Room to Bloom: Why we need ecofeminist, postcolonial and decolonial narratives for Europe to change

There is something magical about Room to Bloom: when one talks to people about the work we – the Room to Bloom management and curatorial team, its advisors and its artists – are doing with this platform, a spark ignites in the eyes of those who are listening. There is an interest in getting to know more, in being involved, in wondering what direction the group is taking. Room to Bloom is occupying a space that was left vacant and it might well be that there is something revolutionary in bringing together 100 feminist artists from across the world to imagine, co-create and narrate hope and alternatives for our common futures. 

Room to Bloom is a new transfeminist and ecofeminist platform that brings together emerging artists to examine and create ecological and postcolonial narratives for Europe and beyond. Room to Bloom recognizes that it is time to contribute to the activation of the peripheries and to navigate against patriarchalism, different types of oppression, exploitation and racism in order to open new spaces for experimentation and to lay the basis for new forms of actions in the art world. 

Living up the promises of intersectional feminism into daily practices of art and cultural management is a very ambitious goal. Something that seemed – quite naively – obvious to us when we started the project, the endevour of bringing together reflections and learning from feminism and post/decolonialism into practice to change cultural and art management, appears – one year down the line – to be not only quite unusual but also quite difficult. 

As cultural managers and curators, we are aware that decolonising ourselves and the cultural production sphere is part of the journey towards decolonising the spaces we inhabit. Applying a postcolonial and decolonial feminist approach involves a reflection about topics such as white privilege, power structures, gender roles, and the importance of putting personal life in the political sphere, that are key topics to address to form new societal and political proposals today. The use of both the concepts ‘postcolonial’ and ‘decolonial’ is deliberate: by using the two concepts we recognize the ongoing and unresolved debate about overcoming colonial legacy. Talking about postcolonial feminism means recognising that we are still facing and suffering the consequences of the colonies and of European Imperialism; talking about decolonial feminism, puts the intention in the work that needs to be done to deconstruct preconceived ideas, assumptions, behaviours and ways of understanding our roles in this world, arguing that these are multilayered and diverse. We do not understand these two concepts as a single ‘theory’ of the international but rather a set of orientations to show how to think about feminism and the world we are striving for. Our understanding is that we are not living in a post-colonial world. Ancient and new forms of colonialism are still present, subordinating and exploiting different communities, taking different shapes and oppressing minoritized groups. Colonial domination not only shapes our ideas about race, but also strongly influences how people think about class, culture, gender, and sexuality. 

Operating and working with a feminist approach means questioning and rethinking epistemology, ontology, norms and ethics that we have inherited. The exercise of understanding how we are reading roles, bodies and minds – ours and that of others – needs to happen in the spaces and institutions we populate with our works and ideas. In this sense, art institutions should deal and operate with these concepts clearly present in their actions and vision. 

In the process of deconstructing and decolonising the spaces and contexts in which we operate, there is something powerful about working within the margins and in the peripheries: Peripheries are the places where we can create collectives, relationships, collaborations; construct a transnational consciousness across spaces that are often left out from the mainstream narrative, establish alliances of solidarity to create a support system, alliances to disrupt the dominant orders, invent and pilot new orders. There is something radical about bringing forward safe spaces of mutual care and listening. Spaces where thanks to the collective energies that are exchanged, change can happen, spaces where care takes a revolutionary role that can lead to radical change.

With the programme hosted in the context of the Room to Bloom Pavilion in Palermo,, we want to showcase artists’ perspectives to convey the need to shift the rules of power to favor commoning within the art world institutions and to co-create new practices that subvert patriarchalism and racism by offering challenging visions for multiplicity and coexistence. Together, we want to bring forward the message that resist a system of domination and exploitation, and replace it with actions and narratives of care and nurturing, focusing on recentering the narrative to the margins and restoring the health of nature on this planet, prioritizing care for ‘the others’.

On its journey, Room to Bloom wants to apply the true lessons of different feminisms, providing an efficient support network to its artists while deconstructing the Western gaze and being fully conscious and aware of the many complexities brought by intersectionality.  We pursue a vision of a Europe that fully takes into account its diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, geography, sexuality, class, abilities, education. It has become unavoidable to provide a framework to understand the different power dynamics and dominations and provide new tools and narratives to resist them and invite new pathways. Room to Bloom wants to continue opening these spaces for a plural, feminist and collective change to happen. 

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