupt return from NY to Lima on fb, posting a picture of her favorite dish, in beautiful Spanglish:
“me regresé a lima sin despedirme de nueva york, casi sin darme cuenta. hoy día en el mercado viendo todas las cosas frescas, y luego en casa, making my own ‘welcome back’ dish (que siempre pedía whenever i came to visit from nyc) me sentí muy agradecida y muy afortunada de estar acá de nuevo. i don’t know what the future holds, but i am glad to be back. and i feel proud of making this, even if its a silly and very mundane homemade dish. no hay nada más comforting que making something homemade in the place that is your home.”
I totally agree with this quote:
“[…] the term ‘unprecedented’ is becoming so widespread it has to be ideological. […] Corona is precedented: it gives an opportunity to name and shame the stupid idea of private health. It shows how self-destructive the privatisation of housing has been since post-1945 welfare state was rolled back in the name of libertarian competition. Not least it indicates the health costs born by everyone for the rich world’s addiction to internal combustion (where do these auto-immune and respiratory conditions come from if not cars and shit housing). We can tell that corporations are not human (or indeed living) by the fact that they keep pursuing profit even if it means they kill not only humans but destroy their own conditions of existence. They are so wealthy they can corrupt pretty much any system.”
(Sean Cubitt, April 15, 2020, via nettime)
That I found today on the page that published this article:
On Saturday night, we watched the fireworks. It felt like New Year’s eve, they were exploding colorfully and loudly all over the city. Yesterday we made a three people gathering, grilling some food. From our balcony we could see: an old man exercising, walking his balcony many times, coming and going; a family also grilling food; a big group including a child running around in her swim suit; a group of three friends also eating together during the afternoon, listening to electronic pop music, including Britney Spears, and at the end Greek traditional music to which they danced holding hands. Further away, we saw a couple that we had heard before singing a song that seems Mexican, in Spanish and playing the guitar. On another balcony, a couple was having a conversation. At some point, the man trained boxing for a while, punching the air energetically. On the balcony next to that one, sat a man with a moustache who earlier had observed us while doing yoga, following instructions from an app that was free to use until the end of the month.
In Peru, people have started to walk to their regions, even though that may implied walking for a whole week. They prefer to try this instead of staying in Lima, where it is more expensive and they have no source of income right now. Families were walking, carrying their belongings in unsafe, extremely precarious conditions. They appear on the news and some of them have tested positive for the virus. At the same time, the news also shows a rich Peruvian family who just bought 8 apartments in New York, to transform their savings in real estate, paying 27 million dollars. A friend wrote about it:
There and in many other places, people start to talk about taxing the rich, to make them share part of the responsibility for the state of public services, notably the health one.
I go to buy an ice cream at the super market. They don’t sell individual portions, the small one is like half a liter, so I ask if they would have a small plastic spoon for it. It’s a nice day after colder ones and I want to go and eat it at the park. The man working there looks around, ask a colleague and says they don’t have a spoon. He says that I can find one outside, but after a second, he says he’ll find it, runs across the street and goes to a bakery. He comes with a plastic spoon on his hand, I buy the ice cream and when he hands me the spoon, he leaves it on the counter. Then he realizes that I will pick it up from there and asks me if maybe he should have been more careful, because of Corona. I make a joke, grab the spoon and go to the park. I find a quiet spot in the small park, which is not fenced and closed. There are some people on it, even young people doing slackline. I go to a hidden place where there’s also a couple with a baby, they are sitting in a more discrete spot than me. I’m hidden but from the sidewalk someone could see me. If police would decide to ask for permits to be outside, I mean. But no police comes and I can eat ice cream in peace under the sun. The couple moves to a sunnier place.
Today there’s more people in the streets. I see them walking through my window, when I look outside while working. I hear that restrictions are getting looser in Greece; that from the end of the month people will be able to go to more places, always by sending a message or filling up a form, but with more options. Hairdressers, to buy clothes…
My friends in Vienna told me it was depressing to see that when some shops opened there were lines of young people going for new shoes or whatever they could finally, ¡at least! ¡buy! They said they saw some “cool”, designed masks being sold in vitrines at the most commercial street.
On the other hand, I speak with some friends about trying to be closer to nature somehow, when this is over. Maybe to buy a plot together. To give less energy to the creation and criticism of discourse and focus more on direct action, like regarding food sovereignty. Many friends and I are planting seeds, fruits and vegetables these days. Apart from the conviction that this is also at the core of the pandemic situation (agriculture, changing ecosystems etc.), we comment that this grounds us, gives us satisfaction, a tangible sensation of the passing of time, company. Plants are becoming more and more important for me and people around me. I am trying to learn, but at least the ones I had are doing very well now that I’m so much at home. Plants kept dying here before, with so much traveling and having friends cat and plant sitting.
