To the Communal Kitchen
Elia Nurvista in Conversation
More of Us is a collective of artists, curators, and editors with members from Yogyakarta, Medellín, Johannesburg, Mexico City, Lumbumbashi, and Kampala. Currently they are working on creating a Digital Solidarity Platform for the Global South, a platform that hosts articles and great writings from their communities. For the Web Residency »Solidarity is a verb« More of Us published an initiating issue entitled »Solidarity«. Here the collective introduces itself and speaks about translocal community building, their digital platforms as a network of cooperation and a tool for spreading knowledge from their respective communities.
More of Us in Conversation
Responses from Carolina Campuzano, Erik Tlaseca, and Rogelio Vazquez, editorial assistance from Teesa Bahana — Dez 14, 2021
»The fact that the voices heard here are from the Global South is fundamental, precisely, in creating networks of solidarity and being part of the struggle against silencing, invisibilization, and exclusion.«
Digital Solitude: How did you come together as a group?
More of Us: We are all either members or collaborators of the organizations/collectives that form part of the Arts Collaboratory network. Arts Collaboratory is a translocal ecosystem consisting of 25 diverse organizations around the world focused on art practices, processes of social change, and working with broader communities beyond the field of art. The initial idea was to create a platform that hosts great writing from AC and our ecosystem. Part of the thinking around this was because AC has such interesting perspectives from underrepresented contexts that are rarely found in the same place. A few of us then emailed the AC mailing list to invite people to join, some people fell away, some more joined and now here we are.
Each one of us already belongs to a collective. These scenarios, from the local to the global, also reflect on More of Us. Each one of us brings their own local experience to a common global discussion. We come from very different socio-political contexts, however, we share common concerns and practices that translate in our way to self-organize, something that adapts to our possibilities and limitations in our time, skills, and interests.
Anca Rujoiu: What is your understanding of solidarity and how does it translate into your work?
MoU: In the 1980s in Mexico there was a failed government program called Solidarity, which had the objective of fighting extreme poverty, but far from achieving it, it contributed to a prolonged economic and political crisis generated by that administration. In another sense and time, solidarity was the common idea that we all had in mind when a couple of years ago: after a strong earthquake that shook Mexico City, there was a collective need to go out on the streets to help those who needed something and try, together, to regain tranquility and peace. This makes me think of solidarity as a structure that is built from below and grows, not the other way around, since collaboration and understanding must emanate from within and not be implanted.
With More of Us I think of solidarity based on collaboration between peers in different latitudes with a common goal. Creating a network of understanding, work, and experiences. I would like to think about it from the idea of a translocal community. Rogelio
Solidarity is a challenge to injustice, which results in reciprocity in recognition of each person’s capacity for collective work, and therefore manages to strengthen the social bond that exists between people. In cities such as Medellín (Colombia), one of the first ways in which solidarity was consolidated among people displaced by violence from different municipalities was through the construction of community works, designed for the common good, from the streets to the aqueduct and sewage system, which occurred thanks to the organization of the population and the management of resources that some leaders made so that these migrants could live with dignity. Carolina
As a visual artist in Mexico City, I often struggle with the idea of the individual, facing the global competitive world versus my own precarity. So solidarity in terms of self-organization and self-publishing has opened a space for learning and collaborating with others who share the same needs. Instead of competing, MoU as an organization opens a space where we can share tasks and responsibilities and we can grow and build a platform that extends this to others. Erik
Anca Rujoiu: In your experience, what is the role of a translocal platform nowadays?
MoU: I believe that there is a lot of potential and possibilities in digital platforms to share and articulate work, and that this enables the creation of networks of cooperation and collective knowledge. However, I find the motivation and willingness to get involved in such a project more interesting. It suggests to me a series of personal interests, which we are perhaps not so clear about, but they motivate and encourage participation and patience. Rogelio
It is essential to have more channels of communication that allow us to talk about the realities of each context to find the difference and diversity not to reinforce what divides us, but to understand all that unites us, what we have in common, and find ways to work collectively for social justice. The fact that the voices heard here are from the Global South is fundamental, precisely, in creating networks of solidarity and being part of the struggle against silencing, invisibilization, and exclusion. Carolina
»I understand solidarity as a small-scale action that can generate local change, but that can impact and have repercussions very far, when the experience is shared.«
More of Us is not a »new concept,« it’s our take on a moment in history. We are closing a chapter in which we think in divisions. There is a strong need to build a bridge between contexts, images, sounds, and narratives. So it makes sense to know what the neighbor is doing, and how that relates to us. We are fully connected to other communities, so instead of choosing isolation, a platform such as MOU proposes to see each other as a node in a network. Erik
Anca Rujoiu: What are its virtues, but also its limitations?
MoU: I think that something in common among the members is the diversity of projects and activities in which we participate. I find it very interesting that the common interest of MoU motivates us to find space between the agendas to dedicate time to a collaborative network that is just beginning to take shape little by little. Rogelio
The greatest virtue of More of Us is diversity: several languages, people with different professions and views on the world, but who work knowing how to listen to each person’s contributions, respecting divergences and always finding the themes that unite us from the relationship between art and social issues. Faced with all these possibilities, what limits us is time. We would like to have more time for collectively meeting. Carolina
Digital Solitude: The kick-off of your platform More of Us takes up the thematic issue of »Solidarity.« Can you draw connections between the individual articles?
MoU: Each article shows the strength of collective work: solidarity is resistance. What all the articles have in common is that they speak of the three principles of solidarity: giving, receiving, and giving back, and in addition, each one also highlights the importance of establishing horizontal relationships with others, questioning hierarchies, valuing the capabilities of others, and believing in the strength of collective action. Carolina
Digital Solitude: Are there e.g. different qualities or local-specific forms of solidarity?
MoU: I believe that solidarity is understood in a different way when your survival and security depend on that, and that the community understands and organizes itself to make a change that on a massive scale is much more difficult. I understand solidarity as a small-scale action that can generate local change, but that can impact and have repercussions very far, when the experience is shared. Rogelio
Although each article has a specific approach to solidarity, what they have in common is that this word becomes a verb or acquires force in action (even when the action is words). Each article, in some way, shows collective actions that also speak of a force against hegemonic power. Carolina
»Collaboration and understanding must emanate from within and not be implanted.«
Digital Solitude:What have been the biggest challenges in your collaboration as a solidarity network and what have been the most rewarding moments so far?
MoU: Personally, participating in a small digital community like this one contributes a lot with respect to my work and interests, and relates them in a very beautiful way. I have always been interested in publications; design is my work tool and collaboration or horizontal work in pairs is a great motivation to bring them together. It personally brings me a lot and I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of it. Rogelio
The most gratifying thing is to meet people from different parts of the world and know that we are united by a common goal. The most wonderful thing is to see the progress made by the platform every day (even if it is small); the incredible thing is when we agree and we manage to find the words we are missing in each language to say what we want. The difficult part will always be the accelerated world, the eagerness and the absences marked by particular obligations. Carolina
Being part of an international digital network is definitely a challenge. It is something new, not something that I get advice for from my parents. So it’s quite humbling in this sense, because even as we all have different experiences and ages, we are all new to this. So we try to learn from it as we do it, and we try to adapt and change; being clear in our goals but flexible in our limitations. The digital sphere can be limiting: we all have different time zones, languages, and internet bandwidth, so we have to practice patience and listen. This is crucial, and it extrapolates to our publishing platform. Erik
Anca Rujoiu conducted this interview in collaboration with Denise Helene Sumi (Digital Solitude)
© 2023 Akademie Schloss Solitude and the author