In this exposition I reflect on two artistic actions –“Monument to Networks of Mutual-Aid”(2020) and “Patrimony of Gestures” (2018-2022)– both of which consider the politics of memory of care work through the construction of spaces of listening combined with ceramic installation. The projects address the position that reproductive work holds in a collective memory in Barcelona and Madrid, extending this question beyond any local or national politics of memory through virtual and imagined dialogues with multiple theoretical, art and activist movements, past and present. I use the format of the research article exposition to connect further with academic, artistic research and social scientist readers. My approach to artistic research writing is quite conservative in that sense, not politically conservative, but in terms of conserving the artistic action as the artistic action and the critical writing as the critical writing.


In the first section I share three lineages of gesture that have been fundamental for my understanding of the research dimension of artworks: firstly, a theoretical lineage of gesture rooted in queer and queer Marxist theory; secondly, a plastic lineage grounded in contemporary dance, performance and new media; and thirdly, an epistemic lineage of gesture rooted in feminist and decolonial critiques of method, according to which the artistic gesture might be considered a means of affirming ways of knowing and generative of erotic knowledge.[1] I make a link between the artistic gesture and the inscription, as theorised by early Science and Technology Studies (STS) and connect these in turn to practices of inscription in ceramics, in particular sgraffito, a form of mark-making in which a layer of slip is removed to reveal the surface of the clay below. I use sgraffito in the projects to suggest the literal ways in which cultural, scientific and economic inscription determine the material forms that institutions –from the institution of the museum to the institution of perception– take.


Following the creative and critical work of many activists, artists and scholars of reproduction, I approach reproductive politics not only as an issue of reproductive health –of access to reproductive technologies or of individual reproductive choices– but as the daily negotiation of the body’s value and visibility across communication, labour and political fields.[2]

[1] I intentionally avoid using terms like ‘knowledge production’ and am inspired by formulations and ideas about knowing deriving from poets, researchers and artists engaged in feminist, queer and decolonial research. In particular, Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s (1999) term ‘ways of knowing’ and Audre Lorde’s (1978) theory of ‘erotic knowledge’. I am wary of the fact that my positionality as a white researcher might limit the political impact of my citation of Audre Lorde and Linda Tuhiwai Smith, precisely in the context of a knowledge economy that has long co-opted the intellectual work of women of colour. I continue along this way, however, recognising that a tactic of many white scholars has been to not read, not cite, not mention and not reference queer, feminist and decolonial theories, even in the case where this intellectual labour has evidently influenced their own.

[2] My use of the term ‘reproductive politics’ borrows from the fields of sociology and feminist anthropology, where it is generally accepted that ‘social organisation not only plays a causal role in the determination of reproductive outcomes, but must be seen as constitutive of reproductivity itself […] reproduction can no long simply refer to reproductive biology: ‘reproduction’ must instead include all aspects of society and consciousness’ (Sarah Franklin, ‘Feminism and Reproduction’ in (Eds.) Nick Hopwood, Rebecca Flemming and Lauren Kassell, Reproduction: Antiquity to the Present Day. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018. p. 637). Laura Briggs specifies that ‘households are where we have most acutely felt the changes of neoliberalism, its shocks and disruptions’ and so in the age of neoliberalism ‘all politics is reproductive politics’ (Laura Briggs, All Politics is Reproductive Politics, Oakland: University of California Press, 2018. p.27).


Patrimony of Gestures (2018-2022) was a series of exercises in writing, ceramics and listening that consider the idea of ‘reproductive work’ beyond its theorisation as domestic labour, foregrounding instead myriad forms of communication and political practice, including poetry and art. Like Monument to Networks of Mutual Aid, the project addressed the lack of spaces dedicated to a memory of queer and antiracist care work. The project began during an artistic research residency at Casa Velazquez in Madrid in 2018, during which time I collaborated with an archeobotanist.[25] Archeobotanists study plant evidence preserved through processes like carbonisation, water logging or through having been impressed onto the surface of ceramics. When archeobotanists approximate a ceramic surface at an archaeological site, for example, they are looking for chemical traces of certain plants or the indentations of certain cooking tools. From this they reconstruct a ‘patrimony of gestures’: a speculative restoration of the physical and embodied gestures of past peoples as they lived on and worked with the land. 


