Mending as a Practice of Interdependency


An essay reflecting upon literal and metaphorical modes of mending as an artist and educator. It is published in the Situationer Cookbook/Situtioner Workbook, edited by Michelle Teran with Johanna Monk, Teana Boston-Mammah, and Clementine Edwards. It is a book in two volumes on transformative pedagogy and teaching in times of crisis. How can times of crisis – or of crises, in their many forms – inform and influence the pedagogies needed to situate ourselves in a troubled world? How can one tune in to the conditions, concerns and difficulties of these complex times, by cultivating new and necessary forms of humility, attentiveness and recognition toward other knowledges, other value systems, other frameworks of understanding? The essays, interviews, and other creative and critical interventions in this book offer a wide variety of reflections upon these fundamental questions. 

This publication connects to emergent research around transformative pedagogy in socially engaged art and art education. It comes from the impetus to go back to the drawing board, in order to imagine other possible perspectives on learning and education. It is a body of research that continually writes and enacts itself into existence, cultivated by engaged practitioners within the Willem de Kooning Academy and Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam and beyond. 

Contributors: Mariana d’Aboim Inglez Amaral Fernandes, Clara Balaguer, Jack Bardell, Dieuwke Boersma, Teana Boston-Mammah, Ingrid Commandeur, Gabriel Fontana, Eline Groen, Tamara de Groot, Sami Hammana, Jan van Heemst, Marc Herbst, Nathanja van den Heuvel, Johanna Monk, amy pickles, Alona van Rosmalen, Irina Shapiro, Michelle Teran, Renée Turner and Amy Suo Wu
Publisher: WdKA Research Centre and Publication Studio Rotterdam
Design: Hardworking Goodlooking
Year: 2021


An excerpt of Mending as a Practice of Interdependency:

1)To Curse
Expressed when something or someone has been hurt. Darn it! A tear. The pain. A rupture. 
I’ve been thinking a lot about ruptures lately, but also trying to feel the ruptures inside me and listen to how and where they came to be. And it has taken me some time to realise that ruptures cannot be understood as only private matters because violence cannot be understood individually. Rather, understanding requires a social context. For example, why, despite my love for textile and storytelling, did I feel that these modes of expression were lesser forms of making and creating? Within art and design educational institutions in the Netherlands – a Western context in which I’ve spent a great deal of my life both as a student and teacher – Enlightenment thinking and its legacies have and are still rupturing my sense of interconnectedness, shattering and ranking my relationship between science and spirit, head and heart. 
While deeply affecting, the tear of the Enlightenment is around three hundred years old and normalised within our everyday. Today we might call this tear something different. Perhaps the term coined by bell hooks, “imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy”, may be useful here in unpacking why certain values since the Enlightenment period have been prioritised over others. hooks’ term describes a reality of interlocking oppressive structures that have reorganised our world view to uphold the belief in false divisions and hierarchy between head/heart, male/female, male/other, science/intuition, rational/emotional, art/design, design/craft, Western/non-Western, public/private and abstraction/lived experience. As with many other institutions, art and design educational institutions have perpetuated these binaries, keeping the top denominations as superior institutionalised forms of knowledge while denigrating the bottom denominations as unofficial and inferior, as visualised here in this image of ruptured and false binaries.
According to Chinese art critic Zhu Qi, when Western scientific thought was introduced to China in the nineteenth century, the notion that an object existed apart from the spirit began to take a central and guiding place in modern Chinese thought. It began to influence scientific and industrial culture and had similar influences on art. Zhu Qi observers that even in performance art, artists often emphasise concept over form. This new intellectual approach meant that traditional values of art-making such as spiritual communion and emotional expression were often relegated to a position of secondary importance. It is this context that the Chinese artist Cang Xin created his work Communication Series. Cang Xin was born at the fringes of north-east China in Manchuria and his work is an extension of his Buddhist and shamanist heritage, where sensory experiences are central to the practices and rituals of curing diseases, and where metaphysical realisation is attained through interaction with animals. Since 1999, Cang Xin has licked countless objects, people, places and elements of nature, an action he calls making contact or communicating with the spirit world. Furthermore, Cang Xin’s licking is an action that engages both sensorial universes of touch and taste. In contrast to Western thought, the Buddhist concept of a tree or a chair is that it is a living object with a spirit and, in a previous life, the same spirit may have been embodied in the vessel of a pig or even a person. There is a fluidity and inherent relationship between the world of objects and the world of spirits. And so when Cang Xin licks, he does so to reconnect and mend the ruptures that Western thought has severed.