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ALEXANDRA PAPADEMETRIOU

The Degrowth Toolbox for Artistic Practices, 2021.
Digital collage. Photograph of Chrysomallon squamiferum: Stefan Bengtson. Image: Alexandra Papademetriou.

 

Based in Gothenburg, Sweden; multiple locations.

Project summary

The Degrowth Toolbox for Artistic Practices (or The Toolbox for brevity) in an artistic research project driven by this question:

How can a degrowth approach to the arts be imagined and implemented?

The purpose of this project is to formulate a conceptual framework for creative and exhibitionary practices aimed towards degrowth, while simultaneously composing a toolbox for artists, curators, as well as institutions, aimed towards designing ethical and sustainable creative practices during this period of prolonged social crisis and beyond.

This research is driven by collaboration and discourse: the project seeks to create a community of art workers and activists from around the globe which will in turn shape The Toolbox through discussion and interdisciplinary workshops, taking into consideration a variety of perspectives and cultural contexts. The Toolbox currently takes the form of an online open-source publication (degrowthtoolbox.net), meant to function as a starting point for discussion and further development.

Degrowth, art, and culture

Degrowth is defined here in cultural terms as the idea that we need to construct our societies around the values of well-being, conviviality, autonomy, sustainability, inclusion, and care, rather than profit and infinite growth. These values come hand-in-hand with the rejection of the capitalist, patriarchal, and colonial paradigms. The prefix de- here signifies not only a complete rejection of the capitalist concept of growth, but also a call to actively work towards undoing growth. Within this framework, degrowth is informed by and intersects with fields of thought such as decolonialism, ecofeminism, anti-capitalism, as well as by the politics and ethics of care.

Looking further than the confines of the art world, this project proposes that a degrowth approach to the arts is the work of de-growing and decolonising the dominant art system itself, while also strategically exploiting the position of art within society to work towards de-growing and decolonising beyond the art system.

In this time of unrest, this project proposes that it is not only possible, but in fact imperative, to imagine the end of capitalism and begin working towards it. Not intending to propose a single “vision” of a post-capitalist, post-growth culture, the suggestion here is to begin our imagining by taking the cultural values of degrowth as a starting point from which to initiate a larger discussion and to begin formulating a new framework for cultural production.

The Degrowth Toolbox for Artistic Practices, 2021.
Detail of design for large format poster, digital collage, 23.4 × 33.1 in. Photograph of Chrysomallon squamiferum: Stefan Bengtson. Photograph of Allonautilus scrobiculatus: James St. John. Image: Alexandra Papademetriou.

Aims and outcomes 

The current iteration of the project puts forth the understanding of degrowth outlined above as a starting point for further thought and offers a series of questions meant to guide the design of creative projects.

In further developing this project, the aim is to refine, reshape, nuance, and enrich the already existing material: to include a variety of essays on the subject of degrowth in the arts, and to devise practical tools and strategies for degrowth in the arts and beyond. These tools and strategies will address differing aspects of the work of degrowth (which is in itself multifaceted), including but not limited to: facilitating collective and collaborative discussion, decision-making and action; enabling the democratization of cultural creation and expression; supporting the work of community-building and maintenance, of creating networks of care; assisting in education and consciousness-raising.

An additional objective is to put these tools into practice in the development of this project itself as well as to see them put into practice in projects organized by collaborating artists and curators. The aim here is to not only test the efficacy of the proposed tools and strategies, but to also compile an archive of case-studies, which will in turn be incorporated into the material of The Toolbox.

Finally, in the process of developing The Toolbox through collaboration with art workers and activists across the globe, the ambition is to gradually create a network, an open community around the subject of degrowth in artistic practices, the members of which feel free to work together or independently in their own locations, to share resources, and to assist each other in their own degrowth projects.

In the “final” stage of this project, the website housing the current iteration of The Toolbox will be expanded to include the aforementioned material – the essays, tools and strategies, and archive of case studies – forming, in this way, an online reference “book”. The word “final” is used here in quotation marks, as the project is not likely to conclude at this point. Rather, The Degrowth Toolbox for Artistic Practices is meant to be a living, breathing project that will continue being altered and shaped in response to the social and political developments of our time. 

Realized in collaboration with the Gothenburg artist-run space Skogen.

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FOUNDING CONCEPT & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR:
Dr. Sean Lowry
projectanywhere@gmail.com

About Project Anywhere

Project Anywhere is proudly supported as part of a partnership between the Centre of Visual Art (University of Melbourne) and Parsons School of Art, Media and Technology (Parsons School of Design, The New School).