My use of the term ‘patrimony of gestures’ in the project’s title is, in the first place, a marker of the interdisciplinary setting in which this and many artistic research projects are developed.  My decision to transport the term from a historical science context to an artistic creation context is also conceptually significant, as it expresses the project’s wider investment in the possibilities of connecting the methods and value structures of the historical research sciences at the service of the social present. Patrimony of Gestures involved many actions dispersed over time, including performances, readings, posters and an audio installation produced with many collaborators. I will focus on the first two actions, entitled The Assisted Reproduction of the Voice and Networks of Care and Critique, which were exhibited together at Casa Velazquez in 2019.


I was interested in researching assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) at Casa Velazquez, because it is a French cultural institution located in Spain, which provided an opportunity to think about the different politics of access to ARTs in Europe: while in Spain LGBTQIA+ access to ARTs is funded on the public health system, in France at the time of the exhibition in 2019, it was banned.[26] ARTs consist of procedures that involve the in vitro handling or cryopreservation of human oocytes, sperm or embryos and constitute a booming global market, projected to reach $45.06 billion USD by 2026.[27] Like other issues that bear on and mark out an individual reproductive body, such as abortion, reproductive technologies have long occupied a dominant space in feminist discussions of reproductive politics, often at the expense of other reproductive politics issues, such as commercial toxicity, the lack of access to healthcare or the challenges of social reproduction in contexts of exclusion and scarcity.


I developed The Assisted Reproduction of the Voice as a series of four audio recordings, displayed below an installation of scaled down screen grabs from television and films in which queer characters engage with ARTs or fertility clinics. In the audio work I recount the details relating to the institutional, legislative and commercial forces that in the 1990s and early 2000s gave rise to the ART clinic of today. However, I mention neither ‘fertility’ nor ‘biological reproduction’, and speak only of ‘the assisted reproduction of the voice’. The quality, rhythm, volume and tone of my voice shifts as I address four different audiences: the public, a class of students, a parent and a lover. I was interested in considering audience as a ‘technology of assisted reproduction’ that inscribes the materiality and surface of the voice.


The Assisted Reproduction of the Voice installation excerpted a number of scenes in which characters are shown waiting in fertility clinic waiting rooms, which I sourced from a range of films that feature the themes of fertility and assisted reproduction, the earliest being Test Tube Baby (dir. W. Merle Connell, 1948). I focused however on more recent films that feature queer characters including Seeking Dolly Parton (dir. Michael Worth; 2015); She Hate Me (dir. Spike Lee; 2004); Chutney Popcorn (dir. Nisha Ganatra; 1999); L Word (dir. Ilene Chaiken, 2004–2009); If These Walls Could Talk 2 (dir. Jane Anderson, Anne Heche, Martha Coolidge; 2000), noticing how the plots unfolded through the repeated gesture of waiting. Even where the fertility clinic waiting room was not featured, the characters were often featured waiting somewhere else: kitchens, living rooms, parks, parties, the street. I thought of Faith Wilding’s 1974 poem and performance Waiting, in which the speaker’s life is re-cast as a litany of waiting scenes; ‘Waiting for someone to feed me, Waiting for someone to change my diaper…Waiting to go to a party, to be asked to dance, to dance close…Waiting for my children to come home from school Waiting for them to grow up, to leave home…Waiting for my flesh to sag Waiting for my breasts to shrivel up’.[28] Wilding’s poem offers just such a possible critical patrimony of gestures, in which the gesture of waiting reveals something about the labour of femininity.


Broadly, these films and shows respond to the gradual incorporation of ARTs into human reproduction throughout the twentieth century. Where this meeting of technology and reproduction could have enabled a break in the connection between human biological reproduction and heteronormative social reproduction, the legal and cultural codification of ARTs has rather tended towards the reification of the nuclear family. The dominant narrative of lesbian and gay ART use also tends to leave normative gender structures and kinship arrangements in tact. In particular, the plots of these films and shows map perfectly atop long ingrained codifications of womxn’s bodies as passive sites awaiting medical intervention.


