Notes on Practising Care

Live Report published at OPEN! – Platform for Art, Culture & the Public Domain

Dutch Art Institute, March 2018. Link here.


Notes on Practising Care


Institutions, galleries and other groups in the cultural field can be intricate webs, often difficult to navigate if one lacks the right tools. ‘Practising Care’ co-curator Karen Archey invited the audience to think about the role of such organisations and to reflect on their limits – budget, physical ability, geographical space, et cetera – while rethinking the urgency to foster care within such constraints.


Those who depend on care to live or to be able to work have been marginalized even in the art field, despite its reputation for breaking with normativity. From where I stand, it is clear that Western society – shaped by and for capitalist, colonial, white, able-bodied, middle- and upper-class cisgendered men – continuously subjects all others to being less or unworthy. What does receiving and giving care mean in the art field, taking into account that the art world is, like other more traditional contexts, pierced through by the same norms it apparently refuses? How can the needs of each participant be taken into consideration?

Archey invited us to think about the influence of empathy on our relationships, as well as the need for individuals to feel that we can trust one another. Without bearing the weight of this interdependence, we can focus on the potentiality of this connection. The question that stayed with me is: how does one practise care in an institutional context and within the art sphere? My answer: an ethics of care asks for intersectional feminist practices:

  • Daily interactions that take place within the institution opposed to underlying these intimidating spaces, bridging theory and practice;
  • The potential for confrontation to unsettle the position of the institution, opening a space for discussion by resisting its fixed norms;
  • Refusing the ableist nature of the art industry and reflecting upon what it could mean to disrupt the social norms of productivity;
  • Be mindful of cognitive and neuro divergences that often are invisible and contribute to marginalisation;
  • To work for the common good and towards communal care, practising self-care as a means to open up space for communal care;
  • Workshopping what a safe space could mean, working towards inclusivity, allowing all subjectivities involved to have agency;
  • Actively working on communication as well as on accessibility;
  • Empathy and healing as holistic tools with which to work in and for the community, in solidarity and friendship.