“In passion and action, detachment and attachment, this is what I call cultivating response-ability; that is also collective knowing and doing, an ecology of practices. Whether we asked for it or not, the pattern is in our hands. The answer to the trust of the held-out hand: think we must.” 1
When reading the book ‘Stay with the Trouble’ by the philosopher and theoretician Donna Haraway, it is easy to notice a certain refrain coming through her writing: “Think we must; we must think.” In Haraway’s perspective, there is no whether-or, but we must cultivate our capacity of thinking as our first response-ability.
In the last years, onrushing disasters are becoming urgent more than ever and are claiming back our attention, our thinking, our response-ability to use Haraways’ word.
And now, in 2020, the advent of coronavirus made us stop while making evident that the machine as it works is not ideal. From a personal to a global scale, we are now witnessing systems we created crumbling under the blows of a virus. COVID-19 reminds us that we are part of nature. Some even say this is the revenge of nature. The virus forced us to acknowledge that none of us is neither invincible nor immune. Nature can take us over anytime and invert our habits, shaking our common-held beliefs in a very short amount of time. Simultaneously, we have actually proven that it is possible, in a few weeks, to put an economic system on hold everywhere in the world.
Probably, we should be the first to stay and stay with the trouble, as Donna Haraway writes. Trouble brought up by the cracks of the neoliberal model based on the concept of unlimited growth. These cracks are real and affect our reality on multiple levels, from an environmental to social, political, and economical level. Nevertheless, the actual economic system provides no solution to the environmental and societal disruption we put in place. This model cannot help us to organize social alliances, public interests, or even develop long-term prospects. Its outcomes no longer appeal. It is not about temporary or alternative solutions to keep feeding the machine for continuously increasing prosperity and ever-growing populations. It is a lack of holistic view that will make life impossible for us, humans, and other species.
We live in a critical limited zone during critical times. Which models can we develop that are in synch with the social and planetary boundaries? How do we want to move into the future, in a world where economists look at economic value and technologists rely on the promise of technology to fix everything with more technology?
We can’t fix our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. A far more multidisciplinary thinking, holistic awareness, and intuition are needed if we want to be able to grasp the complexities we became intrinsically part of. 2
This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. It is time to bring in the fresh air, to support broader participation in the debate about what is necessary and what is possible. This is the price for a change of mindset.
What to do in case of planet Earth turning into a very inhospitable place? The promised land of Mars as depicted by Space X won’t be that easy to reach. It is not a matter of escapism, rather it is a matter of redefining our landscape, all species included.
The question is now moving towards new definitions of economic paradigms. New nature’s economies are inspired by self-regulated mechanisms, typical of natural ecosystems.
Can our economy become like nature, a closed system that grows, flourishes, and decays, where flows of matter, lives, and energy are feeding each other and balancing out at the same time?
With Wither, a rainforest that is disappearing before our eyes, Thijs Biersteker helps us to imagine the immense extent of the current deforestation of the Amazon. Viral Nature – HereNowArcadia by Martina Taranto is a living material that grows and eventually decays. The geology of Silvia Noronha’s future, Shifting Geology speculates about the impact of human activity on the Earth. The sci-fi essay What Happened to Ones Who Stayed in Omelas? by Helena Grande is the continuation of 1973 Ursula K. Le Guin “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”, a second chapter focused on those who stayed in Omelas, which represent a way to explore what it means to “stay with the trouble”. Finally, in his essay Towards a Planetary Paradigm, Finn Steffens explores how viable is the earth as a uniform model for the collective imagination.
Shifting the notion of value implicitly changes the economy since the value is the measure of benefit. Acknowledging other values, besides the strictly economic one, has a big impact on the perception of growth and development of our society but also in our personal lives.
Can this shift in perception, besides saving us from an environmental crisis, also make us happier and more fulfilled?
The Always Trust Me installation by Gijs de Boer plays with the concept of trust, an important concept for the way we have organized our economy. Cassandra Collective’s Building Climate Futures video explores how speculation could change the future starting from the recent oil price crises. In Outside, Inside my Nature Alessandro Cugola and Gianmarco Causi wonder about the concepts of inside and outside and explore the blurring and changing boundaries between these two poles. Anaïs Hazo, in her essay Towards Feeling, analyzes the importance of feeling for a healthy economics.
We keep working, but from home, it is called ‘home office’ and it is already having important consequences on the future of how we will work. Some companies are now realizing that the same work previously conducted in office buildings can be done from workers’ places. Same profit, fewer expenses. Where does the work take place: in the office building or in the servers?
Redefining notions of work, health, transportation, taxation, and welfare will imply rethinking their mechanisms and consequences in our lives. These infrastructures are the building blocks of our economy and have a huge impact on a societal level. When dealing with a complex system, it is important to understand the already existing elements of the infrastructure. It is not about starting from scratch rather rethinking and re-assembling existing mechanisms.
Could re-designing infrastructures trigger a bigger change on a societal level?
The chatbot Isabot from Ottonie von Roeder, helps you to invest your money to speed up the automation of your daily job. Memories of Stream City by Stephane LAB shows a fictional world in which all infrastructures are commons and inhabitants behave like birds. With Immeasurable Range, Boey Wang reinterprets measurement from a subjective perception. The four measuring tools question our rigid understanding of space. In her essay Re-Forming Health: Towards Somatic Phronesis and Caring With Microbial Flux, Serina Tarkhanian sees humans as microbial chimeras, symbiotic beings that co-evolve, co-become, and co-heal with.
Economia & Baltan Laboratories
Baltan Laboratories from July 2020, took the initiative to continue Fictional Journal. Fictional Journal 04. Responsibility is part of Baltan’s Economia – The Limited Edition, an online festival on the economy without the economists (on stage). The festival presents unexpected and playful approaches looking at the foundations of our economy, establishing a fresh point of view on the notion of value and economic growth. The program consists of online lectures, workshop/game sessions, a conference, an exhibition, and a publication.
The artworks presented in this issue are part of the Economia video exhibition. The 3D model in the intro is the 3D scan of the movie set where the exhibition was shot. You can find the video exhibition on the Economia YouTube channel.
Fictional Journal 04. Responsibility is powered by Joanknecht and kindly supported by Creative Industries fund NL, Provincie Noord-Brabant, Stichting Cultuur Eindhoven, and the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.