Another small gesture of care, an important one, has to do with reading things aloud for others. N sent me a WhatsApp audio message with a short story. I sent yesterday a horoscope I like to some friends, recording it many times, depending on their signs. They all replied with affection, gratitude, excitement. It felt good to do that, I want to continue doing it or find a way to relate it to my artistic practice.
I rode my bicycle today for around 40 minutes. The environment has changed in Athens since Easter. There were people in the street, although most of them wear exercise clothing, like to have an excuse for being outside. In every park I passed, people were sitting and chatting. It was a beautiful spring day and people were enjoying it.
I saw P. yesterday after about a month. We hugged. We hesitated at the beginning but we did it and maybe I was the one going more decidedly for it. He has gained some weight, has bigger cheeks. He says he has been only home, alone, almost without exercise, and eating a lot. That he sees this period as one of learning from oneself and he has been reflecting about food sovereignty. He doesn’t use those terms, but he speaks about basic needs, access to land, autonomy. We discuss my idea of buying a plot together. I tell him for the first time, N. is there, we talked about how it should be for a while. P. is open to it. It’s not a serious discussion but I feel this alternative can grow on them. I spoke to T. on the phone the other day and she told me that she and M. had been talking about the same. She told me to talk about it in person. I think it’s in the air.
I think many of us want to take charge of the small changes we can make in our lives and our surroundings as soon as this period allows us to do it. On the other hand, G. is feeling negative about it today, is afraid of the Greek bureaucracy and wondering about all the difficulties that will appear when trying to set a project based on the commons that would include foreigners. He still sends me texts and videos to watch about similar alternatives in places nearby, material about permaculture. I try to cheer him up. I send him pictures of my small attempts to grow things out of my food. I started recently and it makes me enthusiastic. It has been a constant during the quarantine, sharing with friends the vegetables that we are growing home: radish, garlic, avocado, onions, and cucumber. It’s becoming an increasingly widespread therapy. This week we talked about that as well during a zoom meeting from the PhD program. In one of the awkward moments waiting for a discussion to begin, A. excitedly showed us her growing onion and that brightened everybody’s mood.
Whatsapp exchange with friends growing plants in our houses. Images 1, 3 and 5 are mine. The 2nd is by Virginie Bobin and the 4th is by Jenny Martin’s.
Meanwhile in Peru, corona cases are around 25.000 and deaths around 500. The mortality rate is luckily low, although the virus is spreading to zones of difficult access, such as the Amazon. And in certain areas with very precarious health systems, they threw dead bodies in garbage bags. Municipalities in diverse areas say they don’t have space to host the people travelling from Lima to their places of origin (migrant families who prefer to spend the quarantine there). So I read in a synthesis of foreign press about the Peruvian situation:
And my father sends this video, with people from a peasant community collecting food to send to their relatives in Lima:
“And then I’m tagged in another social media post praising me for being ‘a hero.’ And I’m instantly flung back into the pinball machine as my emotions ricochet through the stages.
If I die, I don’t want to be remembered as a hero.
I want my death to make you angry too.
I want you to politicize my death. I want you to use it as fuel to demand change in this industry, to demand protection, living wages, and safe working conditions for nurses and ALL workers.
Use my death to mobilize others.
Use my name at the bargaining table.
Use my name to shame those who have profited or failed to act, leaving us to clean up the mess.
Don’t say ‘heaven has gained an angel.’ Tell them negligence and greed has murdered a person for choosing a career dedicated to compassion and service.”
(From: I Want My Death to Make You Angry: https://mnnurses.org/want-my-death-make-you-angry/?fbclid=IwAR3hOtX7cAQHgdbXpjPqAnQdvdXDwkXaVigc-87NEKmG8WMY_p5q3HGOjPM)
I posted this on Facebook about my way of dealing with the quarantine, which involves plenty of yoga and my cat’s friendship:
Este año se cumplen diez años de haber tomado dos decisiones que enriquecieron mi vida de modos que se manifiestan y renuevan diariamente: adoptar a Tina y empezar a hacer yoga. Quizá no hubiera reparado en ello ni hubiera pensado comentarlo por acá de no ser por la cuarentena. Para quienes la estamos viviendo “solxs”, en el sentido de no compartir la casa con otro ser humano, esto es un ejercicio interesante y complejo de aprendizaje cotidiano (hablo desde la situación específica de poder trabajar a la distancia y no experimentar falta de alimentos o alguna carencia fundamental, aparte de abrazos, amigxs y encuentros inesperados).
