«with the fields» is a trans-territorial endeavor composed of visual art practitioners with links to – and activations within – rural areas of the Global South. Together we have been working on a long-distance basis to share artistic strategies and concerns, while nurturing moments of reflection around sustaining our practices. Practices that are clearly outside of an urban cultural apparatus and that counter the performance of western-like artistic approaches. This is especially important when we see that the diverse communities and ecologies that we engage with are dealing with negative affectations of the globalized world. Through the experiences of the collective members, we keep constructing common bases from which to speak about rurality, decolonisation, coast, biota and food, from our situated territories. It is important for us to cultivate a language that is not mediated by the influences of the Global North. We discuss topics about the possibilities and complexities of practicing art that is socially engaged in our contexts – around field work, community relations and activism at (agricultural and coastal) sites.
«with the fields» collective is Salma Jamal Moushum and Kamruzzaman Shadhin with Gidree Bawlee Foundation of Arts (Bangladesh); Nora Hauswirth and Emerson Fernandes Da Silva with Arte e Escola Na Floresta (Brazil); Paloma Ayala (Mexico and Switzerland); Anga Art Collective (India); and Tara Lasrado (Switzerland).
The collective has been gathering online on a monthly basis since the beginning of 2022. In February 2023, some of the «with the fields» members met physically in Bangladesh.
«with the fields» in Manaus
Some words from members of collective Arte & Escola na Floresta:
Learning to step into the world, together,
With mind-seeds to change the injustice by the oppressed
AgriCulture to gather working on what we really need
Knowledge; Land; Love; Freedom and Seeds.
Knowledge that generates food
Food that generates resources
Resources that generate quality of life
What is important? Essential?
What does the collective feed on?
Information, knowledge that generates interest
Tera Kuno is a way to perceive yourself, to look at yourself, to walk, feeling the next step, the smells, tastes, new interactions and combinations for a greater understanding of us and all, in a multidisciplinary sense.
Part of Manifesto for Tera Kuno 2023.
Since two years we work together as a collective Arte & Escola na Floresta. Now we formalized this work by creating an association titled Tera Kuno, which in esperanto language means “the land is ours”. In 2023 we continue with our workshop series «Agricultura Participativa» on participatory agriculture and farming.
«with the fields» in Bangladesh
Our first «with the fields» physical gathering took place in February 2023 in Bangladesh. Preparations during previous online meetings began some months before. We agreed that this first live encounter would extend on our shared experiences which focused on activities with and within rural, forestal and coastal communities. A special emphasis was put on the activities of our members Anga Art Collective and Gidree Bawlee since they were both hosts in the South Asian context, and were part of the Dhaka Art Summit.
«with the fields» in Dhaka
We initiated our gathering at Dhaka Art Summit, a bi-annual exhibition that included the works of Anga Art Collective, Gidree Bawlee and Shadhin Kamruzzaman. We also met with artists and organisers from the region and visited art spaces and the art school. Dhaka is a 23 million people city of rich cultural content and the biggest human settlement of the delta of the Brahmaputra river, that we navigated thanks to our hosts Salma Jamal Moushum and Kamruzzaman Shadhin, from Gidree Bawlee.
«with the fields» in Balia
Balia is a small agricultural community in north Bangladesh, where the Gidree Bawlee Foundation for the Arts is located. Our first days were about meeting the space and the beings living there. This required time, sharing moments and rest! Which then gave the space to slowly initiate different activities. Our deep thanks to the team on-site for taking care of us and making our activities and interactions possible.
«with the fields» meets kNOw School
The kNOw School is a pedagogical project developed by Anga Art Collective, an artist collective working from Assam, north India.
Members of Anga Art Collective: Dhrubajit, Rahul, Pallav, and Dharmendra, worked together with the younger members of the team of Gidree Bawlee, to create a workshop that followed the kNOW School educational strategies. They asked the people in Balia: How do we meet? How do we read a landscape?
On the first day of kNOw school the participants traced the landscape through the sounds of various birds, sounds of falling leaves, sounds of human steps on dry leaves, dry mustard seed plants crashing over each other, the wind blowing, dead fish.
We took a day-long field trip to realize colors, smells and moisture spread over the landscape in the form of crops, wild grasses and unnamed plants. Guided by the kids of Sonapatila village, we encountered names of plants in local dialects that were later collected in a landscape book of endless vocabulary.
The exercise ended with recreating collective sounds by mimicking what everyone heard during the exercise. Then the participants made drawings of the landscape and various situations happening around the village and attempted to trace the sounds through drawing. We knit all the drawings together and turned them into a hand drawn animation film.
A film screening was organized for everyone in Gidree Bawlee on our last evening together. Anga Art Collective showed the animation film that was made by the children, followed by a goat feast with all participants
«with the fields» meets the women of Balia
Through our hosts from Gidree Bawlee Foundation of the Arts, we learned about the economical, social and domestic lives of the young women from the community. As a way to exchange on this, Moushum, Tara and Paloma decided to make books together with the girls of Balia. These books illustrate the conversations we had with them, which were focused on three aspects of their lives: their sets of expertise, their interests and wishes, and how they share these aspects within the community. The books that we made contain drawings and texts that tell about personal and community gendered experiences. They also tell about the knowledges that they exchange with the younger children, with elders and with the trees! This book-making activity brought lots of chatting, telling stories, guiding through domestic spaces and being together.
When we finished our girl books we had the privilege to show and share them with mothers, grandmothers and other women of Sonapatila. We organized a small exhibition constructed totally with the help of the young children of Gidree Bawlee!
«with the fields» moving together
After a year of digital gatherings, Bangladesh gave us a nourishing moment of being together. This encounter provided the chance to show each other, members of «with the fields», some practical and conceptual aspects of our different works. During this gathering, we imagined possibilities and explored ideas on how to maintain and sustain our practices. How to cross-pollinate from each other’s works and continue in our specific contexts? How to develop pedagogical tools that could work in each of the contexts where we engage in? What things are important to maintain in relation to the wishes of the community? How to sustain trans-territorial links that may be (ethically, financially) favorable or at least balanced, for the host communities? Which kinds of ethics to follow? How do colonial patterns perform in these pedagogical encounters? How do we perform within those patterns?
We enjoyed multi-directional conversations with each other, with the people we met, and with place. The community participation and our proposed exercises of togetherness, opened up spaces for further imaginations and thinking. We will keep meeting and discussing our questions, even try to solve some practical concerns and so, help each other. We are developing different ideas and plans for our continued exchange together.
«with the fields» have begun to imagine ways in which to share our conversations with other art and rural community engaged practitioners. We would like to have another gathering, of course this would happen on top of our different activities. We might work together on a collective video piece. We thought about the similarities that the different rural contexts where we engage in, have. Maybe through our engagement, we can make visible global patterns that are in detriment of the (cultural and landscape) ecologies of the rural areas where we work.
All photos courtesy of «with the fields» members.