The new is born when it is imagined

By Katrien Reist

We’re living revolutionary times. In his Prison Notebooks, politician and political theoretic Antonio Gramsci describes this transitional moment in history as an ‘organic crisis’. One crisis follows the other because the (political) system in place is no longer able to heal or balance the emerging societal dissonance it is causing. A new system has not yet been born.

These are not particularly happy times. They’re accompanied with insecurity, polarisation, violence, social injustice and inequality, war and destruction. Yet they are formative times with a strong focus on what a new system could be about, driven by imagination, experimentation and gut courage. These are the particular assets artists bring to the table.

In this chapter of the almanac, the notion of politics and the political should be understood as power dynamics and strategies in place that either clench the old system, or engage the creation of a new one. Art provides freedom to explore these dynamics in a way that everyday politics do not. Art and artists mirror, observe and create new perspectives, and by doing so, support the need for imagination and new narratives. They deserve to be listened to by politicians.

The text contributions that follow address a diversity of critical practices (in activism, art production, cultural policy, political representation, artistic alliances) that focus on (re)shaping the political in the arts, yet prepare the ground for a much broader paradigm shift. The vastness of the transitional process we’re in can only be realised through collectivity: transversal and intersectional.

While analysing the power dynamics that cause the many current crises, we look forward and imagine the new and what it requires. These reflections bring forth questions about new systems of governance, representation and a democracy of multiplicity. But also, and primarily, about finding a shared understanding around the values that can hold this new system: care, empathy, solidarity, equality, equity, transparency…

Let the new be born from that shared understanding.