Los últimos años, de viajes continuos y convivencias variadas por cuestiones laborales, el yoga ha sido la manera de generar un momento y un espacio “mío”, estuviera donde estuviera. Ahora es una manera de regenerar la vida en mi, frente a la reducida movilidad y movimiento. Podría extenderme sobre esa práctica, empezando por cómo ha hecho que me sienta más cómoda y contenta con mi cuerpo, más fuerte y llena de energía, contrario a lo que se espera de las mujeres cuando pasamos los 30. O subrayar cómo sus efectos positivos se reflejan desde sobrellevando una cuarentena hasta bajando al bailar reggaetón… Pero este post es también un homenaje a Tina, con quien venimos creciendo juntas ya por una década, amándonos de un modo que hace que mi hermana nos llame siamesas. Ahora el estar en casa en estas circunstancias se me hace inimaginable sin su cariño y complicidad. Así que creo que escribo esto porque imagino que este período a la mayoría nos está haciendo evaluar muchísimas cosas, a nivel macro y micro, o eso espero. Y entonces, es para decir, que, si han estado tentadxs de vivir con algún animal y pueden hacerlo condiciones amables para ambxs, ¡háganlo! Se aprende muchísimo conviviendo con animales no humanos: del tiempo, del presente, del amor, de la belleza y la generosidad. Y si no tienen ninguna práctica física como parte de su rutina, ¡búsquenla! Puede ser yoga, artes marciales, capoeira, algún baile… Ahora circulan miles de videos y tutoriales de todo y puede ser momento de aprender. Quizá seguir un video, con movimientos poco familiares nos haga sentir ridículxs, pero este es un momento que demanda de todxs paciencia y empatía. Y quizá lo mejor es empezar ejercitándolas con nosotrxs mismxs. (Las fotos son de mi primer y último intento de hacer un video haciendo yoga)
Reports on different communities in Latin America stacked in the middle of their way to their places of provenance: http://www.servindi.org/actualidad-noticias/24/04/2020/el-drama-de-vivir-varado-en-plena-pandemia
I dreamt about talking with someone about COVID. I just remember it now when I’m reading the news and I see an article I read a couple of days ago that I quoted in the dream. I was talking with someone who was very worried about young people dying, a Mexican friend. I replied to her saying that according to that article the virus was attacking bodies in an unprecedented way, changing abruptly the breathing conditions. Now I realize that half of it was an actual conversation I had yesterday and apparently, it finished with my reply in the dream.
The measures start to be less strict in Greece. Since yesterday, some small businesses are opening and soon it will be possible to go to parks and the beach. People are not required anymore to send messages or fill up forms when going out and it is noticeable in the streets. The squares are filled up with families, children playing, men having beers.
I went to a small birthday gathering on Sunday and some were kissing and hugging. I kissed and almost hugged the birthday person.
It is a huge contrast with the situation in Peru, where the death toll is now above 1.000 and the virus is reaching the most remote areas. Some initiatives appear, to try to help the Amazonian communities. This one from the church managed to gather more than a million soles (300 000 $) to build up an oxygen plant in Iquitos:
Last week I spoke with an ex-boyfriend from Lima. He got the virus; lost a lot of weight, and is living a precarious, lonely existence these weeks, trying to recover at home with no savings. It was sad. He looked older than ever and as weak as I had ever seen him.
And today, a friend shares this on fb, by Barbara Kruger:
of not being ready to go back to the usual speed of things, of slowly having get used to slowing down and being able to create a routine lately. Now there starts to be pressure to reactivate economy and productive activities, especially in Peru.
I usually don’t necessarily agree with this Peruvian writer, but this time I do:
“Have you notice? In this moment there’s more than 150 000 people walking back to their lands, those of their parents and ancestors. It’s a unique phenomenon in the world, a migration backwards those studies by demographic arts. Young men and girls, many of them mothers, wear down their snickers going up the mountains, sharing food, discretely, showing to the country that they chose that fucked up way instead of pillage or violence. They don’t know what will they find on their destinations, a loving welcome or an aggressive rejection. And towards that phenomenon our journalism proves so useless, so mediocre, so limited…”
I’ve been thinking that this situation has given to many of us a very special opportunity to reflect on the way we, in the micro and the macro dimension of the word, are living our lives and on the things we would like to change or keep from our everyday. Going deeper, for those of us that dedicate part of our life and work to politics and critical theory, I feel this as a call to action. At least this is how I’ve been experiencing these days. How to engage in a more direct way with the possibilities of change of the world? How to put into practice anticapitalistic convictions?
