Collective Mourning and Planetary Mourning is the title under which a set of activities are set in motion around the echo of activities celebrating All Souls Day with a programme of live arts, before continuing with a study group under the same name. It seeks to open up a dialogue around mourning as a human process of loss and mourning established by the world through reflections from artistic forms of expression, social movements and environmental activism.
The helplessness experienced in the death of thousands of people during the recent global pandemic, in addition to successive and current wars, exists alongside a growing sadness over environmental collapse and the destruction of life on Earth. In this context of social disturbance, forms of rituality and collective care arise, inviting us to reflect on the power of mourning to reshape relationships with the world.
In contemporary Western societies there is the prevailing conception of mourning as the process an individual must go through after the loss of affective ties to those who have passed. This acceptance, imposed as work based on the exercise of forgetting, is revised by Vinciane Despret in her book Our Grateful Dead. Stories of Those Left Behind (University of Minnesota Press, 2021). In it, Despret gathers the testimonies of lived experiences during mourning, and suggests we listen and tend to other forms of existence in our relationships with those who are no longer here. Gestures, behaviours and unusual attentions that can lead to mourning not being conceived negatively as an anomaly that we must cure ourselves of, but as a state which is able to perceive and house modes of uncommon co-existence between people, times, spaces and beings.
Drawing inspiration from these ideas, the programme starts by setting forth a critical questioning of the conception of mourning as individual experience, addressing the collectiveness of life and the conditions and categorisation of the sick body. It prompts a study of present issues in situated ecologies — for instance analogies between ways of life — so as to observe the tensions or conflicts that stem from them. The question around whether it is possible, as a society, to imagine and put into practice gestures that nurture a more just co-existence between humans and other species — animals, plants and minerals — and which also dissociate themselves from the established relations of consumption, destruction or domination, form the backbone of the overall intention of Collective Mourning and Planetary Mourning.
Collective Mourning and Planetary Mourning’s live arts programme is held in collaboration with the Community of Madrid’s 40th Autumn Festival and features the screening of the stage piece MONUMENT 0.6: Heterochrony, by Eszter Salamon, and the performance of Alex Baczyński-Jenkins’s dance piece Unending love, or love dies, on repeat like it’s endless. The project occasions experimentation with a sensitive approach to choreographic pieces and other physical practices which contend with different states of transit between life and death: the multiple and complex forms of mutual care; support for different states of mind stemming from loss; the invention of our own corporal or symbolic ritualisms which, upon being shared, resignify and establish new relational forms with life; and, finally, mourning as a state for perception and listening.
Furthermore, the Museo’s study group is articulated around six sessions grouped into two blocks, whereby artists and researchers who work in different fields of knowledge — Alejandro Alonso Díaz, Marwa Arsanios, Rebecca Collins, María García Ruiz, Germán Labrador, José Antonio Sánchez, Alejandro Simón and Leire Vergara — are invited to share their investigations, readings, experiences and artworks, with the aim of cultivating a terrain of reflection and debate around mourning. It also follows on from the study groups previously coordinated by the research group Artea — Body, Territory and Conflict (2020–2021) and Conjugating Worlds: Multi-Species Corporealities (2022) — and is linked to the research project The New Loss of Centre. Critical Practices of Live Arts and Architecture in the Anthropocene, directed by Fernando Quesada, from the University of Alcalá de Henares, and funded by Spain’s Ministry of Science and Innovation.