Interview Le soir with Catherine Makereel( Extract)
Where do the objects, stories, letters and drawings that will initially be deposited and offered for exchange come from?
The idea is to come with a personal object and story, unpublished or inherited stories, in a spirit of giving, exchange and generosity, in order to live a collective shared experience. The stories can also be written on the spot in registers on the tables set up. In exchange, the visitor will be able to leave with another object of his or her choice (that another person has deposited), all in a convivial atmosphere. All these narrative sources will constitute a collective biology of citizens and will be put into circulation during the festival, read, diffused and exhibited in the space. In the spirit of exchange, people present in the space will activate the process of giving by offering a symbolic gift such as a hair treatment, songs, tarot readings or presentations on the knowledge of seaweed.
Why choose a hair salon to develop this bartering zone?
This place became obvious because my work is part of a permanent search for the transformation of the being or the things around me to trigger a creative process. I am driven by the narrative dimension of reality. So, transforming this common place, a former hairdressing salon, into an incubator for connections, ideas, alternative artistic practices that generate links makes sense. The space becomes an active utopia. On the windows of the salon we can read this;
She,He look out, the city walls are breaking down
He,She harangue the crowd so that everyone can carry the building
She,He ask the passers-by to deliver all the secrets to save what is
Since that day, she and he have been writing stories to "delay the end of the world*".
(the term 'to delay the end of the world' is taken from Ailton Krenak's book Ideas for Delaying the End of the World)
What will be the role of the hairdresser, the musicians and the tarot reader in these encounters with the public?
These people, by their presence, offer an opportunity to meet and exchange through their know-how and their practices. A bit like in Potlatches, everyone brings their contribution to the sharing. These experiences activate vernacular knowledge and reinforce a sense of social cohesion. There will also be mural interventions by young artists, actors, it is a project accompanied by a collective emulation. You can find a list of all the participants on the kunstfestival website.
Many aspects of this Barter Zone seem to respond to the questions raised by the pandemic: re-establishing social links, putting the unexpected back into a daily life that is padlocked on all sides, making available stories other than those, mainly dictated by the authorities, that have been the rhythm of our lives for the past year, offering an alternative form of economy, based on exchange and not money.
Do you agree with this summary?
Yes, in a way.
If so, could you elaborate on these ideas or others that I might have forgotten?
I would like to come back to the poetic and philosophical dimension of the subject, "putting down stories to delay the end of the world". It is a question of opening the debate on what kind of world we want in a historical context that is so fractured by current and future crises.
The bartering zone becomes a therapeutic sculpture to create a reserve of links, to exchange ideas, to find systems of solidarity, mutual aid, alliances to dismantle the market economy and work on the economy of links and relationships. There is an urgent need to act. I am also thinking of an economy of wisdom based on less extractivism of natural resources and more social justice, global equity.
The predatory system of neoliberal power over populations that are suffering the full effects of global warming in the southern hemispheres is also felt here through material and human precarity. Now that the industrialised countries are finding their limits in the operation of a system of overproduction and consumption and the destruction of the environment, the ecological balance is a matter for everyone. How do the institutions of the North contribute to this North-South rebalancing? North-South?
My reflections focus on the responsibility of institutions. We can observe that systems of power are becoming vulnerable, democracies, lives, are threatened.
How do institutions challenge themselves?
What are they offering to share?
What are we willing to give, in order to make the world fairer?
Is organising these exchanges between strangers also a way of weaving the portrait of a city, Brussels, which is drawn through the objects bartered?
I am also thinking of a poetic occupation of the outdoor barter area. Indeed,
Once a week on Saturdays 15, 22 and 29 May, an immaterial market without objects will be held in the Place sainte Catherine from 12:00 to 15:00. This improvised space is presented as a poetic activism of orality, a volcano of subjectivities, an approach to the intimate and the social marked by current events. Collecting stories is not enough to change the course of history if we do not give it energy, a common effort and vision.
It will be an opportunity to meet and exchange all the urgent things that need to be passed on so that the habitat of the relationship will be better. Certainly it will allow us to defuse the violence, the injustices felt to create possible ways.
This collective ritual will be our Kainos* which means now, it is the time of beginning, of continuation and of freshness, after times of isolation (ref living with the disorder Donna J Haraway)
Perhaps something essential will come out of this?
Thank you all for this collective excavation of the Barter Zone produced by the Kunstfestivaldesarts in Brussels.