I feel there’s a lack of vocabulary to speak about transformative actions in a way that can be seducing, appealing for those not concerned about that. I think that lack has to do with an excessive importance given to criticism and the analysis of ideas but with a lack of lived experience. I think “we” need to dedicate as much time to caring practically about the reproduction of life as to condemning the forces that threaten and kill it. Less Foucault and more Kropotkin. More Maria Mies and Silvia Federicci. More thinkers from the Global South and feminists.
The situation in Peru is getting worse each day, especially in the rainforest, Iquitos and the indigenous communities:
Since approximately a week ago, I am helping to organize a campaign in Peru, to collect donated drawings from artists to sell and raise money for the Amazon, which has been declared at risk of ethnocide by its indigenous leaders and specialists in the area.
We are following a Brazilian initiative called 300 desenhos: https://artebrasileiros.com.br/featured/300-desenhos-quarentena-cidadania/
That’s occupying most of my time, and most of my time in front of the computer, so I hadn’t been able to write, neither here, neither for my PhD.
We launched the campaign yesterday! The website is beautiful and is getting a lot of support: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=262110985216900
Today I sent this email to some friends:
I hope this note finds you and your beloved ones well and surrounded by love.
I wanted to share with you this campaign that I’m helping organize amidst the emergency in Peru due to COVID, which is hitting extremely hard on the Amazonian region. I know many of you admire the examples of resistance and struggle we have witnessed already coming from the indigenous communities, who manage to preserve their knowledge and generosity, in spite of the effects of capitalism damaging their environment more and more violently. Now this could be really lethal for them, due to the general precariousness of Peruvian health services and the decades of abandonment in those areas.
Please help us spread the word about this initiative and if you are able to, support it. There are different ways to do so, and any help is highly appreciated. I copy below the press release about it.
Hugs and all the best
A few news covering the situation:
- ‘We are living in a catastrophe’: Peru’s jungle capital choking for breath as Covid-19 hits
Drawings for the Amazon
By buying Peruvian art, you help us fighting COVID-19
- By donating US$ 150, you receive a drawing.
- More than 250 artists gave more than 400 art works.
- All the funds raised will be directed to three organizations in Loreto and Ucayali.
- A solidary and self-organized campaign from Tuesday 19th to Sunday 31th of May.
This initiative brings together a volunteer group of visual artists with the aim of helping the indigenous Amazonian communities in Peru, who face very difficult moments by the spread of COVID-19. More than 250 artists, of different professional stages and ages, have donated more than 400 works in A4 format (approximate). Although the majority of works are drawings, textiles, photographs, digital prints and engravings are also included. By contributing with US$ 150 dollars, the donors will receive a drawing chosen randomly by an automatized system, once the electronic payment has been confirmed. Each artist gave one or more drawings, interpreting the proposal in their own fashion, but everybody committed to avoid the possibility of ethnocide, denounced by indigenous leaders and institutions dedicated to protect the Amazon.
All the funds raised will be directed to three social organizations that are playing a decisive role in communication, assistance and help in the COVID-19 emergency: the Apostolic Vicariate of Iquitos, Ucamara Radio in Nauta, and Coshikox (Shipibo-Konibo and Xetebo Council) in Pucallpa.
According to Ronal Suarez, filmmaker, shipibo leader and president of Coshikox:
“There is no work or source of income. No possibility to sell food, goods, medicinal plants or handcrafts. There are no chamanic ceremonies. There is COVID-19 in our communities, with many more cases than what peruvian authorities want to acknowledge. There are no tests, no medical attention. The State’s tendency to provide lastly to indigenous communities has always had deadly consequences. There is real fear that this can be devastating for the Shipibo-Konibo communities and for other indigenous communities in the Amazon. Shipibo medicine has helped countless people all over the world. Now is time to heal the healers.”