These are just fictional narratives, though, films showing fictional characters played by actors. They are just representations. Yet following STS insights into the role of acts of the imagination in patterning bioscientific value production, such representations might better be approached as a scientific text: a diagram of the various cycles of laboratory practice and expedition that accumulate to make the clinic infrastructure appear inevitable. Kaushik Sunder Rajan (2006), building on the work of Sarah Franklin and Margaret Lock (2003), argues that the biosciences are unique in the history of capitalist production because biotech firms are overwhelmingly engaged in promissory hype: marketing activities designed to fashion future investors, buyers and customers for their drugs and services. In the age of personalised medicine, where big-pharma meets genetic testing, the risk-preventation logic reigns and clinics and companies become occupied with fashioning consumers, what Rajan calls biocapital's ‘patients-in-waiting’. [29]

While Rajan focuses on the intersection of genomics and drug development, the author's explanation of how the creation of particular bio-products is tied to the fabrication of particular medicalised subjectivities –the patient-in-waiting– is relevent to the world of reproductive technologies too. For Melinda Cooper and Catherine Waldby (2014), who study the global business of stem cell research as it intersects with the assisted reproductive technology industry, the key phenomena is not the marketing activites of companies, but rather the experiences of the industry's most precarious workers. Their study sketches a political economy of what they call the experimental regenerative and reproductive 'bioeconomic labour' performed by the people who actually donate the living tissue needed for stem-cell research or the gametes needed for assisted reproduction procedures.[30] In the context of Spain, which provides over 40% of all eggs donated in Europe (a phenomenon that has been linked to the forms of precarious work emerging after the 2008 financial crisis) this approach to egg donation as risk-laden and poorly remunerated reproductive labour is key.


Following these STS perspectives, I might reframe my question as not ‘how are ARTs represented in fiction’ but how a fictional representation of ARTs is manufactured through many stages of scientific, cultural and political-economic inscription. In the age of pharmacogenomics, regenerative medicine and reproductive technologies, the gesture of waiting comes to embody not only the individual experience of waiting (to be pregnant, to have a child, to be cured etc.) but the many cycles of collective experimental labour that have accumulated over time to produce both the scientific know-how and the desire to consume a particular bio-product or reproductive technology. Following Cooper and Waldby’s study of bioeconomic reproductive labour, we might revise Rajan’s figure of the ‘patient-in-waiting’ as a particular kind of worker, whose queerness is, as these films suggest, quite well represented in Hollywood cinema and TV. Is waiting, which Wilding analysed in 1974 as a form of feminised labour, now, under biocapital, queer work too?


Might the repeated scene featuring a queer patient-in-waiting reflect the wider privatisation of queer life under capital? How does this reconcile with a context, such as France, where scarcity was imposed on queer biological reproduction through prohibiting LGBTQIA+ access to reproductive technologies? By excerpting the ‘waiting queer’ in the context of a French cultural institution, I intended to mobilise an ambivalence around queer use of ARTs and invest the gesture of waiting with a spectral double meaning. Firstly, the waiting queer points to the fabrication of the medicalised subjectivity of the patient-in-waiting under biocapital as discussed above. Secondly excerpting these images in the French institution could be seen to protest the pending status of LGBTQIA+ access to ARTs in France. A combined STS, Queer Marxist and Artistic Research practice promises this possibility of mobilising ambivalence as a way of knowing.


Networks of Care=Critique, a ceramic piece, was displayed opposite the audio work. The project began with a series of listening sessions: I would sit down with friends and people whose work I admire and we would discuss the forms of care –intellectual, emotional or physical– that have been important over our lifespan. They would then arrange the information on a genealogical-style diagram divided into decades or years and I would make a ceramic plaque of the diagram, which belonged to that person. The project provided a counter-inscription that imagines queer reproductive labour beyond the figure of biocapital's patient-in-waiting.

This need to consider forms of value production that are not only capitalist has been central to Queer Marxist scholarship. In Queer Value (2012), Meg Wesling studies drag work in the documentary film Mariposas en el Andamio (1996), concluding that two kinds of value are produced: firstly, as paid entertainment labour, drag work reproduces the wage and secondly, as self-actualising and gender critical work, it retains 'the possibility of contesting the alienation characteristic of the wage-labour system' producing 'queer value' underscored by experiences of 'comfort and desire'. [31] Queer Marxist scholars have paid close attention to both the forms of labour undertaken by LGBTQIA+ people historically, and, as Nat Raha writes, the 'forms of cultural production that materialise when queer and trans people work for capital and for eachother'. [32] Networks of Care=Critique approached the development of counter-inscriptions of queer reproductive work through remembering experiences of political implication and pleasure: the erotic gestures of reading, sex, party, protest, solitude and connection.

