Image 1: Inside Towards Sanctuary Dome (Philadelphia Assembled, 2017) with Paracute (Carmen Papalia, 2019), Marteinn Sindri Jónsson and I explain our drawing as part of the Centre for Plausible Economies’ workshop at Zeppelin University, November 2022 (photograph by Rahel Spöhrer)
Gathered inside the dome, as we have taken to referring to it, is the temporary we of the workshop on diverse economies, led by the Centre for Plausible Economies (Kuba Szreder and Kathrin Böhm). This dome, or more formally, Jeanne van Heeswijk’s Towards Sanctuary Dome (Philadelphia Assembled, 2017), has been an expansive holder for much of the past semester in my mind.
Sanctuary, alongside questions of shelter, safety and holding, are themes I’ve been feeling through, with and alongside. When Marteinn Sindri Jónsson explains that the Icelandic translation of biennale can also mean boat, and that the South Iceland Biennale might thereby be thought of as a boat, I am reminded of the Channel and the continued tightening of borders, the many increasingly perilous boat journeys, and the deaths. Boats are a divergent metaphor. I write part of a refreshed PhD outline on a boat – a ferry across the Bodensee in the dark as winter arrives – and I think of a recent visit to LungA School, whose town, Seyðisfjörður, is marked by the weekly arrival and departure of a boat to Denmark. That boat, connecting the east of Iceland to elsewhere, looms large in the fjord when it arrives. We sit in the hot tub of the public swimming pool, steam blurring our faces, as we discuss who is leaving on the ocean that night.
Image 2: The road leading down to the ferry dock, Seyðisfjörður, Iceland, November 2022
At a different moment in the dome, Laetitia Lüke speaks of Die Blaue Blume as a snail, and I am reminded of the Zapatistas and their conception of community governance as snail-like. Snails, with their spiral shells, offer a way to metaphorically draw communities in, and expand back out. The architecture of spaces inflects, if not shapes, how people interact. In the dome, we mostly sit on cushions, cross-legged, leaning gently against the white tarp walls that curve in. The spiral, especially the multi-levelled kind, allows for both entrances and exits without breaching form. Hito Steyerl suggests this in a lecture-performance in part about consumer culture and post-1989 politics, where I sit with other visitors on IKEA-blue segments of a spiral. I think of Iliada Charalambous and her collective reading performances this summer, which used the spiral to create an organising form that wouldn’t have the quality of what educators sometimes call ‘the circle of doom’. Prof. van den Berg comments on the potential hegemonic formats of alternative education, and I think of the many times I’ve sat in, or asked others to sit in, a casual circle of chairs.
Image 3: Mission Accomplished: Belanciege (Hito Steyerl, Giorgi Gago Gagoshidze and Miloš Trakilović, 2019), installed as part of Hito Steyerl: I Will Survive at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 2022
The snail, like the boat, also signals a different pace and a slow encounter with what it travels through or on. Holding onto various references, that acquire meanings as I carry them through sites and situations, I put things down in the dome. The dome also carries where it has been. I remember the dome’s originary location, Philadelphia, where it actively focused on convening together to develop a Sanctuary Stewardship and what collective care could mean for different collectives and groups in the city. I re-read Lauren Berlant’s Cruel Optimism, now alongside Eve Kosofksy Sedgwick’s ‘Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading’ and feel a doubling; both a venturing inward into the critical distance of theory, but also a way to return to the world, in the world, proximate to and feeling through the ways in which reparative reading and optimism as a social relation pertain also to the activism and lived experiences and crises of the present. I think of Trans Pride and the necessary proclamation of trans joy as much as trans pain, death and loss. I am reminded of hope as something to hold on, or, as Rebecca Solnit suggests, even something to wield and break down doors with.
The dome gets deinstalled. More people die whilst trying to seek refuge. The semester comes to a close. And so, as the winter sun seeps in on the Welsh coast, I hold out my palms, with this array of references, experiences and thoughts connected in my mind but not in a narrative quite yet, to you.