This is a collective initiative without aims of profit, organized with the desire of putting our resources to the service of a community deeply affected by the pandemic. Some of the most of 250 participating artists are: Ana Teresa Barboza, Luz María Bedoya, Elena Damiani, Sandra Gamarra, Ximena Garrido-Lecca, Anamaría McCarthy, Gilda Mantilla, Marco Pando, Rita Ponce de León, Brus Rubio, Elena Tejada-Herrera, Olinda Silvano, José Vera Matos, Moico Yaker, Alice Wagner, among others.
In the words of Olinda Silvano, artist and leader of the Shipibo community in Cantagallo:
“The art we make is very important to help in such a difficult moment that our indigenous leaders are living, and we make it with love. Me, as a shipiba woman, don’t have money to donate, but can make my art because with it I can make money and thus, support the necessities of my people, without medicines or food. Our art can save lives.”
The campaign begins on Tuesday the 19th and lasts until May, the 31th.
We hope that through the participation of artists and donors, we can contribute with the communities facing an urgent moment of extreme need.
Organizing group of volunteer work:
The organizing team is composed by Christian Bendayán, Nancy La Rosa, Miguel A. López, Eliana Otta and Juan Salas.
The coordination and communication team include Mariela Arce, Jimena Chávez Delion, Claudia Coca, Estefani Campana, Deborah Delgado, Giselle Girón, Ivonne Sheen and Jana Ugaz.
The team of web design and programming is constituted by José-Carlos Mariátegui, Natalia Revilla and Fernando Ramos.
We are still focused on the campaign. That has absorbed most of my time. Apart from the PhD duties.
A friend shares this with me, after we comment how “going back to normality” starts to cause some anxiety on us: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/social-anxiety-and-covid-19
And thanks to the campaign, I get to know that one of the artist who donated a drawing is also involved in pedagogical projects in the context of Covid: https://www.educaccionperu.org/cynthia-capriata-educaccion/
Meanwhile I took some pictures here these days:
“New normal? New norms? No thank you!” Photo taken by author.
“We don’t wear masks, we don’t go back home.” At the anarchist neighborhood of Exarcheia; Photo taken by author.
Photo taken by author.
The campaign finished a few days ago. We managed to sell more than 400 drawings for $150 each. We raised and donated more than $ 20.000 to each organization and donated some small amounts to specific cases of Amazonian artists who got the virus.
The campaign has been mentioned here, next to other initiatives from civil society organized against the spread of the virus:
A friend wrote this article about a Shipibo artist who dreamt about the virus appearing and approaching her, taking the form of a spirit, devil, animal:
The Shipibo artist Lastenia Canayo represents the virus like this:
I have collected these images recently, all the time I didn’t write in this file.
“I don’t know how we will die, suffocated under a knee or by starvation, as the system goes it’s very upsetting” Published by a friend on Facebook after George Floyd’s murder and in relation to the precarious situation in Peru due to Covid.
This is an email from one of my best friends.
“The only way I imagine getting out of crisis such as this is understanding autonomy.
In it’s wholeness.
Autonomy is a very aesthetic act.
It’s not the same as isolating: it’s to know how to unite.
I’ts a flexible not supporting assaults.
And knows to remember and imagine.
Autonomy is to know how to live assuming that not only consciousness gives strength
And trapped in daily communication, we can think in what is not there
You feel like quitting
But, to imagine that from the other side of the text there’s a kind smile makes everything lighter.”
This is a screenshot from my cell phone on 12 May. It says in Greek “together we begin again”. That was the week when they started to lift the lockdown.
Now it is almost over, although people still have to wear masks in the metro and in taxis. That’s the only situation in which most of them do so. Everybody is at bars and restaurants now. Everybody enjoys the nice weather and being out. They give plastic cups at night in bars so that people are mostly on the street and not inside. But people stay close to each other, there’s no distancing anymore.
Everybody is very much at the beach and ready to leave Athens for the summer. And most people are suspicious about the effect that the opening of the country to tourism will have, many imagining another lockdown in fall, although they are sure that the state has no money to finance it again. So, there’s suspicion, fear, and the need to scape it by enjoying life outdoors and socialization.
A couple of weeks ago a friend organized free haircuts at her artist run space in Athens, to gather donations for an LGQTB refugee’s initiative to face the quarantine. Photo by the author.
Today, a Peruvian friend shared this through fb:
It says “ephemeral memorial at Lima’s Cathedral build with people of approximately 4000 dead people victims of Covid-19. The archbishop made the Corpus Christi mass in the empty cathedral, accompanied by the portraits, giving to the families some comfort, generating a ritual space of farewell. Maybe something that will be necessary to cure when this finish will be the pain of not being able to say good bye to the people leaving us.” The picture is from the Archbishopric at Lima.