I presented the ceramic works as components in the 2019 exhibition and later talked about them in many different institutional or independent art spaces.[33]  The exercise was linked to the context of LGBTQIA+ daily life in Barcelona and I made the plaques with people I know well, who are active in transfeminist and antiracist organising, involved in queer parenting or who are artists.  Many collaborators remain anonymous, as do their ceramic plaques. As I amassed the plaques though I began to observe how their monumental aspirations contradicted the transient pleasures of the exercise itself, rooted in listening. Around this time I decided to write up the exercise as an open-source creative coding drawing software program, transforming the exercise into an accessible ‘general’ program, which means the logic of the project may be accessed, repeated and used by anyone, anywhere in the world.  The program was first exhibited in “The Love Ethic”, an exhibition of creative code projects that use p5.js, curated by Katie Chaan.


Networks of Care=Critique engages with the three lineages of gesture that I discussed earlier: it inscribes a memory of the different forms of bodily gestures involved in the maintenance of queer life; the project has a ‘plastic’ life of its own, unfolding across different registers, first as a conversation, then ceramic plaque, exhibition and piece of drawing software; finally, it affirms the epistemic character of the artistic gesture to the extent that at each stage the project sought to generate connections between participants, creating ‘a bridge between the sharers’. Following Audre Lorde, this ‘remembering what is shared’ also serves to build a critique of ‘what is not shared’: the ways that listening, reading, care, sexuality and memory become expropriated, privatized, devalued and commodified under capital.

[25] The collaborating archeobotanist was Jerome Ros, and this collaboration was a set condition of the residency, funded by Hangar Centre for Art and Technology.

[26] See: Paul Preciado, ‘Politically Assisted Procreation and State Heterosexualism’ South Atlantic Quarterly 115(2): pp. 405-410. (2016)

[27] See:

[28] See: Faith Wilding, Waiting (1974)

[29] Kaushik Sunder Rajan, Biocapital: The Constitution of Postgenomic Life, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006) p. 175

[30] Melinda Cooper and Catherine Waldby, Clinical Labor: Tissue Donors and Research Subjects in the Global Bioeconomy (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014), p. 115.

[31] Meg Wesling, 'Queer Value', GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies (Vol. 18 Nu.1) p. 122

[32] Natalia Raha, Queer Capital: Marxism in queer theory and post-1950 poetics. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex, (2019). p.8

[33]Including: “Carrying Histories” curated by Syowia Kyambe at Praksis Oslo; CADSR residency Merida, Mexico; as part of the talk: ‘Historia(as) de enfermedad y cuidados’,



These projects traffick the terms monument, ‘patrimony of gestures’ and ‘inscription’ throughout not to parody the authority of the field of historical memory and social sciences, but to draw out the theoretical potential of plastic practices of inscription, and to deepen the reach of the STS theory of inscription for addressing the material politics of memory beyond the laboratory. Linking the embodied gesture to inscription enables one to emphasise, on one hand, the body politics of the inscription, and on the other hand, the knowledge politics of the embodied gesture.The artistic gesture as a method connects accross the theoretical, the plastic and the epistemic and affirms the ways of knowing of those who participate as creators, audience members or collaborators. Grounded by a feminist, queer and decolonial critique of both the politics of the body and method, the artistic gesture is one way of researching reproductive politics against the knowledge economy, of course not the only one.


By combining Queer Marxist, STS and Artistic Research insights, it is possible to consider how bio-scientific knowledge inscribes beyond the lab or clinic setting, informing hierarchies of value and visibility that fix capacities or parts of the human body to particular tasks of biological and social reproduction. Such processes of inscription are particularly discernable when responding to specific cultural productions or in specific institutional settings, where the researcher is responsible for gesturing otherwise.




Thank you to all those who worked on Monument to Networks of Mutual Aid and Networks of Care=Critique. Thank you also to the two anonymous reviewers of this article for their ample comments and generous corrections.


