There is always potential to look at things from a different perspective, and looking at cases that lie beyond the ‘systemic edges’, is a good way to approach this. Reminding ourselves that the current discourse on economic growth doesn’t, in fact, apply to every scenario, reminds us of its incompleteness, and the need to develop new categories of thought to challenge the dominant channel. Here, she provides a useful analogy of a streetlamp: the ‘light’ of the lamp might be powerful, but it is important to ask yourself what it might be keeping you from seeing. What lies in the shadows?
‘Shadow’ case studies are useful in questioning the system, but what can we do to build alternate discourses? Here, Saskia questions the middle class’ potential to ‘make’ the social, as they have become passive consumers in their relatively comfortable lives. The elite will, of course, always have power in shaping social norms and thought, but what about those at the ‘bottom’? Having to fight for their place in society makes them well equipped for creating alternative narratives, Saskia argues, and their revolutionary potential makes spaces like slums anything but powerless, as they are often seen to be (summed up well in this short trailer of a film on 'Revolutionary Optimists').
An example of their work is to work with the E17 art trail (which I wrote about in my first blog post!) this summer, focussing on the interior design of Islamic houses in the area, and also running sessions where people bring a small item like a photograph or ornament that they feel represents who they are.
I enjoy this idea of questioning traditional concepts of ‘art’ or ‘history’, and working with communities that may suffer exclusion and discrimination to build alternative narratives. Art should be seen as something that is everywhere, that we can relate to and interact with, not just something we stare at in galleries whilst desperately thinking of something ‘intellectual’ to say. To conclude, then, let’s all try and be a bit more difficult – that is to say, let’s stop passively accepting things as they are, or what we can see in the ‘light’. If things don’t seem quite right, let’s question them, and always push to see what exactly lies in the ‘shadows’. Bit of a grand ending, but perhaps a point worth making!