During summer 2016 Paul Chaney lead a season of workshops and talks by invited artists, thinkers and scientists, at Kestle Barton Rural Centre for the Contemporary Arts, located on the Lizard Peninsular in Cornwall.
Critical Camps explored topics raised by Chaney’s ongoing research project Lizard Exit Plan – a speculative scenario in which an unspecified hypothetical apocalyptic event cuts off Cornwall’s Lizard peninsula from the global economy.
The Camp we attended was #2 of 6 entitled - AND once more with feeling. Delivered by Fernanda Eugenio of AND Lab, we were invited to consider the following premise -
"We are atomised and increasingly isolated beings, making contact only through technology and media. One effect of imagining a post-apocalyptic world is to make us realise us how unpractised we are at direct cooperation, unassisted by complex social, legal, and technological systems.
What tools and methods can be used to revitalise co-operative thinking? Is the growth of individualism correlated with political disempowerment, and what are the potentials for, and obstacles to, cooperation."
Presented with a blank surface representing a societal clean slate following a "catastrophic event", we worked silently, in groups of 6, as respectful, co-operative autonomous individuals, taking turns to make actions - to place, remove or subvert a variety of non-subjective objects on to the surface - each time responding to the form, structure or ideology of the previous action. Over the course of the session we created a sculpture - a functioning "societal landscape". Moreover we worked together, as co-operative individuals for the benefit of all. And in this way we performed an anarchist act.
It was a fun activity, which provoked, for me, ideas already cherished of the possibilities for effective societies, based not on over-arching rule and power structures, but on mutually beneficial collaboration. A collaboration which understands the need for co-operation, but promotes the worth of the individual, and bestows on the individual an equal sense of responsibility in their societal role.
It sent me back to this quote by Mikhail Bakunin - founder of the ideology of collectivist anarchism.
"I am a fanatic lover of liberty, considering it as the unique condition under which intelligence, dignity and human happiness can develop and grow; not the purely formal liberty conceded, measured out and regulated by the State, an eternal lie which in reality represents nothing more than the privilege of some founded on the slavery of the rest; not the individualistic egoistic, shabby, and fictitious liberty extolled by the school of J.J. Rousseau and the other school of bourgeois liberalism, which considers the would-be rights of all men, represented by the State which limits the rights of each-an idea that leads inevitably to the reduction of the rights of each to zero. No, I mean the only kind of liberty that is worthy of the name, liberty that consists in the full development of all the material, intellectual and moral powers that are latent in each person; liberty that recognizes no restrictions other than those determined by the laws of our own individual nature, which cannotproperly be regarded as restrictions since these laws are not imposed by any outside legislator beside or above us, but are immanent and inherent, forming the very basis of our material, intellectual and moral being - they do not limit us but are real and immediate conditions of our freedom."