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Kofi Fosu Forson

The Conversation 2020 (Nalini, Shona and Jo)

oil pastel, graphite, papermate, 10x14" 

From the series considered in: Art Catharsis at time of Covid-19 

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collaboration against whiteness

WhiteSpaces collaborates on a range of projects with organisations, networks, groups and individuals who are working to shift understandings and practices of global colonial power from within a relational ethos that connects process and being. Adopting a relationally informed process means that WhiteSpaces' collaborations work against the massifications and accumulations of global colonial power which are sedimented and institutionalised through the anti-relational practice of whiteness. This commitment to relationality is part of its binary resistant feminist practice. 

 

Generating connection and change through the asymmetries and violences of whiteness is challenging work. It is painstaking, careful work which is temporally and geographically expansive at the same time as being anchored in the intimacies of experience. It involves all the pleasures, pains and discomforts of working through difference and against the spatial and temporal compressions produced and reproduced through global colonial whiteness. Trust and care is precious, hard won and easily lost in relationships framed through asymmetry.  

 

In response to these challenges WhiteSpaces collaborations are generated slowly, over time and with the best attempts at curiosity consistency, generosity and transparency that can be made within the particular context available for joint working. These collaborations are usually interdisciplinary with a common aim: to understand the workings of and to generate methodologies for challenging whiteness in global colonial power within a particular institutional context, set of relationships or social practices. These collaborations push against the binaries of coloniality methodologically and thematically. They establish a common commitment to relational process and a belief in the possibility for change. They see this establishing and maintaining of relationship as a practice of hope. 

 

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refusing the colonial Black/White binary
 

...requires collaborative working across binary racialised positionalities to disrupt oversimplified understandings of people's positioning within racism and anti-racism as either good or bad, vulnerable or empowered, resister or dominator.

Working across these binaries is a way of refusing these simplifications in practice by privileging complex lived interpretations and practices of coalition in anti-racist resistance. 

 

This 'working across' to disrupt is central to various collaborations with Javeria Khadija Shah via her initiative the Social Performance Network and in her role as Director of Learning and Skills Programme at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. These collaborations include "Black History" Interruptions!, and the two related curations Performing Race conceived by Javeria and Disorienting Race conceived by Shona.  

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refusing the colonial time/space binary
 

...requires different ways of thinking about time and space as interconnected and intersectional where what is understood to be past is also understood to be in the present and what is seen to be 'over there' is also seen to be 'in here'.

 

WhiteSpaces' engagement with Yorkshire based female artist collective Speak Woman Speak is rooted in shared interests in learning from Black and decolonial feminist thinking on these intersectionalities of time and space through attending to the complex and dynamic relationships between differently positioned women.

 

Speak Woman Speak develop improvised works rooted in the narratives and storytelling of women to place their intersecting difference and power at the heart of decolonising efforts. Work's like 'Loss', 'Soledad and Betto' and 'White Walls' make connections between systems of power and coloniality like Facism, Republicanism and state mental health systems, and women's resistance to these systems through their daily provision of love and care. These works expose the complex interrelations between violence and care in differently positioned women's lives. They trace 'big' histories in the daily lives of women and generate new ways of knowing across history and geography through prioritising relationships. Storytelling is used as a connecting medium which can make new worlds via affect, emotion, intimacy exploring themes of loss, survival, joy, justice and accountability.     

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Image credit: still from Soledad and Betto. Courtesy of Speak Woman Speak 

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refusing the colonial mind/body binary 
 

...requires a different way of thinking about the interrelations between body and mind where racialised categories White/Black can be dislodged from individual bodies, and affect and emotion can be understood as central to the production of race and racism. 

 

Katalin Halász is a multidisciplinary artist curator academic working with the idea of 'White affect' to generate a different way of understanding whiteness in its relations to sexuality and gendered power. Her works like 'Chamber of White', 'Cruising Black Women', 'The Blush Machine', 'I Love Black Men' and others aim to understand and destabilise heteronormative gendered, racialised power relations through audience involved performance. WhiteSpaces engagements with Halasz's work relate to a shared interest in learning more about the material and embodied aspects to relational production of race: how race is produced through intercorporeal and intersubjective relations which means that it can also be undone through the performance of different relationalities. There are also strong substantive connections rooted in a shared resistance to the whitening of feminism and the reproduction of gendered innocence as central to decolonizing anti-racist world changing.

Current collaborative work includes You are Invited a two-channel video installation exploring racialized bodies in discomfort.  

 

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Image credit: still from 'The Blush Machine' Polly Card, Ryan Irvin and Katalin Halász Courtesy of the artist 

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refusing the colonial individual/institution  binary



 

...requires a different way of thinking about the relationship between the systemic politics of whiteness and individual practices of power. The aim is to challenge the institutionalisation of blame for racism onto individuals and groups of people racialised as white as a systemic strategy of whiteness which avoids responsibility for racist reproduction.   

 

Challenging such avoidance means refocusing attention on an understanding of social processes and how they work through institutional practices, rather than producing endless descriptions of institutionalised racism. There is plenty of evidence as to how racism works. We need to move on from describing racism and positioning people racialised as Black and minority ethnic through its effects, by asking questions about how systemically enacted whiteness gets located in the bodies of individuals and how the systemic processes of whiteness relate to intersecting and shifting categories of power, like gender, age, sexuality. 

WhiteSpaces collaboration with the Policy Ontologies Project comes out of a shared critique of mainstream analysis of institutional power as fundamental to this shift away from locating blame for social injustice in people who are subject to its effects.  In common with WhiteSpaces analysis of 'relational politics' the concern is to understand the cultural dynamics of policy processes, professional practices, relationships and identities in order to offer a different way of understanding institutions of power as produced through social relations as an effect of power relations rather than a reflection of the action and intention of power blocks. This is central to WhiteSpaces aims to refocus debate on whiteness to its orientations of power and agency, rather than as a direct effect of the intentions of white people. There is a shared desire to learn about how to grapple with the methodological and ethical tensions in not being able to pin power down.  For WhiteSpaces this translates into a specific concern over the tensions produced through not being able to pin down White power in the context of the urgent need for social justice for those suffering the debilitating and violent effects of systemic racialisation.   

 

 

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More about the Policy Ontologies Project

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