Gesture has multiple theoretical and artistic lineages. The first lineage stems from theoretical traditions that have considered how patterns of bodily movement relate to structures of power across work, communication and politics. I highlight in particular social reproduction feminism’s attention to the assignment of particular gestures –‘cooking, smiling, fucking’– to womxn so that their unpaid and domesticated ‘feminine work’ is easier to ‘extract.’[3] Key also is Black Feminist scholarship, which has pointed out how the gestures associated with domestic labour do not always mean the same thing when one takes into account the history of the racialization of work. The work of Patricia Hill Collins elucidates how many Marxist feminist theories of reproductive labour fail to explain, and indeed invisibilise, Black women’s working experiences, which include the long history of undertaking paid domestic work as well as the unpaid work that Black women do to care for family life. Unpaid domestic labour, Hill Collins argues, might also be understood as a site of ‘creativity and resistance’. [4] Also key are Queer Theory conceptualisations of gender as ‘performative’ and the idea that all genders require repetitive daily ‘corporeal enactments’.[5] Queer Marxism deepens this insight, with Kevin Floyd discussing 'historically specific regimes of sexual knowledge' that have 'complex social effects' including the ‘policing of intimacy’ in public space; the demands that performing masculinity and femininity make on the body, Floyd notes, are linked to particular historical and material transformations in production and consumption.[6]  This theoretical lineage of gesture reminds us that the body always moves in relation to regimes of scientific and popular knowledge about biological or sexual difference and that this knowledge is always in dispute, at the level of the everyday.


The second lineage of gesture is the plastic. The plasticity of the gesture becomes evident when daily bodily gestures are displaced – performed, repeated, intervened, exaggerated, modified­ ­– in the context of contemporary dance, performance and new media art practices. Think of the repetition of the gesture of walking in Lucinda Childs’ 1979 work Dance; Lorraine O’Grady crashing a New York art gallery in 1980 wearing a white gown and cracking a whip shouting ‘No more boot-licking! No more ass-kissing! No more buttering-up! No more posturing of super-assimilates! BLACK ART MUST TAKE MORE RISKS!!!’ (it was the artist’s guerrilla performance work Mlle Bourgeoise Noire)[7]; Pipilotti Rist walking down the street in a blue gown holding a baseball bat and turning suddenly to smash a car in the video work Ever Is Over All (1997); the U.S Black and Latinx gay, trans and queer community’s critical citation of the gestures of white upper class femininity in the house-ballroom scene performances of 1980s; Pedro Lemebel and Francisco Casas naked atop a mare in their performative protest against censorship titled Refundación de la Universidad de Chile (1988); Lesbian artist Sharon Hayes reading a pledge to be the next U.S president at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Revolutionary Love 2: I am Your Best Fantasy; Shu Lea Chang’s 1994 work Brandon, which, in remembrance of a murdered trans person, created a system of interfaces that celebrate trans life and memory online. The list continues and these examples are insufficient but they suggest the long tradition of research into the plasticity of the embodied gesture across dance, performance, video and new media art.

The plastic dimension of the gesture also implies that any particular artistic project might unfold and create meaning across different spaces and in different forms (here as a performance, there as a text; here as a paper, there as a video etc.). The plastic gesture is a rebel object that ‘changes its ontological and epistemological nature depending on the research context, and therefor can be used for tracing and questioning disciplinary boundaries.'[8] In the words of Spanish dance and performance artist La Ribot: ‘the artistic gesture highlights the live dimension that underlies the production of a work, be it material, audio-visual, conceptual or performative’.[9] The ‘liveness’ –also as in the sense of ‘having a life of its own’– is what potentially activates collective research processes as the work becomes a communal object of study.


The third lineage of gesture –the epistemic­­– can be found in the work of theorists, poets and artists who have considered how bodily gestures express feelings –of pleasure, fear, delight, exhaustion etc.– and how these expressions connect people. Audre Lorde’s 1978 essay The Uses of the Erotic: the Erotic as Power offers a way of thinking about the knowledge politics of the gesture. In the essay Audre Lorde defines the erotic in contrast to a patriarchal style of pornography and ‘the European-American tradition’ where the necessity to feel the erotic ‘is satisfied with certain proscribed erotic comings together’ such as ‘religion, a fit, mob violence and even playing doctor’.[10]Audre Lorde develops a theory of ‘erotic connection’ where the erotic is defined as the experience of ‘sharing deeply any pursuit with another person […]’. The erotic may include, but is not exhausted by, an image or visualisation of sexual pleasure. Rather, the erotic connection is a ‘charge’, a kind of transmission and is rooted in the experience of ‘women-identified-women.’[11]For Audre Lorde, this ‘sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers’ [emphasis added] which in turn provides ‘a basis for understanding what is not shared between them’.[12] [emphasis added]


