Collective Mourning and Planetary Mourning
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.
The Collective Mourning and Planetary Mourning 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.
Alejandro Alonso Díaz is a curator and writer whose practice explores the metabolic encounters between the natural, social and poetic structures of knowledge. He explores intimate epistemologies traversed by ecology, love and resilience, often based on investigations into other possible forms of existence and radical otherness. He recently co-edited the book Microbiopolitics of Milk (Sternberg Press, 2022), and is the director of fluent, an organisation devoted to contemporary art in Santander.
Marwa Arsanios is an artist, film-maker and researcher. Through her work she reconsiders the political ideology of the twentieth century from a contemporary perspective, focusing more specifically on the relations between gender, urbanism and industrialisation. She approaches research from collaboration and a cross-over of disciplines, and has exhibited her work in spaces that include The Mosaic Rooms, London (2022); Škuc Gallery, Ljubljana (2018); Beirut Art Center (2017); and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016). She is the co-founder of the 98Weeks Reserch/Project Space.
Rebecca Collins is an artist and researcher. Her main research interests encompass listening, performing arts, sound studies and creative and critical writing. Since 2017, she has been a lecturer of Contemporary Art Theory at The University of Edinburgh. Collins’s work explores how critical, fictitious and performative interventions can cultivate attention towards our contemporary condition. She is currently a resident at the Instituto de Física Teórica (IFT/UAM/CSIC).
María García Ruiz is a visual artist and researcher who holds a degree in Architecture from the University of Granada and is studying her PhD in Philosophy at the Autonomous University of Barcelona. She carries out her investigations around the production, physical and imagined, of territory through the articulation of hybrid narratives between image, writing and action. She currently develops her artistic practice as a resident in Hangar (2022–2024).
German Labrador is a researcher and has been director of the Museo Reina Sofía’s Public Activities Department since 2021.
José Antonio Sánchez is a lecturer in the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Castilla-La Mancha (UCLM) in Cuenca and is a founder of the research group ARTEA and the MA in Performing Arts and Visual Culture, organised by UCLM and the Museo Reina Sofía. His recent publications include Cuerpos ajenos (2017) and Tenéis la palabra. Apuntes sobre teatralidad y justicia (2022), and he has coordinated different events of thought and creation, for instance Situaciones (1999-2002), Jerusalem Show (2011) and No hay más poesía que la acción (2013).
Alejandro Simón is an artist, researcher and lecturer in the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Salamanca. He wrote his doctoral thesis Recordar las facultades del arte. Bellas Artes y Universidad en Madrid 1967-1992 (Recalling the Faculties of Art. Fine Arts and University in Madrid, 1967–1992) in 2019 at the Complutense University of Madrid. Furthermore, he curated the exhibition Essays on Seediness. Readings of the Miguel Benlloch Archive, with Mar Villaespesa and Joaquín Vázquez, at the Institut Valencià d'Art Modern (IVAM).
Leire Vergara is a curator who holds a PhD in Visual Culture from Goldsmiths, University of London, and is a member of Bulegoa z/b, Bilbao. She has curated numerous series and exhibitions in institutions that include the Academia de España en Roma (2021), Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (2017) and Museo Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo (2016). Furthermore, she has been head curator at Sala Rekalde and a coordinator, with Peio Aguirre, of the DAE-Donostiako Arte Ekinbideak cultural association.