For the last couple of years People United has been exploring care-centred work, bringing to the surface and grappling with some of the questions that inform – and potentially undermine – co-design work with artists and communities, including:
- How do we create care-centred work in productivity-centred systems?
- How do we centre care in collaborations between artists and communities?
- How do we create the conditions for building and sustaining care-centred collaborations?
Facilitated by Suzanne Alleyne, the Care Labs were an opportunity to sit in the complexity and messiness that these questions bring to the table. An experiment in disrupting traditional models of knowledge transfer, we aimed to create an equitable space for exploration of the themes and the exchange of ideas and experiences. The conversations dug into the cracks that have always been present in our systems and behaviours, been rendered more visible since Covid 19.
- What is valued?
- What and who is expendable?
Care is not distributed equally. It is intricately linked with power – instrumentalised as reward, denied as punishment or erasure. Certain people are expected to perform care; certain people are more likely to receive. Patterns of care arise from histories of oppression and permeate our structures. Who is usually expected to provide care, often at the expense of themselves? Who feels entitled to receiving care, often at the expense of others? Tian Zhang, A Manifesto for Radical Care or How to be Human in the Arts
The circulation of care can be thought of in terms of ecosystems – as complex and interconnected networks of giving and receiving. If we want to commit to and invest in the co-creation of more healthy ecosystems of care then we need to find ways of articulating and valuing our reciprocal needs: You and I; artist and organisation; organisation and community; participant and artist; collaborating partners; funder and producer.
As we move forward People United will prioritise discovering more about how to centre care in our co-creation processes and in our relationships with collaborating artists, participants, partners and commissioner/funders. We’ll also create spaces to share learnings, insights, practice and quandaries – and respond to platforms/spaces created by others.
If traditional hierarchical systems restrict the growth and flow of care ecosystems, what are the alternatives that we need to build together?
What is People United’s role in this?
Current and future Blueprints for Care will share what we are discovering together in our conversations, in our practice and in our iterative understanding of why and how we do what we do. Our first Blueprint was an attempt to capture the conversations and contributions at the Care Labs and build the foundations for future, more equitable collaborations.
We’re really interested in finding out about what resonates for you and, if you’re leaning into the ‘ways in’ provocations set by Suzanne Alleyne, what are they encouraging you to think and do differently? Drop us a line, post on social media or contact us for a chat.
With thanks to the Care Lab artist provocateurs Maria Amidu, Toni-Dee Paul and Selina Thompson, An(Dre)a Spisto, visual minute artist Rae Goddard, poet Deanna Rodger and to Blueprint designer Studio Camo in Margate.
The Blueprints for Care can be viewed below and can also be downloaded as a free, print at home resource at the bottom of this page.
The most anti-capitalist protest is to care for another and to care for yourself. To take seriously each other’s vulnerability and fragility and precarity, and to support it, honour it, empower it. To protect each other, to enact and practice community. A radical kinship, an interdependent sociality, a politics of care. Hedva, Johanna, quoted by artist Emily Beaney in Breaking the Fall: Exploring the care through creative collaboration
Arts Council National Lottery Project Grants