Irena Borić

Collective Struggles for Sustainability

Introduction to the Connecting Lines: International Conference on Ecology, Feminism and Care; Collective Struggles for Sustainability

Within the framework of the TRACTS COST Action and City of Women international conference Connecting Lines: International Conference on Ecology, Feminism and Care, we tried to bring together discourses on gender equality and care in the deteriorating conditions of the late Anthropocene. For this purpose, we brought together artists and researchers who explore the issues of the climate crisis and social justice from a feminist, intersectional, queer, and decolonial perspective with a focus on care as a central paradigm for redefining our relationship with the environment and each other.

The first of five parts of Reflecting, which will be dedicated to reviewing the Ecofeminist conference this time around, begins with the introductory speech by Irena Borić:

I am an art critic and independent curator, but instead of making an introduction from a curatorial perspective, I opted for the perspective of a curious reader. This decision was inspired by the informal reading group that we formed around three years ago in Maribor. The initial group changed through the years and is currently composed of the actor and performer Barbara Kukovec, pedagog Cvetanka Mileva, Doctor of Philosophy and feminist theoretic Maja Pan, writer and curator Teri Szűcs, and me. At first, we were dedicated to various ecological topics. We were reading authors like Donna Haraway and T. J. Demos, and we focused on the intersections between art, ecology and technology. This year we started to read Bojana Kunst’s Life of Art. Transversal Lines of Care. I thought it made sense to include this collective experience in my introduction to the panel Collective Struggles for Sustainability, because many of the issues we tackled in our reading sessions will also be addressed in the upcoming talks.  Thus, I want to share some ideas from Bojana Kunst’s book. You may have already read them, but still, I would invite you to rethink familiar concepts in a new light, within the context of care. One of the crucial concepts is precisely this entanglement of art and life and how the notion of care transversally connects the two. The biggest problem is that life, as well as art, is very much entangled in a neoliberal and capitalist architecture which is very difficult to escape. Thus, Bojana Kunst basically demands for a different kind of life of art. This leads us to wonder what a different life of art means, especially as it feels deeply conditioned by the current economic, social, and political framework? Also, one of the factors mentioned in the book is precarity of both life and art. As she writes: »Precarious life is spilling into life, weakening the foundations of its colonial and capitalist architecture and economic system, especially in the micropolitical field. This is evident from the fact that the life of art has literally already split in two; on the one hand there is the abstract, fully financialised, privatised and dematerialised life of art, which continues through capital acceleration and speculative investments in art, and on the other hand there is the life of art, which is bubbling and gushing with material diversity in more accessible and open art systems. The difficulty arises when this diverse art is subordinated to the circulation of capitalist values and the geopolitical relations of the world. « (Kunst Život 16)

Regarding the relation between care and art, Bojana Kunst mentions that care is crucial, as it provides fundamental support, but it can also easily slip away, as everything that exists is only part of the bending of the line of care and its unpredictable dynamics.  Moreover, care is quite a complex notion, as it doesn’t only carry a positive meaning, but also quite a lot of problematic connotations, some of which are related to violence and control. In that sense it is important to use the term carefully. Another issue Bojana Kunst addresses that resonated with me is the inflation of care in the last couple of years. She understands this phenomenon in two levels. On one level we can see it as a trend, on the other as an attempt to cope with current emergencies. Thus, as I see it, there is still a great potential to change things. In Bojana Kunst’s words: »This relationship of interdependence between the crisis of care and the crisis of the sustainability of life therefore calls for an invention of solidarity, community and coexistence, which is often more difficult than it seems at first glance: frequently, there is a lack of the very courageous and solidarity practices of political and communal invention when an implosive contact between the worlds of care happens. « (Kunst Život 90)

These are few thematic strands that I found important in the book Life of Art. Transversal Lines of Care. Of course, it is way more complex, but think of them as mental notes to keep in the back of our minds when we are dealing with concrete practical examples during the panel. This is why I would also like to add two other authors to this note making. One is Vanessa Machado de Oliveira Andreotti with the book Hospicing Modernity. You might also already know this book, and it is quite relevant in many ways, but I would like to focus on the notion of separability as this is the concept we are going to tackle during our panel. For those who are not familiar with the book, the author suggests hospicing modernity. By this she means that modernity must be put on palliative care and left to die, as it cannot be repaired. Because we are completely immersed in modernity, this concept is difficult to fathom. It is also very difficult to be conscious about the ways we are immersed in it. Especially because we are coming from the position of low-intensity struggle (and the book is written for people facing low-intensity struggle) in the sense that we are privileged enough to be able to buy the book, read it, and so on. Thus, it is difficult to challenge the status quo. However, I would like to mention the notion of separation. Machado de Oliviera writes: »Separations between human beings and human cultures occur through the creation of hierarchies premised on race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, ability, neurotypicality, nationality, employment and citizen status. This phantasies of separation, ownership and hierarchy lay the ground work for the rest of the house and are the main features of modernity’s ways of being. « (107) What strikes me the most with Machado de Oliviera’s approach is this moment of ending modernity, and doing it with care somehow. This is really crucial especially as it is a rather difficult process and so she advises (to sit), to sit with the broken, ugly and difficult.

Now, I would like to mention the third relevant author, who you might also know – Maria Puig de la Bellacasa. I mention her, because in her book Matters of Care she talks about speculative ethics in more-than-human words and she is thinking about care from a more-than-human perspective. The last two chapters Alterbiopolitics and Soil Times: The Pace of Ecological Care are particularly interesting as she addresses the notion of care through permaculture. Permaculture functions as an important system of care in which the human figure doesn’t have a central position. The human in this case must take a step back so that the land can take care of itself. On the other hand, Bellacasa is also referring to Donna Haraway’s term naturecultures which signifies the inseparability of the natural and the cultural in technoscience, and a rejection of humanist ontological splits in modern traditions. I find this aspect of the inseparability of nature and culture quite important for what are we going to discuss now, especially when thinking about relations between the urban and the rural and their intertwining. The approach of the author goes from theoretical to a more down to earth approach, resembling what we are about to hear. This brings me back to the panel Collective Struggles for Sustainability in which we will hear Amelie Aranguren, Raluca Voinea & Adelina Luft, and Mala Kline speak.

Amelie Aranguren opened the panel with a presentation of her work on the Paisanaje Project. She also described her activities in Rome, where she was involved in agroecological production, its consumption, and activism supporting the city as part of the Agrocittà Project. Her contribution is available in video form:


The panel was continued by Raluca Voinea and Adelina Luft, who presented the Experimental Station for Research on Art and Life, a station or former monocultural field, established near Bucharest in southern Romania, where climate disturbances are having intensely visible effects. In this area, a self-organized community started planting a biodiversity garden and building it with ecological principles such as reuse, adaptation, and repurposing. The video of their presentation is available at the following link:


The integration of ecological and sovereign sustainable food supply with artistic practices and creation is also addressed by the Slovenia-based artist Mala Kline, who presented the space Elias 2069 near Velike Lašče, south of Ljubljana.

More about Elias 2069 can be found here: 

The discussion following the panel can be viewed at the following link:


Kunst, Bojana. Život umjetnosti. Poprečne linije brige. Ljubljana: Maska, Zagreb: Multimedijalni institut -MaMa: Kulturtreger – Booksa (Biblioteka transformacije; knj br. 50), 2023


Oliveira, de Vanessa Machado. Hospicing Modernity, Facing Humanitys Wrongs and the Implications for Social Activism. North Atlantic Books. Berkley, California. 2021


Bellacasa, de la Maria Puig. Matters of Care. Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, London. 2017

Irena Borić