A Kin Process

An other editorial testimony

By Josefien Cornette

‘Crip’ do what ‘aid’ can’t? With this question, this text talks about how crip thinking, coming from the insult ‘cripple’, can help us better understand how power is connected to offering help. It is often the case that people who are different in any kind of way, end up in the back of a creation process. The Fair Kin Arts Almanac, chooses not to do this. The editorial team had a lot of diversity and thought a lot about how they wanted to make the project more open to other, less connected people in the arts. In doing that, they also investigated the word ‘fair’ and thought about the word ‘aid’, ‘mutual aid’ and ended up choosing ‘kin’ as a replacement for ‘fair’.

With a group of beautiful, kind and caretaking people, we ploughed through the ruts and grooves of ‘cripping’, decolonising, decentralising – chipping away all things possible – very aware of the fact that in reality, completion of what we set out to do would never be entirely possible. But to have a core-editorial team with a wide variety of identity markers different from the usual composition (cis-heteronormative, size-normal, able-bodied, and white) who were giving it a go, is a great start. There is something in this that moved me and makes me proud of all that we achieved under the conditions we found ourselves in. For the very reason that knowledge, agency and the right to speak should belong to the right people in the right places, especially when daring choices must be made to put new, aspiring voices in charge of creation processes, instead of pushing them further and futher outwards and downwards to the margins. In this almanac, people speak from their experience and positionality, and the richness of this is impressive and speaks for itself.

Therefore, this Fair Kin Arts Almanac, just as much as its creation process, is different from the previous edition.

It takes great insight and an immense amount of trust in each other to attempt to dismantle the late-stage capitalist logic of production and to postpone a project like this, not once but twice, because it was necessary to take the time. Time not to rush, to respect each other’s health and body-mind, and our respective personal experiences in life, to invest as much in care work as we do in writing work, to rotate regularly in leadership and guidance whenever someone gets overwhelmed, to check in thoroughly, to have disability-days without needing to seek approval, to have hybrid home-office-work schedules and to continuously reschedule meetings because of interfering personal matters. It is not despite, but only because of this approach, that this Kin Fair Arts Almanac became what it is today. In that sense, publishing later was a radical act that turned struggle into an empowering gesture of mutual support. It is also a political and activist stance because we prevailed to provide what we set out to offer to the public, to discourse, and to the reader. These are important and precious voices that deserve to be heard. Curated together with editorial collective care but unredacted.

Throughout our working process, the questions were raised consistently: “What is the fairest? What is just? Who deserves something?” Hierarchical structures are difficult to overcome, even within intersectional thinking. It takes self-criticism not to put one person above another. It takes only a quick view to recognise the same neoliberal and capitalist logic in how ‘help’ is often distributed as a libertarian attitude in any other often installed policy tactic. ‘Fair’ is not what we wanted. There remains little fairness in ‘fair practices’ based on calculations of oppression.

Ideally, we would not only make the almanac more accessible, but we would also have to rethink what accessibility means. Who do we want to be accessible to? What does access mean? Who will read this almanac, and what do they need? Who can we reach more when we add certain tools? And as much as we see racism and ableism as two different threads, they are like a tapestry interwoven. One cannot be undone without the other. Every matter regarding a limitation of an unruly body is a racial affair, and every racial affair is a limitation of an unruly body. Their histories entangle, and so do the approaches to solutions and empowerment.

The word ‘aid’, as much as it is connected to its colonial past and histories, its saviour complex within racism and ableism – had potential – yet couldn’t completely fill the gap of the all-compassing deconstruction of care genealogy we were looking for. Within the context of access, the idea of offering tools to ‘help’ others to make the Kin Fair Arts Almanac more accomodating for people with disabilities, only a mere addition of facilitations would not suffice.

‘Mutual Aid’ as described by P. Kropotkin, but also many earlier Black Indigenous anarchists, as a voluntary reciprocal exchange of care of participation, where cooperation is the goal and not competition, might have come the closest to what we wanted to achieve. And especially when we divert from Kropotkin’s naturalist conception and understand it much more as a conscious choice of organisation.The idea of personal responsibility in a collective condition, in care networks. Akin to what, for example, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha describes in Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice. Ideas of serving needs, with the mobilisation of others, expanding solidarity and solving problems instead of waiting for an external solution.

In the end, though, it is ‘kin’, what helpes us thrive. Kin as in what Donna J. Haraway describes in Staying With The Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulecene. In response to the current state of the world, the current uprising of right-wing regimes, their accompanied explicit violence towards minorities – in policy and daily life and the consistent smothering of the art world is not a parallel without overlap. They are deeply rooted in ideological sentiment. This, coexisting with a current climate of emergency, poverty rising to unseen quantities and the overall instability of any political climate, we all need to make more trouble as a resurgence of life. Making kin refers to multi-species relationality critical to ‘ongoingness’ in any earth-based life. Survival depends on becoming earthly-based again.

Making kin in a project like the Fair Kin Arts Almanac is understanding that rest is as important as financial resources, that motherhood is neglected, that our Roman calendar is a product of colonisation, and we need to provide an alternative. Making kin is understanding and validating the power and magic of healing from a feminist and antiracist perspective. Making kin is adding easy reads for whoever needs them, not just those with cognitive disabilities. Making kin actively makes every payment a conversation and not a standard fee. The list goes on, not despite, but because we make kin.

Donna J. Haraway describes the “Anthropocene” as a rather cynical term, as it implies that it’s ‘game-over’ and its defeatism is devastating to the motivation of those who think it’s ‘too late’ to change the future. The thing is, there is a matter of response-ability, in every act one takes. An ability to respond. Thinking matters. And the arts have always portrayed the ideal place for prefigurative politics, to imagine and build a world we want to see.

As a crip – coming from the slur cripple – it is my nature to have an ‘in your face’ and ‘out and proud’ abundance where I can live and celebrate who I am, in opposition to any categorisation. I claim it myself in flamboyant potential and identity, yet adding new narratives, deconstructing the very meaning of its identity at any existing moment. I hope I have sprinkled this throughout the Fair Kin Arts Almanac, demonstrating the prefigurative capabilities of this document, prevailing the possibilities within the object itself and the content it speaks about.