interview I. + N.

I [talking about how participants raised issues during the project without much effect] .. the same white dominance, or like patterns of white dominance, I guess. Yeah. And then what happened?

N The question is, “What could have been done better?”

I “Do you remember how it was solved? Can you think of other ways it could have been solved?”

N I remember that it was addressed in the sense of bringing it up. And then we took a few moments to talk about it. But then nothing.

I Do you remember if it was like a specific thing?

N This is far away… years ago. I remember that it was with– What was their name? I forgot now their name. They were short. I think Indian…

I A?

N Yes, exactly. And I remember it was stuff that had to do specifically with their concerns. I don't remember what they said. But yeah, it was being brought up. We did some exercise of putting papers on the floor, what we were looking to address, to do…

I I remember. Was it a situation where we were supposed to write down, I think things that we would be interested in doing or something like this, and then A and Y and somebody else, maybe H…? I remember that they were interested in creating a group that works around anti-racist issues. And probably in the moment of setting that up [/presenting it to the rest of the group] they were referring back also to what was happening during the week?

N Yeah.

I I also don't remember the specific instances. Yeah, I mean, it came up multiple times, for sure.

N I remember that I specifically brought up, sometimes during the week, the poetry workshop. How there was a certain reluctance to take part in the workshop, simply because people thought, well, this is not my kind of space. But yet it was organized, you know, in a way that like, you had to explore it, you had to dig deep. But somehow there was reluctance. During the session it was almost as if people reserved their emotions or wanted to use that poetry as another creative sort of outlet to work with. So that was a bit frustrating, for me, because then it dictated what was like, important to work with, what was important to use as a tool.

And yeah, and I guess just the reluctance of, like, people not wanting to take part in it. Everything else also took part in it, you know, in different ways. But it was just weird to have that poetry session and people not wanting to do it. Maybe it touched, you know, the feels too much. But yeah, I don't know how that could have been done better. Because there's also the thing of like, you can't force people, you know, to do things. But I'd say if an openness was encouraged, from specifically like, our white participants in some way, which is unfortunate, because I remember...

I forgot the poet's name. She did a lot of encouraging, she did her performance, try to help, you know, all of these things. But there was still that reluctance and so it almost seems as if it needed a white version of her to be able to, you know, open people up. This was reflected in the next workshop when it was the breathing in and laughing and all of those things. And it was like, super-uncomfortable for —I know for myself, M and F —because we were like, this is weird. We're being told how to act to our emotions when we're very much in tune with our emotions. And then, yeah, and then just kind of, yeah, and just praising, you know, I mean, she did a great job, of course, the workshop leader. But—

S This poetry element in Brussels, in my experience of Brussels, was a real moment of trying on a new “tool” or a way of relating our experiences to each other on a more metaphorical and emotional level. And to do so with a limit time for making. It also was led by a very practiced facilitator and perhaps, we could have been challenged more and she did a lot of extra labour of praising the group – maybe even we could have been forced to share our poems —but I think that is a bit tricky to do that. I stood up and shared my poem – maybe just after your braveness, N! I was terrified to be that vulnerable. Afterwards I was less terrified but still nervous. For the rest of the day I was a bit shaky. Maybe this is natural for being vulnerable and being asked to be “creative” and to “perform” in front of other highly skilled creatives, particularly at the early part of the project. The performativity aspect of that entire week we could have continued to dig dig dig dig in…in my opinion. And in some ways I wonder how we could have built more trust in the room before getting to this poem moment and how would that have worked differently if it was a bit more a psychologically safer space to share? Recently, I have come across this work, “Talkaoke,” by the UK Design group, The People Speak ( which is some sort of mobile talk show. The passing the mic is super important to the design of this piece and furniture, the costumes really help. There is a host in the middle and a round table for the guests. The roundness (and the fact that I can count the number of seats in the “show” attracts me, personally, and even though they have these interventions or moments of conversation in big crowds (if one watches the promo video) — I think that space they built helps to give some sense of what I might get into if I were to sit. I am sure I would have to watch a few before I dared to sit though

N I think it was K. it was the last workshop we had. And then it was a whole, like, fake laughing thing.

I Okay. Yeah, I think I disengaged that day. I think that's when it also a little exploded in the morning. And I just left the place for hours. But would you say, when this question is “How was it dealt with?” — do you remember what was the reaction to it being brought up? Was it dealt with in any way?

N It ended with N just saying, this is what happened, and that I thought it was strange. And nobody did anything. And it was echoed in different ways, but then it just died out. That's when I left my engagement in the whole thing, because what's the point, then? If we can't embrace everything, that we're sort of given as potential tools?

I I wonder if this is also a bit of a pattern “Oh, we just do a round and then everybody gets to say what they think,” and then that's all feminist. But then there are no mechanisms for taking things up or doing something with them. That's actually almost worse than not having space to say them: when you are invited or asked to say stuff, and then it just disappears.

N Exactly. Again: bring solutions to the table and then nobody takes the fucking solution. And that's the reason why, I think, so many people of colour in spaces like TTTT are like, no, you know, we're not going to do this. Simply because, you asked us to be honest, and we've been honest in so many ways, and we've tried it in so many ways, but there's a reluctance...for change. Like there's a reluctance to actually have the will to change stuff. And so, yeah, so why should we? Why should–

I I'm wondering, for example, this thing of the morning round when people got to say what they thought of the day before... now it's kind of asking the same thing, right? Now they're like, “what were the issues? And how could it have been dealt with differently?” That's actually exactly the same thing [as in: asking to bring the solutions].

