Care in / as Fire

Within the framework of the Feminism Art Maintenance group, I was inspired to reflect on my participation in two collective forms of practice over the years and more recently, specifically the Cinenova feminist film and video collection, and labour/community organising at my workplace, Goldsmiths, University of London.

Marina Vishmidt

Whokeepsthecubewhite jpg
One of the protesters adjusts the "Who Keeps the Cube White" banner, obscuring the Goldsmiths CCA sign. Image: The Art Newspaper; José da Silva

Initially, I wanted to see if the F.A.M. context would be one for us to consider, perhaps in a general sense, or a methodological one also, ‘distribution as a form of production’ as we’d been thinking about it in Cinenova over the years. In this case from the perspective of care, thus undoing the boundary between work (production) and care (reproduction, or, as the group name indicates, maintenance) by focusing on how distribution and re-distribution of resources can engender unexpected, substantive and sustaining social forms, whether these resources are financial, temporal, or affective.

As circumstances over the past year or so drew me away from direct involvement in Cinenova, I started to turn my attention to a set of questions that emerged out of my long-term research into social reproduction as a political perspective informed by marxism, feminism and other liberation studies. This was instigated also by my work in the Goldsmiths branch of the national UK academic staff union UCU, as well as the urgency to decolonise and radicalise the practice of the branch with a view toward anti-racist organising by students, staff and by groups organising on the local and municipal level such as Sisters Uncut and many others. The biopolitical violence spotlit by the pandemic and the debilitatingly chaotic and brutal way it had been managed not just by the state but by large employers, including universities, catalysed many movements to work in solidarity and see their claims for equality, reparation and freedom reflected in one another’s campaigns. So what I am trying to crystallise from this experience, which has been interrupted by a health crisis that looks to be long-term, is how to think about the ‘class composition’ of care as a politics through the action of refusal, negation and instituting otherwise: how not to always think of care in the affirmative, and not just as a way of responding to violence, but how it can itself express violence and turn violence against itself, if that makes sense. In other words, for care and refusal to be thought in their conjuncture, as necessitated by the power relations that are being countered or displaced by practices of care. Can organising, boycotting, striking also be seen as forms of care? Care here emerges as a willingness to fight for prospects of collective improvement, care as a form of building power. It also reflects in care as a practice intimately embedded in the maintenance of inequality and devaluation of some lives in favour of others evoked by Sophie Lewis when she writes, ‘Inasmuch as care is romanticised, flattened, and abstracted from capitalism, patriarchy, and the state, there can be no liberatory politics around it.’ This understanding of care as a divisive, political and ambivalent space of contestation is what I would like to continue developing in the context of this project. The image included here a sticker from the London Renters Union, captures the nexus of care for life and direct action to expand its realisation, which means fighting exploitation and oppression: care as fire.

Marina Careas Fire
Let people live, London Renters Union