Where are you, how are you? Describe your working space, where are you speaking from?
Y: This question opens up a notion of domestic space for me that is assumed to be safe at this time. The question presupposes that we all have a safe place to live. However, we know from statistics in Wuhan that the rate of domestic abuse tripled there and globally too (from Brazil to Germany, Italy to China). “Women and children who live with domestic violence have no escape from their abusers during quarantine.”
In Amsterdam, where I am writing right now, the municipality is struggling to set up beds in public gyms for the homeless to spend the night, but as far as I am aware, there is nowhere for them to rest during the day. The Wereldhuis (a community centre for undocumented people) had to close.
Elsewhere, writer Marina Vishmidt describes the home as the place where politics are born and buried; an expression which conveys the idea that the home is a concrete microsite in which everyday and public matters are embedded. “It redirects our critical gaze so that we focus on everyday practices, not as an autonomous haven, but where the system is naturalized”. I quote my former colleagues Maiko Tanaka and Binna Choi from their introduction to a book (co-published by Casco and Valiz in 2014) entitled the Grand Domestic Revolution Handbook. I have been revisiting this book, as it speaks so concretely about the question of invisible reproductive work that is tied to the domestic or home site, which I think is now again becoming evident to us and is as palpable as ever as we are having to negotiate time: do the laundry, cook, clean, teach children, arrange care for our parents, elders and so forth. What lessons can we learn from this, that have garnered immediate self-organizing (home tactics), and how can we ensure that we continue to honour these lessons once the pandemic passes? I’m thinking about affordable housing for all, pay for domestic work typically done by women, and particularly migrant women of colour, etc.
S: I am currently in North Amsterdam. I am safe, I have food and care. However, I feel now more than ever that I am questioning what it means for me to be in the Netherlands. I feel politically disconnected and unable to challenge the way the government is functioning, because my political community is mostly in the UK and Canada. A result of this is that I have become introspective, trying to find my strength in spirituality, online activism, checking in on friends and my community, amplifying mutual aid efforts online.
I tried to be part of an online mutual aid group in Amsterdam, but I experienced a lot of censoring and racism. We were only allowed to share positive news and initiatives and people got really annoyed when I tried to talk about my concerns with the governmental approach and there was a real lack of connection between political questions, activism and community care. For me, political action is how I express community care as well as the physical service of sharing the resources I have: food and knowledge of traditional medicines. I am trying to really think about who I am at this time in my community, but it has been a scary, isolating time that has made clear to me how hard it has been to integrate and be connected in Amsterdam in the way I normally organize and engage in a community. I’m speaking from a place of uncertainty, instability and day 22 of self-isolation due to being asthmatic. I’ve been really grateful to work on this piece with Yolande, as it has connected me to a creative practice and community in the Netherlands and I look forward to continuing to nourish and develop these relationships throughout the festival and the possibilities it may bring.