The exploratory qualities of the arts can help to collectively renegotiate conditions of our existences and imagine possible futures. How to understand the conditions of power and enact actions for change? How to move toward collectivity despite differences? How might new organizational and economic forms emerge, and how might these emerge from existing practices in all their complexity and contradiction?
These are political questions, and they are also questions of the imaginary.
Jeanne van Heeswijk’s Training for the Not-Yet (TFNY, 2016-ongoing) is a series of radical experiments in collective pedagogy that she has been developing since 2016. The ongoing series commits to training for a world yearned—the not-yet—through mutualizing community knowledges and learnings. In its first manifestation Trainings for the Not-Yet, an exhibition as series of trainings for a future of being together otherwise, took place in 2019-2020 in BAK, basis for actuele kunst. This iteration involved a wide range of practitioners from (social) design, dance, film, architecture, science, education, art, activism, and different aspects of society gather to train each other in practices and knowledges of social engagement, radical collectivity, and active empowerment.
TFNY aims to create and enact conditions in which those who struggle against structural violence and unbalanced resource distribution can collectively inhabit alternative imaginaries. And it especially helps to strengthen the transversal relations among them without requiring anyone know in advance what may emerge or how it might go.
Aimee Carrillo Rowe describes belongings as “the movement from being constituted as an individual self to ‘be longing’ towards the other [community, another person, an object, a space, a place, a feeling, an urgency], thus creating a type of fluid relationality.” Our belongings are deeply rooted in experiences, definitions, political conditions, and power relations. Learning and understanding our belongings allows us to actively question, imagine, and tinker with our relations to one another, our surrounding world, and structures of power.
Understanding the collective—a belonging—as a performative activity, we can approach the notion not as a pre-existing social structure but as actively becoming in context. TFNY is driven by the ideal that if only the extraordinary wealth of community competence generated from everyday life and ordinary struggles for survival could be linked up, we could build new, radical forms beyond what seems thinkable today. We don't always know where to begin, and we do not necessarily share lived realities with those with whom we want to build. It is important to create independent community spaces that can accommodate people’s myriad realities, collective learning, and production, and allow makers to pool their resources and strengthen their ties, knitting stronger networks and building embodied, relevant imaginations of care.
Imagining unprecedented ways of being together means listening to one another, becoming frustrated and uncomfortable, and practicing learning and unlearning together. It is an open, paradoxical, durational process, with steep learning curves and uncertainties for all involved. And it is incredibly nourishing.
A curriculum of community learnings has emerged and transformed within TFNY through written texts, in-person and online training, talks, exhibitions, workshops, study sessions, writings, into a collective online publishing platfrom an open-access website of toolkits and training curricula, and through programming that brings together people, communities, ideas, objects, art, food, research, politics, performances, screenings, and learnings. The hope is that TFNY collective puplishing platfrom becomes a sort of open-source resource guide and toolbox for those within communities of solidarity, for care, accessibility, imagination, and agency—to (re)design the present and train for the future. To make change in meaningful, effective ways.
Trainers’ exercises explore themes like traditions, food, power structures, race, land use, plants, care, consent, alternative economies, and conviviality. They host embodied forms of learning that connect to a wide set of urgencies and imaginaries that shape personal, cultural, creative, social, and political landscapes.
As an example and a resource, we share with you the annotated transcription portion of the audio exercise created by Whitney Stark: “Extended Bodies, Operationalizing Theory: A Guided Practice.” This, it’s audio component, and other exercises can be found at https://trainingforthenotyet.net/.
Extended Bodies, Operationalizing Theory: A Guided Practice
By Whitney Stark, 2021
Jeanne van Heeswijk is an artist who facilitates the creation of dynamic and diversified public spaces in order to “radicalize the local”. Her long-scale community-embedded projects question art’s autonomy by combining performative actions, discussions, and other forms of organizing and pedagogy in order to assist communities to take control of their own futures.
Whitney Stark is a theorist and facilitator who works with alternative pedagogies and organizational practices, theory, resource advocacy, and the space of art to embellish relevant models for being together in less oppressive ways. Stark currently is a researcher working with analogue audiovisual practices and experimental research methodology, and has served as a co-chair in the COST Action group on new materialisms, co-founder and Curator of the Fellowship Program and Summer School at BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, journalist and editor, as well as an educator and youth worker. Stark guides various workshops and trainings on issues related to gender and racial oppressions, anti-oppressive facilitation and organizing practices, collective authoring, feminist new materialisms, safer spaces, critical media production, and trauma-informed approaches at places such as the BAK Summer School, BAK, Bratislava and Utrecht, 2017–2019; Santa Monica, Barcelona, 2017; Tate Modern, London, 2016; as well as with activist collectives, groups of young people, NGOs, and international conferences. Stark’s curricula and other forms of writing and video have been published in academic journals, textbooks, exhibitions and news media sites.
 Trainings for the Not-Yet, BAK basis for actuele kunst, Utrecht, 14 September 2019-12 January 2020, https://www.bakonline.org/program-item/trainingsforthenotyet.net/.