N And also, as many solutions are brought, it's just gonna be the same thing again. How would we have dealt with it? How would we have done better? We had this exact same conversation, exact same conversation. Okay, so what are the solutions? These are the solutions. Okay. Okay, what do we have? Is this a problem? Yes. Okay. What are the solutions? ... Why?

I Do you remember this kind of solution brainstorming thing in TTTT? Didn’t we have an exercise to write on paper?

N And then in the morning sessions, we would put them in different places so that they could become anonymous. And then different people would read. But that was the feedback, that wasn't the solution part. I think there was more the feedback in the mornings, because I remember there was the talking and then after a while, people didn't feel comfortable talking, so then we changed it to anonymous notes. I was the one who was like, I like this anonymous-note situation. There was excitement about being able to talk your mind. And then it would be read. And then, yeah, I think there was also... I think it was intertwined with some solution coming up situation, some sort of intervention.

I I remember me writing something about teacher-student dynamics, that they’re fucked up… There was a bit of conversation. It was D and me pushing – because they were also trying to be like, okay, now we need to get started with the day or something like that, or, we need to trust the process or something. And then I remember D was pushing once more, being like, well, we can't just talk about these things on the outside but then not actually look at ourselves and how we're doing these things in our group. And then it died there. In this kind of situation, I think the person who was raising something already feels like you’re doing a lot and taking a lot of space.

And you maybe are really waiting for some resonance because you are not going to push this through on your own in a group of 50 people. It's like, if this is just my concern then I'm going to leave. There's something that I am concerned with. How about everybody else? And then if there's more people who 're like, yeah, it's a thing…maybe, it would be good to have a culture of then collectively saying, “Okay, I see this is a shared concern with many people, I think this is really important,” and then for that person, for example, to initiate something like, “Could we make space for it after lunch?” I don’t know, we do a session, everybody who's somehow interested in this or supportive of this cause, let's meet, and make suggestions or something like that?

N Wasn't that the same thing A tried to do? Because I remember at some point — it was the one night we came back to the apartment —and I was like, I can't put my finger on what the fuck is happening. And then you started talking, and I was like, that's exactly what the problem is. And then the next day, we started opening up about the process and stuff. And then, yeah, then it was brought up in erg, but then it was transferred back to Valand when we had our conversation. So then A. used to be that person who would say, “Yeah, this person brought up this point, and we didn't address it.” And I remember we were both impressed at the fact that he was actually doing it. And he did it consistently.

I Do you remember how that looked? Like, was it in informal conversations, mostly?

N No, it was in the group.

I And was A saying, “Ah, that fits with the HDK-Valand ‘Intellectual Outputs,’ so how about we take that conversation with us to HDK-Valand?” Or was it more: “Hmm, there was some stuff raised in Brussels, which I think is relevant for our working together. We should talk about these things"?

N It was a mixture of both. Because I know that when we were in erg, it was like, okay, cool, there's this cloud hovering over everybody that we're not sure what it is. And then after a while, it had been brought up so many times and it was like, okay, but people are saying things, and you're not listening. So when we got back to HDK-Valand, A would say during meetings, “Okay, this person said something, can we address it, or talk about it?” And sometimes he wouldn't get to the point. But the fact that he, you know, actively tried to bring those issues to light as somebody who's in the position that he was in as the leader, you know, that was good for him. But of course, not the greatest in the sense of what was done afterwards, you know, was how it was dealt.

I And then how could it continue from there? I’m wondering because isn't that also like doing the same thing of putting somebody on the spot of like, “Well, you said xyz, and now you have to tell us everything.” Or it could also be like, “Hey, I heard you were pointing at something. I wonder if there's more that you want to say about it? Let's make some space.”

N Yeah. But he wasn’t specifically pointing to someone. He was just saying, “Okay, this point was brought up.” And I think he was very cognizant about not pinpointing it.

So you felt sort of safe in bringing something up. But then it was... The part where you felt unsafe... I remember one time we were sitting in Valand, and then I brought something up, and he brought it back. He said, “Yeah, this is what somebody brought up,” and was very specific, like, not to say it was N. So he showed care.

And I think that it is the will to be vulnerable enough to say, “I don't have the answers, but I'm willing to talk about it.” And of course, it's going to be hurtful. If people are ignorant, of course, it's going to be a bit slow, if people don't know how to engage with it. But I think that it still is very necessary. And unfortunately, the person who brought it up will obviously have the most opinions. But if people came in with the same intentions, as I think that we hoped they would, it would be a room to discuss and to accept that, you know: “I don't know anything”. And that's why I like, for example, talking to you and engaging with you. I like the fact that you can say “Oh, yeah, I forget, sometimes I have my white norm nonsense, you know, that comes out every now and again. But I'm working on it." And I think that's much more appreciated and accepted than having to have someone, oh I won’t mention their name, but a person who continues to think that they are right, or that they are the producers of knowledge, of all the things we need and continues to sit at that position, you know, which is really unfortunate.

I What had been a good way of dealing with the situation? For example, somebody like A making the first step of ensuring that things don't end up swept under the carpet, but that things that are important, that have been said and shared openly… that the group also takes care of these things being brought up…

Voice of God This is the voice of God talking to you now. Could you come back to the big meeting, please, okay, so we can wrap up?