“Mastery and possession: these are the master words launched by Descartes at the dawn of the scientific and technological age, when our Western reason went off to conquer the universe.
Following the framework offered by Felix Guattari in his essay The Three Ecologies, we make the following statement as the foundation of our engagement: that in these times of political polarisation and mass confusion (social ecology), normative biopolitics and fragilisation of self-determination (psychic ecology), and massive impoverishment of ecosystems (environmental ecology), the quality of our relational practices, with and as part of the world, is at an all-time low. Therefore, it seems urgent to locate the sources of these tendencies and invert their dynamics. We can notably find them in the ways we think, understand, and relate to the world. This is our field of action.
The Peace and Love Studies is a place to ask important questions for the future. It’s a space of focus, released from the noise of daily politics and trends, dealing with the long-term implications of the intricacies between knowledge and art production in their impact on subjectivities. These questions can be utopian in nature. We convoque the political power of imagination. A few examples:
- How can we extract the dynamics of societal organisation from the archaic necessity of biogenetic reproductive genealogy?
- How can we develop innovative pedagogical practices of naturalsocial becoming-with?
- What is a non-capitalist space of event?
- Do we have to mourn our enlightenment, modern and capitalist values? If so, in what ways?
- How can we gradually bring a majority of humanity to exercise a love without limits or hierarchies for all matter, living and inert, which constitutes our environment on the scale of the planet and the cosmos?
- How do we make degrowth sexy?
Following the articulation of these questions, we develop experimental practices of relation emancipated from the timespace restrictions of the usual calendar and practical organisation of artistic and academic institutions. We employ the tools of speculative fiction, collective thinking, and draw bridges between different disciplines.
Why the Peace and Love Studies?
The Peace and Love Studies is a playful take on the naive idealism of the hippie movement. Naive idealism is a dangerous and non-productive approach in the context of knowledge production, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t be useful in helping collective dynamics of societal change. Simple narratives can be tools of reach and impact, beyond the audiences of the too often intimidating and non-inclusive high-art, high-intellect social circles of contemporary art and academia.
With that in mind, the objective of “peace” and “love” may well be a strong vehicle to unite, as it did in the past, many different people and regimes of action and expression around the same slogan. These are words with high affective power, charged by the myriads of cultural artefacts produced throughout the centuries in cultures of resistance. While being conscious of their normative potential, we must use the best tools available to serve our political agendas, and these words, as for “freedom” or “equality”, may well be the most adequate devices to drive a social movement.
Thus, this is why we advocate for the conscious usage of idealism—vitalism being one, for instance—shaped and driven by the conscientious rigor that we inherit from feminist, decolonial and posthumanist traditions. We need to focus on transferring and expanding the progressive energies found in academic and artistic research to an enlarged portion of the social field, and explore in experimental ways the liminal space of action between popular idealism, contemporary philosophy and scientific knowledge.
The Peace and Love Studies is also a pun on the epistemological acceleration happening in universities, with the flourishment of new academic fields of research. In these contexts, criticality occupies the center of the stage, without much space to develop alternative narratives. This makes us ask the following question: can we keep ourselves endlessly busy with developing the sharpest, most precise critique of capitalism while we now clearly understand its inherent and permanent transmorphism? Can we continue producing art and knowledge in the same way as we did before the post-truth era, as if reality-based politics was the current mode of action in political power formations?
A second wave
We believe in the excitement generated by the metaphor of the wave, and trust our capacity in feeding that enthusiasm with the prospect of a new popular uprising, a second wave of liberation of mentalities coming with a massive rethinking of society. Indeed, strong indicators are showing that we are in the middle of a transition taking place, coming from the global youth: a tremendous regain of energy in ecological activism; an active process of decolonisation exemplified in the Black Lives Matter movement; huge interest in the new generations in questioning traditional gender norms, and experimenting forms of intimacies that challenge the still hegemonic model of the bourgeois family.
As much as the 1968 movements have been a tremendous liberation for the individual, they also have been a tremendous defeat for the collective interest. Where the hippies of the 70s, still muddled in the swirls of the judeo-christian framework of their socialisation, defended spiritualising approaches to oppose the cold materialism of industrial society, the neo-hippies of today are well equipped to defend a radical, “horizontal” materialism, to extract the debates from any form of naturalist romanticism.
