“The people that we have collected as friends are the key, they are the heart of what we do…we keep going because we have met these people” – Felipe
When CreaTures began in 2020, we asked our colleagues to nominate transformative projects for our ‘Observatory’ (the section of the project where we map key directions in eco-social sustainability). To our delight, rather than nominate projects or art works, Felipe Gil from Zemos98 nominated his friend Maria Ptqk. In doing so, Felipe challenged us on idea of what a ‘case’ could be. Felipe and Maria helped us to understand that much of the transformational power of creative projects comes from the relationships that they create, and so this case explores what a transformative friendship looks and feels like.
Transformative creative practice:
Fostering new relationships between people with different disciplinary backgrounds is a core part of Part of ZEMOS98’s work, and Felipe first discovered Maria when he was looking for people to invite to one of their events. Maria transformed ZEMOS98 by introducing them to different ways of understanding the world from a feminist perspective. Learning about the reproductive economy (all the care work that contributes to economic structures but isn’t ordinarily recognised, such as cleaning, and childcare) helped ZEMOS98 to deepen their practice. They recognised care not only as theoretical concept, but also an invitation to practice a different kind of ethics within the cultural sector. More recently, Maria has shared emerging ideas of ecological interconnectedness with Felipe and ZEMOS98, where humans are understood as just one species in relationship to many others, living together on a shared planer (a damaged planet that is urgently in need of regeneration).
For Maria, Felipe and ZEMOS98 have formed part of a valued community that sustains and renews her practice. She comments:
“Sustainability is something that you tend not to see unless you lack it. Only when you feel yourself vulnerable, you realise what you need to sustain yourself. Coming back to this idea of community and networking – in the longest run that’s what supports you… Support can be material or economic, it can be political in the sense of providing a sense of purpose to what you do… Having the people around you that create value, and give meaning, then you feel that you are building something together.” – Maria
Transformative friendship, then is not only about liking or loving someone, but includes those in a shared community, who work together to shape a combined context and sense of purpose. Part of transformative friendship is also being open and critical – being able to talk to each other about what has failed and how to improve things for next time.
Connections to eco-social sustainability:
Maria’s current work explores what she calls a new “multispecies paradigm” – a necessary shift in our worldview from being completely human-centric to recognising the symbiosis between humans and all other beings on earth.
“All of us earth beings are part of a unity of life, which manifests itself in different forms. This comes from biology, but it obviously has deep philosophical implications and cultural and political implications…it’s connected to the multispecies new paradigm, to biocentrism, to ecological thought and a lot of that of course, but it also implies a shift of paradigm… for me it’s very interesting because it’s really on the edge of what is called science and what is called – whatever else – philosophy, cultural studies, whatever, art! I am attracted to that edge because it is totally unstable.” – Maria
On learning and evaluation:
In her role as a researcher, Maria has explored the impacts of creative projects. She finds the most compelling transformations happen to those involved in them. What she calls a “reverberation” doesn’t happen immediately, but might become visible long after a project, when relationships have taken time to fully mature and influences have become discernible. We might think of a stone thrown into a pond, where ‘impacts’ reach partners and collaborators first, moving on to other that they may subsequently influence. For her, the question of how to reliably record these changes to relationships is an open question:
“How can we measure that impact? I would say we have to use our imagination and our creativity as cultural practitioners to invent ways to make that visible, to invent indicators and new words. We need a new vocabulary to speak about that kind of impact… a reverberation” – Maria.
“If you put in a report “I made a new friend” it seems like homework for school… but indeed it is crucial…If we could work out how to document these things without sounding naïve…We have to change the ways that we report projects and the way that we value them.”- Felipe
In this interview, Felipe and Maria put forward a truly relational perspective. What matters is how we can think and talk about the relationships that we have. This holds true for Maria’s poetic description of the unity of life, and Felipe’s question about how to record transformative friendships. We need better ways of capturing their significance and making them visible to those in different fields or disciplines.
Maria Ptqk: https://www.mariaptqk.net/
Science Friction: https://www.cccb.org/en/exhibitions/file/science-friction/234907
Thanks to Maria Ptqk and Felipe G. Gil for doing the interview.
“Lately, I think Maria is leading in Spain, something that is now happily a global trend, which is: we cannot stay in the cultural sector as we were before, just producing things without [acknowledging] the ecological context we are all facing as a humanity…We need to learn a lot from many people, but Maria is one of the people that we just basically, follow”. – Felipe