I receive this email from the Academy in Vienna:
|Destinatario||alle studierende, ÖH – Verteiler Alle, alle Benutzer|
the Cuko ICL has decided in its last meeting to recognise various activities that were done as care work in this exceptional situation within the framework of COVID-19 as academic work this summer semester in order to support students.
Activities carried out in connection with COVID-19 in the interests of public safety, health care, education or security of supply are eligible. The final requirement would be a written report on the care work performed (KB, GK) – detailed information can be found in the online system under the respective course descriptions.
The courses listed below can be attended and credited by all students of the Academy according to their individual curriculum. (Please contact Cuko-IKL-chairwoman)
A maximum of 6 ECTS can be recognised for BA and diploma students, a maximum of 4 ECTS for MA students (depending on the combination of studies). Please register for the corresponding courses via the study status in the respective field of study, or for free optional subjects or substitute hours via the free choice (concerns only ICL students).
The following LV are available for all activities within COVID-19:
KB 1.4 (GU) Care work within the scope of COVID-19 I – 2 ECTS –
KB 1.4 (GU) Care work within the framework of COVID-19 II – 2 ECTS
GK 1.3 (GU) Care work within the framework of COVID-19 – 2 ECTS
We hope that this will enable students who will complete less than planned this summer semester due to COVID-19 activities to obtain further ECTS and wish you a successful semester despite the circumstances!
I had a skype with my Peruvian and Chilean friends a few days ago. They are still in quarantine. They recommend each other to buy a full plastic protective coat to avoid changing clothes each time they go out.
I speak with a Peruvian friend living in Chile; he’s giving lessons through zoom pasting big papers on his walls to use as blackboards. He couldn’t make the class comfortably until he found that solution.
This article, written by a friend whose father died of Covid in Peru, is one of the ones that best sum up the situation there:
Santiago Manuin, one of the main Amazonian leaders (apu) died of the virus. This is devastating.
I wanted to order flowers online for my mom’s birthday. She’s in Lima. I saw this image on the website of a Peruvian flower shop:
It says “Welcome, right now we are only attending requests regarding condolences”.
On Friday the 3, we’ll inaugurate an exhibition in Athens. I curated it and this is the text:
Curator/ concept: Eliana Otta
During the quarantine, we found ourselves experiencing new, old or renewed habits under a new light. Certain activities suddenly stood out by being capable of sustaining us and giving us comfort in days of confusion, hyper connectivity and secluded loneliness. Some cleaned the closet and started growing plants; some deepened our relationship with embroidering as a means to inhabit a suspended notion of time. The monotonous gestures of fingers and hands could be easily mirrored by a mind softly in motion, active but in a trance like state, away from concerns and distractions.
If some of us feel that we don’t want to go back to normality, because as it had been said lately, normality was the problem, manual labor reminds us a passing of time in the antipodes of the imposed dynamics of production and consumption. Likewise, stop motion functions according to the logic of adding small actions that can seem endless until a result is revealed. Almost magically, the humble act of repetition allows the appearance of a new creature or world. And then we can start again.
According to Petros Lolis: “threads start weaving together, when we touch and electricity blows us away for a second it is as if we hit the restart button. We both get up and start dancing in the middle of what could be called a room. This is not some romantic love story; it is a relationship of molecules recreating nonlife.”
A while ago, Eliana Otta began embroidering a poem by Peruvian author José María Arguedas, to try to learn it by heart, with the help of her hands. She chose to do it on pillowcases, dedicating them to reinvigorated dreams to come. In the process, the task seemed infinite. Until the quarantine allowed her to complete it.
For Stavroula Papadaki, sewing is like drawing or painting with a needle. Figures and faces usually appear spontaneously. Her technique is not the orthodox technique of embroidery and she considers it surrealistic.
Angel Torticollis is an artist who has just started embroidery. With a past in fashion and textiles, he also does drag as Kangela Tromokratisch. All his work is self-referential; it starts and ends with him/her.
When Gregoria Vryttia works, her mind goes through two processes. On the first stage she is very concentrated, trying to make important decisions about how the piece will look. On the second one, the hands can function without the engagement of the brain, and thoughts pass by like clouds. She enjoys embroidering on old clothes or handiwork, paying homage to the previous woman who worked on them.
Maaike Stutterheim: Variations on flower #4
 In the case of Facebook posts, I have left the identities of known people (authors, etc.) visible and posted with their status as public. In other cases, I have ensured anonymization.