ESR 11 Blog October/November 2023: Fabiola Fiocco

Final Remarks

 Coinciding with my annual examination and the transition to what will be the next (and final) year of my PhD, end-of-year blog posts are always where I reflect on what has happened and what I’ve learned. In addition, this is also the last blog post in general, as the Project moves towards its conclusion. The need for final considerations is therefore patent. Yet as I write, I find it challenging to formulate thoughts that bear relevance to the urgencies of the world, particularly concerning the role that art and socially engaged practices might play.

Hence, rather than talking about my research as concerns content or theory, I’d like to share a few thoughts that have emerged over the years on my position, privilege, and the way in which these external factors are frequently crucial throughout this path. And how odd it is that in the face of reality, these precarious and uncertain circumstances are deemed exceptional.

The present project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant. This entails not only an international network of universities, practitioners, and partner organisations ready to support, host, and provide assistance throughout the research but also significant financial support. In concrete terms, over these three years, I received a monthly stipend twice that of any colleague here in Italy (if they have been fortunate enough to receive a grant). Additionally, it ensured a research fund that allowed me to travel, participate in workshops and conferences, access courses and materials. An amount of money that enabled me to enjoy important opportunities for professional exchange and networking, alleviating the difficulties and demands of mobility.

Speaking of mobility, another great privilege has been having an Italian passport. At the project’s outset, I had to grapple for the first time with the bureaucratic hassle associated with obtaining a visa to live and work in the United Kingdom. Something I only had to deal with after almost 30 years and that I did not have to face again during the rest of the programme, despite the many travels. A privilege not shared by other colleagues (within and outside FEINART) and one that looms over every moment, influencing work rhythms and life decisions. A privilege non-existent for all those forced to leave their homes due to wars, climate disasters, and persecutions, living in a perpetual state of displacement, navigating intentionally unfathomable and strenuous legislative systems. The privilege of coming from a state living in peace and unscathed by harsh natural and social phenomena.

Many things have changed in these three years, remarkably the rise of a nationalist authoritarian government, engendering securitarian and repressive laws to limit individual and collective freedoms, reduce spaces for expression, and possibilities of self-determination. But even in moments of dim clarity and little hope, I acknowledge the privilege of knowing all my loved ones are safe.

Lastly, I would like to reflect on the privilege of my status as a person without caregiving responsibilities. A requirement that should not be seen as an impediment but, in reality, continues to be a significant obstacle in work and life contexts oriented toward mobility, flexibility, and hyperproductivity. In conclusion, I want to recognise the privilege of having a body that supported me in this journey, despite not always functioning at its best; the possibility of accessing psychological support when needed.

Embedded in a system that continues to impose and reiterate stringent and exploitative paradigms of labour and production, the privileged seems to be the one who remains untouched by reality, for whom conflicts and borders can remain abstract concepts to be theoretically discussed; for whom time is not incessantly consumed by the necessities of life or, as Taraneh Fazeli puts it, who is not constantly subjected to ‘capitalism’s temporal bullying’; for whom the inaccessibility of the world does not prevent participation.[1]

I want to thank everyone I have met over the last three years. Those who have welcomed and hosted me in their cities and workplaces, who have granted me their attention, time, and care. My colleagues (both inside and outside the network) who helped me in navigating bureaucracy and academia and with whom I shared great joys, doubts, and challenges. My supervisors for always treating me as an equal and always supporting me professionally and personally, showing me how to practice what is preached in a system that systematically challenges and presents us many contradictions and dilemmas. And many more people. It may seem unusual to express gratitude while the conclusion of the PhD is still (a little) far, but that’s what you do at the end of something. So, thank you, and see you soon.

[1] I refer to the title of the exhibition Sick Time, Sleepy Time, Crip Time: Against Capitalism’s Temporal Bullying, curated by Taraneh Fazeli (Red Bull Arts Detroit, Michigan, September 18–November 3, 2019).

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