What would be the consequences of a worldwide neo-hippie movement, equipped with the analytical and argumentative frameworks of feminist, decolonial and posthumanist theories; propelled by the communication and organisation tools of today’s technology? We believe this is an enchanting scenario worth cultivating.
As much as we keep in mind the problematic aspect of a discourse constructed around this notion, we believe in the strategical use of the term in specific contexts, with the employ of the affects generated in resonance with the specific semantic field of revolt and rebellion. While consciously avoiding the metaphors of war and combat most often found in revolutionary discourses, we raise at the highest level of legibility our non-compliance with the status quo. At the Peace and Love Studies, we are very, very angry hippies. We refuse to perform as neoliberal subjects. And if a polarised “us versus them” linguistic construction is adequate, we will consider its use in all consciousness of the risks of such an argumentative vehicle.
The idea behind this decision is that we are acting in a field of antagonistic interests. It may seem paradoxical to enter a mode of competition in order to dismantle the logic of competition in society itself; but the fact is that many power formations are serving agendas that we consider highly problematic. Thus, we believe in the necessity of “taking position” in a set political landscape.
Mainstream understanding of reality is clogged with conceptual frameworks developed before the emergence of the feminist, postcolonial and posthumanist critiques of modernity. Our role at the Peace and Love Studies is to change that.
To change society is to change people’s minds on the issues that have a political significance or urgency. You can’t do that by pushing forward quantitative arguments—if anything, climate change is the absolute best exemple of this type of failure. Conversely, it’s a political project that requires a deep, qualitative transition process that can only be guided through strategic education and sensibilisation campaigns, in a field of competition with mostly antithetical commercial interests.
Our communication motto is that the small, progressive and disruptive cultural actors need the same level of communication and advertisement than the big, conservative or commercial ones. For example, one of the issues with which academia is confronted these days is that it’s really, really not sexy most of the time. Promoting knowledge and intellectual emancipation should be strategically made by playing with the aesthetic terms of the day, but that is sometimes difficult to implement in the frame of massive, administratively-congested institutions like universities. The Peace and Love Studies aims to package and serve progressive ideas in “ready-to-market” interventions.
At the Peace and Love Studies, we identify a series of key “flaws” in the western school of thought, which are still prevalent and misleading in “common sense” understandings of the world in our culture:
- representationalism (the independent and determined existence of words and things) as opposed to material semiotics.
- the metaphysics of individualism (a world composed of individual entities with their individually determined limits and properties) as opposed to relational ontologies.
- the Euclidean model of space (space as container) as opposed to an understanding of space-time as a changing and dynamic topology.
- the classical idea of causality, as opposed to, for example, the concept of intra-action proposed by Karen Barad.
- human exceptionalism (humans are different from all other organisms), as opposed to the de-mythification of human consciousness.
- generally speaking, the use of dualisms to parse the world. Among the most common and problematic ones, nature/culture, male/female, mind/body, civilized/primitive, self/other.
Our focus is to challenge these cultural assumptions through experiments in relational settings, collective thinking, curation and publication.
Inclusivity and Openness:
we follow the axiom of queer theory that people are different; and we extend it to the whole realm of existence, in celebration of the multitude. Our activities are consciously designed to invite, and to visit, beyond euro-, homo- and anthropo- centrisms. We love to break the filter bubbles and other echo chambers. As a nomadic experimental organisation, we work with and within institutions with the goal of reaching people beyond their usual audiences, through innovative communication strategies.
We give a special attention to the setting of a welcoming affective tonality for all of our events, based on the model of hospitality. We organize for emergence in accordance to the ethics of care. We always initialize our discussions by setting practical frames, trigger warnings and communication tools. That way, we actively prevent any type of violence to emerge within the course of action of our activities.
In the preparation of all of our events, we actively prevent hierarchical structures to emerge, such as speaker/audience, master/pupil, or in general any active/passive relation. Our role is the one of the facilitator: we develop experimental setups for emergence in intra-action. Every event is carefully designed to integrate elements of improvisation, leading to thinking in the action. In the course of the events, we adapt and learn as much as the other participants.
We always emphasize the situatedness of our discourses and practices. Collectively and individually, we build our own cartographies, and analyse our points of entry when addressing societal issues.
Michel Serres, The Natural Contract , trans. Elizabeth MacArthur and William Paulson (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995), 32. ↩︎