Questions of Care. Politics of Solidarity. PART 2

During the days of the conference, the space struggled to find its place in the neighbourhood. Open during the day, it encountered the many contradictions of the area. We sought to accommodate these multiple needs while continuing running the conference. We offered our two semi-functional self-made toilets in the building to refugees who also used the space during these days to watch shows and listen to music, charge mobiles, get a coffee and a snack. During the same time local inhabitants passed by asking for food and jobs, the drug users we already knew who slept in the park asked for help and sometimes it was just, passersby asking directions to the bus station. During these days, in a constant crisis we were implicated with the actual and diverse needs of the area. Struggling to accommodate these emergent needs, negotiating in the here and now of the situation, we found our way together, in each response to a demand. Making new relations and practices with each unexpected encounter.

On the second day of the conference with garden now cleaner an extended family of refugees/migrants camped there: five children, two women and one man. The children ran in and out of the building, snaffling 'conference cookies'. Suddenly, early in the evening we heard shouting. Going outside we saw the man assaulting one of the women, repeatedly launching large pieces of woods at her. She was simply standing there without any attempt to defend herself. The children were crying. She didn't even place her hand across her face to protect it as the objects continued to be thrown towards her. A few meters away, the other woman held the crying children that rushed into her arms. Ignorant of the context of this conflagration or the cultural values in play, in the face of this act of violence two of us, two women rushed forward, trying to make him stop. He ignored us at first as he kept being fixated at the woman, until we almost physically intervened. The children, of course, screamed more loudly. The one older boy stayed close to the woman attacked, immobile, strung not acknowledging the tears that were rolling down his face. The man left. We offered water, cookies; tokens of something. Later in the evening, the other woman (not the one attacked) came into Green Park. She stood on the threshold, as we were teching for a talk. An exchange of gaze across a limit that neither of us could define. She waved and departed. The two women and the children were there the next day. They spent the day in Green Park, then said goodbye again and left. This time not to come back the next day.

On the Sunday night, the fourth day of the conference, during the evening there was shouting at the door. Eight Greek men stood there claiming to belong to various left-wing/anarchist collectives and that they were helping refugees. They demanded that we stop the events and the conference in order to offer the space for hosting refugee families in the next days. Their aggressive entry to the space was stopped by a group of women, as most of the Green Park collective are female. After long intense discussions on the front door, and sexual insults, the group of male comrades departed. Leaving us confused as to how the politics of solidarity might operate and perform effectively today. In some ways as I said at the beginning that confusion still remains for me as I am rethinking how instantiations of care, might differ from calls to solidarity. Simple actions of care that another broken individual initiates as she negotiates and participates in various modes of struggle. As Judith Butler argues "if a normative value is to be derived from involvement, it is not because involvement presupposes a normative structure of genuine praxis, but because we are beings who have to struggle with both love and aggression in our flawed and commendable efforts to care for other human beings"1. We initiate such acts of care from "another" broken place, from the "here and now" of our impotential situation, implicated as we are, always inseparable from another, and from the many others present in our surroundings. As Butler continues "in my view, modes of involvement bear different moral meanings for us; they are bound by no single pre-given structure, relation, or bond, much less a normative one, and that is why we are under a responsibility to negotiate among such involvements as best as we can. It is not a matter of returning to what we 'really' know or undoing our deviations from the norm, but of struggling with a set of ethical demands on the basis of myriad effective responses that prior to their expression in action have no particular moral valence"2.

How might cultural spaces today, that are weighted by calls for responsible practices of inclusion, figures of audience participation and community involvement, engage with the actual spatial politics of a "here and now", its emergent, unformed communities and local needs? How might we avoid practices of "inclusion" that as Mezzadra and Neilson put it are "a differential system of filtering and stratification that functions as a means of hierarchisation and control"3? Gestures that presuppose the position of the strong and the weak. The periphery and the centre. The able and the unable. How might we engage and immerse ourselves in a constant making of new emergent practices for cultural spaces that resist becoming policies of involvement and participation but rather exist as constantly negotiated relationalities from within the strictures of a "here and now"? How might we exercise solidarity as care, as actions we simply can not not do? Modes of diverse and ongoing implication in relation to our surroundings, as Judith Butler says, implicate us in a struggle with both "love and aggression" by constantly negotiating various borders spatially and socially in the here and now "where life and death, partition and connection, traversing and barricading are all involved"4.