Schlosspost: In your concept text, you also name radical care together with the feminist refiguration of the future. What is the concept of radical care about?
LP: Fertility management has always been a fundamental aspect of healthcare, in all societies. So of course, people have developed all sorts of ways to manage fertility throughout history, long before pharmaceutical companies, global circulation of capital and goods, or the push for a universalizing model of scientific knowledge came along.
»Knowledge about the uses of the plant was transmitted orally within these communities. That, to me, embodies the notion of radical care. It is a practice of sustaining the community through looking out for each other, and developing, sharing, and teaching knowledge that is vital for its well-being.«
However, when colonial domination comes into the picture, the transmission of oral knowledge about herbal birth control becomes a key strategy of resistance, a way to exercise a degree of control over one’s body in a situation of profound dehumanization and exploitation. In »All Directions At Once« I look, for instance, into the history of ayoowiri, a plant that grows abundantly in the tropical areas of the Americas. During European occupation of the continent, an infusion of this plant was often used as a contraceptive and, in stronger doses, as an abortifacient by enslaved indigenous and African peoples. Knowledge about these uses of the plant was transmitted orally within these communities. That, to me, embodies the notion of radical care. It is a practice of sustaining the community through looking out for each other, and developing, sharing, and teaching knowledge that is vital for its well-being. Nowadays few communities still use, or know, about the plant – which to me is particularly fascinating, because this small tree is very common in Brazil, and often used for urban decoration. I remember seeing it growing all over Rio de Janeiro, my hometown. So to me, all these plants – ayyowiri, but also others like cinnamon, papaya, wild carrot, rue, artemisia – become part of an alternative history; one in which other futures are conceived through this practice of radical care.
Schlosspost: In what way does your project narrate a different female future?
LP: My approach, as I said, is inspired by the Zapatista ideal of creating a »mundo donde quepan muchos mundos,« a world where many worlds fit – that is, that there are many ways of addressing problems and issues that are, in their nature, plural, and more than that, that also reflect plural worldviews. I strive to find out in dialogue ways to challenge consensual realities, and nurture a tolerance for the ambiguous and contradictory. Gloria Anzaldúa calls this mode of thinking a form of »border consciousness,« one that navigates through worlds in their difference and fosters the emergence of a pluriversal mode of learning, and of engaging with futures. In Anzaldúa’s own words, educators (and I would argue artists) working within this model cambian el punto de referencia, or change perspective, and in so doing offer new ways of »reorganizing reality« and building provisional, new worlds. Its is through this practice that we can envision things otherwise, and do so in a slower, localized, micropolitical, and more importantly collective way.
Schlosspost: With the Internet, birth control is now carried out via apps or women order pills online. How do you evaluate these developments in the digitization of society?
LP: Birth control apps are an interesting thing – they are very useful in many ways, but I also find them very concerning in terms of surveillance and biometrics. The excellent folks at Coding Rights, a digital activism group, have a very interesting article where they analyze how these apps have found ways to monetize what is essentially the labor and body biometrics of their users.
Now, another aspect of this digitization is influencing the way we deal with birth control can be observed in the work of activist group Women on Web. They describe themselves as a »digital community of women who have had abortions and individuals and organizations that support abortion rights.« The group has found a very clever and ingenious way of working around restrictive abortion laws: since they are based in the Netherlands, and have doctors with European licenses working on their staff, the group offers what they call »telemedicine« to all who get in touch with them seeking an abortion. Basically, their staff offers online consultations, where they will ask questions about the person’s health, how far along are they, if they’ve had tests to ascertain the pregnancy, and so on. Based on this information, they will give appropriate advice to the person seeking the abortion and, in case the pregnancy is 12 weeks or less, they will offer to send medication through the mail. This allows people in places where abortion is not accessible to get the treatment they need; it’s literally a service that saves lives.