4) Care /ing /ful /less: A Reflection 
Bella Probyn
September 2020
“So what is there to do if we want to stop just making noise by talking loudly, and instead start to make some waves? Yes, waves - which are particular and localised, never general or common. But localised waves never stop, but always keep on keeping on.”  Mika Hannula, Ethics of Listening

This year Facebook introduced a ‘care’ reaction emoji, but what does care mean in 2020? Although I am no expert, it certainly doesn’t seem as though the click of a button is all that is called for to care for/about something. Care is complex, and care can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. At its core, care is twofold: a noun but also a verb. Care requires action, it is not static, it is a process.

When it comes to experiences of art, there seems to be a care deficiency. From gestural anti-racist acts to mass redundancies, toxic environments are prevailing in the arts and clearly there is a lot of work to do. The benefits of care are abundant, and as Tiffany pointed out, care could be used a tool to build resilience.

During the Reading Group, Yang set us all short tasks to actively think about care in our practice and in our lives. I was nervous about being part of the discussion (I hadn’t been part of the proactive lockdown club, this was my first online discussion) but Yang immediately made me feel safe, there was space to breathe, she was caring for us.

Through the readings and the discussion, the importance of the relationship between listening and care came to surface. To approach someone, a narrative, an idea, or a project, with care is in part to truly listen to the people we are interacting with. This involves recognising and making space for the plurality of voices that inhabit our spaces.

In the suggested reading Ethics of Listening, Hannula underlines the fact that we cannot listen without bias. This will undoubtedly impact how we tell someone else’s narrative. We are not without our own prejudices and likewise any space where we present a narrative is not neutral. Being self-aware of our bias when listening can help us practice care: how should we communicate an experience, are we the right people to be doing it? This line of thought is echoed in another of the texts, Fragile History by Craig Williams. During his reflection on the Suitcase Project at New York State Museum he asks himself, “has it been correct to share these people’s lives?”. Perhaps it is important to ask more questions before and during a conversation/a project/in our practice, to keep ourselves in check.

The questions below came out of the Reading Group, and might be a starting point to help us embed care into our lives (they are not rhetorical, they require action):

What does it mean to care?

How can I act with care towards others and myself?
How can I make space for others?

How can I contribute to cultivating lasting change?
How can I practice care that is not gestural?

What are the barriers to accessing the work,
at what point is the barrier the artist or the art institution?

Am I the right person to be making this work?
Can I tell other people’s stories?
How can curators and art leaders act with care? (the word curator stems from the Latin word ‘curare’ which means ‘to take care’ - Nanette Orly, The Slow Burn)

How can my research be more than theoretical?
How do I re-describe things, how do I revise and revisit narratives/stories/ideas?

How can I take care of the relationships within a space?
How do I open up spaces which can be uncomfortable for dominant narratives?

What waves can I make, how keep those waves rippling outwards, reaching beyond my space?

If care is a verb, what is my next step?

Thank you to Yang Yeung, Moses Tan, Tiffany Leung, Shireen Marican, Alecia Neo, Rebecca Burns, Becky Warnock, Polly Palmerini and Rachael Burns, for sharing your practices, insight and ideas which inspired this post. 

More information on the reading group!