Audre Lorde's explicit mentioning of the notion of the commons –‘what is shared and not shared’– suggests the kinds of links that could exist between research practices rooted in gesture and practices of commoning. The link has been noted by other commentators on artistic research practices.[13] One could also say with Finnish philosopher Esa Kirkkopelto that ‘artworks are examples of the artistic nature of our reality, a crystallisation or special case of the artistic phenomenality that is common to all […] Artists are not above us, they are guiding us to know what is common to us all’.[14]  For Audre Lorde the erotic connects people in a shared pursuit, which in turn generates an erotic knowledge that empowers because it is based in what is common to them. This knowing is felt. That is, it is a non-linguistic or gestural knowing, and in that sense also speculative for it points towards how things could or should be: ‘that deep and irreplaceable knowledge of my capacity for joy comes to demand from all of my life that it be lived with the knowledge that such satisfaction is possible’.[15]


The combined theoretical, plastic and epistemic dimensions of the artistic gesture might be elaborated on through an analogy with the ‘inscription’, as defined by the field of science and technology studies (STS).[16] An inscription refers to both the representative quality of say a map or a diagram as well as the accumulated cycles of laboratory experiment and expedition that produced it. To what extent might the artwork and inscription be considered the same kind of unit that both express and participate in a wider reproductive politics? To what extent can the boundaries of the laboratory be considered spatial in the age of global biocapital? Are the accumulated cycles of experiment and expedition named in early STS theories of inscription another way to talk about the material politics of memory in the city? What kind of inscription is the experimental artwork-monument?


Transporting the terms ‘gesture’ and ‘inscription’ back and forth across art, social science and the field of historical memory opens a space of self-reflexivity and inter-disciplinarity regarding what these practices of knowing share, or do not share, especially in relation to what is known and how this knowledge is formulated. Linda Tuhiwai Smith (1999) defines decolonial research as enacting ‘ways of knowing’ that ‘mix existing methodological approaches and indigenous practices’. The author writes that ‘within an indigenous framework, methodological debates are ones concerned with the broader politics and strategic goals of indigenous research’.[17] Whether one is a social scientist, artist or activist, in the context of the neo-colonial knowledge economy one shares a responsibility to mobilise the academic disciplines against the colonial disciplining of the body. How can the researcher fabricate inscriptions that serve not the knowledge economy but a memory of the commons? [18]



During the listening sessions we discussed the goal of the project: to remember and affirm our respective networks of support during pandemic. Different collaborators at different times questioned the politics of commemoration. Linaxa said,

‘More monuments: no. I do not agree with rebuilding this Western narrative [...] I agree that the monuments belonging to this obviously Western and colonial narrative need to be knocked down, but I do not agree with rebuilding that narrative because it would be to fall back into that same meaning structure, because there is not a single thing that represents a people [...] for me it would have to be something else, manifestations expressed in the live arts or interventions in public space.’ [my translation from the spanish as all quotes below]

Landry said, ‘I want a monument that protects my rights’. Aminah said , ‘one whose doors are always open’. Nicky said,

‘I would put a chain around my foot whilst dragging a mop, this would be a monument of recognition for me, because that is what we have here, slavery, they don't give us papers, they don't give us anything and we are not valued.’

Samuel said, ‘it couldn't be a single monument, we have to start there, because a single monument is easy to ignore.’ Carina said ‘Just don’t forget about us, nothing more, and nothing less. Everything is equal’. Wenda said,

‘for me it would be a space where we can sing, where you can always sing, where anyone from any nation can sing, where we can have our meals, our cultures, get ahead […] a monument for me would be a place where we can be, all of the cultures of Barcelona sharing without any political protagonisms, simply that everything flows and that the energy there would be one of sharing.’

In addition to recording the experiences of care work, the audio of the final installation shared these criticisms of the colonial history of the monument with listeners.


