Cassie Thornton, Lita Wallis, Furtherfield
How do we organize collective care during an emergency, within a completely unstable set of conditions? Is it possible to build a peer-to-peer model that distributes care in ways that don't reproduce the racism, patriarchy, ableism, and other forms of violence present in our societies?
In early 2020, U.S.-born Canadian artist Cassie Thornton arrived in London to work on her sci-fi-inflected social project about the future of healthcare. As governments around the world began putting their nations on lockdown, Thornton found herself isolated in London, becoming a kind of pandemic artist in residence. Her hosts were Furtherfield, an artist-run organization located in Finsbury Park. Her other host was the virus.
Thornton was one artist among several meant to work at Furtherfield for 2020 as part of a long-term curatorial project that predicted its own necessity: Love Machines. Before the crises that 2020 revealed, Furtherfielders wanted to explore ways of developing living and machine systems for mutual care and respect on Earth. The curators and artists had questions: How do we care? Who or what do we care for first? And who cares for the carers in a world ravaged by political crises and climate emergency? Little did we know, by the time we were about to launch this program of radical care, we humans would need it more than ever.
Covid-19 has both interrupted and accelerated our plans. Thornton's project The Hologram went online in a series of virtual courses and workshops.
The Hologram is a mythoreal viral distribution system for non-expert healthcare.
The Hologram is a mythoreal viral distribution system for non-expert healthcare, practiced from couches around the world. The premise is simple: three people—the triangle—meet on a regular basis, digitally or in person, to focus on the physical, mental, and social health of a fourth—the hologram. The hologram, in turn, teaches these listeners how to give and also receive care. Over time, each triangle reflects a multifaceted image of the person—a hologram. When they are ready, the hologram will support them to expand the system: Each member of the triangle will ultimately become a hologram for another, different triangle. This peer-to-peer model was first inspired by the free, nonhierarchical Integrative Model developed by the Group for a Different Medicine at the Social Solidarity Clinic in Thessaloniki, Greece, during the financial and refugee crises.
|Digital hyperbolic drawing of the viral Hologram network. By Cassie Thornton, 2020.|
The Hologram always relied on parafiction, or fiction presented as fact. It can exist simply as a rumor about the possibility of a new world of healthcare options made by using skills and relationships we already have that are hidden in plain sight for a world overcome by myriad new illnesses. In an age of social distancing, The Hologram produces a network of socially connected caretakers. It would have been difficult to imagine in the world that existed before the pandemic fully revealed what privatization and underfunding have done to our healthcare systems.
|"The Fool" tarot card for The Hologram. Drawing by Amanda Priebe. Commissioned by Vagabonds.xyz for Feminist, Peer-to-Peer Health for a Post-Pandemic Future, published by Pluto Press, 2020.|
|Digital Hologram logo: "A project performed by people on couches all over the world." Designed by Cassie Thornton, 2020.|
|Animated GIF: "Their reflections make you a hologram" by Furtherfield. Text by Cassie Thornton, 2020.|
The second Hologram course, We Must Begin Again: Asking for help as a new world, is currently running as a collaboration between Thornton, Furtherfield, and the Creative Practices for Transformational Futures (CreaTures) project, which investigates how creative practices contribute to the imagining of environmentally and socially sustainable futures. Co-facilitated by Cassie Thornton and Lita Wallis (U.K.), 28 people from around the world are studying and practicing what it means to make wishes and ask for help, even when it feels too dangerous to do so.
As the racist, capitalist, and patriarchal world crumbles around us, we invite people to design long-lasting systems for support and solidarity that can ensure that our species outlasts the coming social, economic, and planetary emergencies. Participants in the course experiment with how to organize and value the support they need to survive and thrive in the coming new world:
- Can we do this without experts?
- Can we do this without space?
- Can we do this without money?
- Can we do this without stability?
- Can we do this when we are all a little sick?
- Can we do this when we have been taught that we can trust only experts?
- Can we do this when we don't even trust ourselves?
And in: The Hologram: Feminist, Peer-to-Peer Health for a Post-Pandemic Future, published by Pluto Press, 2020 (https://www.plutobooks.com/9780745343327/the-hologram/).
|Digital photograph: Ancient Pre-existing Holograms I. North shore of gichi-gami (Lake Superior), 2019. Photography credit: Damien Gilbert. Photo editing: Cassie Thornton|
|Digital photograph: Ancient Pre-existing Holograms II. North shore of gichi-gami (Lake Superior), 2019. Photography credit: Damien Gilbert. Photo editing: Cassie Thornton|
Cassie Thornton (http://www.feministeconomicsdepartment.com) is an artist and activist from the U.S., currently living in Canada. She refers to herself as a feminist economist, a title that frames her work as that of a social scientist actively preparing for the economics of a future society that produces health and life without the tools that reproduce oppression—like money, police, or prisons. [email protected]
Lita Wallis is a youth worker, organizer, and informal educator based in London. Whether in work or her personal life, She has spent much of her time experimenting with different shapes of supportive relationships (e.g., cooperatives, triangles, flows, and webs). She is still working on ways to build sustainable support networks that challenge isolating social norms, and then how to commit to them in a social context that is so hostile to putting down roots.
Furtherfield (https://www.furtherfield.org/) is a hub for critical explorations in art and technology, a community of radical friends who carry out fieldwork in human and machine imagination. Since 1996, Furtherfield has created and supported global participatory projects with networks of artists, theorists, and activists. They advocate open and playful processes encapsulated as "doing it with others" (DIWO). They collaborate and enable others to do the same. [email protected]
|This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870759.|
Copyright held by authors
The Digital Library is published by the Association for Computing Machinery. Copyright © 2021 ACM, Inc.