The pandemic has amplified existing inequalities, with the worst damage afflicting already vulnerable communities. The economic and political mechanisms that reproduce this inequality are more than ever on display. The last year has also provided compelling evidence of the potential for new political solidarities to emerge. Where the state has often failed with centralised, top-down administration of public health measures, grassroots responses show themselves to be effective.
A return to normality, when it arrives, will not simply pick up the old routines where they left off. To acknowledge the inter-related economic and political implications of this transition, the theme of this season of Beyond the Now is mutual aid. Mutual aid is an activist tradition of reciprocal care that fosters community and solidarity by addressing fundamental needs.
In recent artistic debates, mutual aid has emerged as an important leitmotif for reasons that are easily explained. Artists and art institutions have been hit hard by the economic effects of the pandemic. At the same time, there are increasing demands for changes in governance and a reckoning with the artworld’s legacies of empire and histories of enslavement.
In one respect the crisis may have a levelling effect: by bringing to light the expertise and leadership of artists and activists, often working in the global South, who continue their work despite the instability, or in some cases the collapse of cultural institutions.
In this emerging global context, ‘mutual aid’ takes on new meanings. Beyond the Now seeks a progressive transnational dialogue to examine these conditions as an opportunity to foster critical understanding and an expanded field of solidarity.
Beyond the Now Season 2, to be released in March 2021, invites voices from diverse sectors and communities to explore, share ideas and respond to these questions:
- How might arts organisations and artists learn from models of mutual aid, long practiced and implemented within community and civic sectors?
- What are the models and constructive tensions between local and virtual space when viewed in terms of the practice of mutual aid?
- How is the post-pandemic situation to be understood and what is its political, generative and participatory potential?