This question connects to a wider issue around the ethical responsibility of public memory-making practices: any act of commemoration also runs the risk of inscribing a dominant historical narrative. In the context of the crisis in care this is key: how to document and celebrate the gestures of mutual aid, marginalised within public memory, without naturalising the assignment of the very activities of crisis management and care to the same gendered and racialised collectives? In other words, instead of inscribing a dissident gesture, such an exercise in monument building might simply reinscribe the same dynamics of invisibility and visibility that structure the racialising and gendering of care work.


With the link between art, commemoration and experience of political organising in mind, I began revising examples of Russian constructivist ceramics. Russian constructivism has long been a point of departure for discussions on the intersections of art and politics.[21]We find in this period many examples of the use of art to document and celebrate collective lived experiences of labour and resistance.

Much of the ceramics associated with the early Soviet Union emerged from what had once been the Imperial Porcelain Factory in the outskirts of Petrograd (today Saint Petersburg), renamed the State Porcelain Factory when it was taken over by the Bolsheviks. There, a large number of unpainted white hard-paste porcelain plates, cups and saucers were found and almost immediately after the October Revolution in 1917, artists began appropriating these materials, inscribing the found objects as tiny monuments. Sergei Chekhonin’s Signature Platter (1918) is a good example: a domestic serving plate has been decorated with the dates and slogans of the revolution.


Tatlin's Monument to the Third International (1919-1920) has been a point of departure for artists rethinking the discourse of the monument. Reviewing Tatlin’s work of around that time, I came across his Child's Nursing Vessel (1928), which resonates with the present discussion of gesture, reproductive work, historical memory and the commons too. [22]The piece was a breast feeding tool developed at the ceramics studio of the VKhUTEIN technical school around 1928, whose organic form stands out from other constructivist ceramics that tended to feature Euclidean geometric forms. Tatlin writes: ‘I want to make a machine from art not machinic art’, in his 1932 essay Art into Technology [23].His nursing pot is just such an ‘art machine’, designed to assist, if not replace, the repetitive labour of breast-feeding, perhaps in order to free up some time for other forms of work – the work of the revolution.


Chekhonin’s platter and Tatlin’s nursing vessel offer two distinct strategies for generating a memory of labour and resistance experiences. Are these gestures dissident or do they reproduce a dominant politics of the body, fixing the same aspects, capacities and parts of the human body to particular tasks of biological and social reproduction? Chekhonin, in transforming a domestic object into a monument, brings the revolution home, yet this overcoming seems to also conserve the spatial distinctions between the domestic and political; home and factory. Tatlin’s nursing vessel, on the other hand, is not a monument, but it does remember the body in a particular way. While it imagines an alternative distribution of reproductive labour time, the vessel as an instrument also conserves an epistemology of sexual knowledge about the body through the gendered lens of reproductive function. 

This derivation on Russian Constructivist ceramics helped in the development of the project, as it helps now, to consciously process the long history of artistic interest in remembering the work of political resistance. Inspired by the work of Patricia Hill Collins discussed above, which offers an understanding of resistance that goes beyond the Eurocentric and macho imagery of heroic revolution, Monument to Networks of Mutual Aid sought to commemorate the revolutionary aspect of everyday care work during the pandemic. How to artistically displace these gestures of the revolution in a way that generates erotic connections in the present? [24]How to inscribe a memory of the gestures of care work that does not repeat but transform the disciplinary politics of the body?


The collaborators of this project shared their readings of the political management of the crisis in addition to recounting personal experiences of pandemic. The resulting testimonies show how reproductive and care work include moments of great affection and community, and other extremely difficult moments, marked by tremendous loneliness. The interviews sought to emphasise how the most everyday of gestures are central to any political organisation. While there is a power dynamic in any documentary project like this, for example, that determines who speaks and who listens, extending this gesture in installation form modified this relationship, as the collaborators were also able to rehearse the position of the listener, which is something that occurred when we visited the exhibition together for the first time at its opening. For those new listeners who visited the exhibition who did not personally know the speakers or the organizations and collectives they spoke on behalf of, I noticed the way people leaned towards the amplifiers, bending their bodies to listen or sitting to hear the whole piece. The Monument was an experiment in affirming listening as a political and plastic practice.



No creo en ningún monumento.

('I don't believe in monuments')

Ceramic piece inscribed with

political critique, slogans

and poetry, 2020.

Image courtesy the author.


Monument to Networks of Mutual Aid (2020)[19] was a sound and ceramics installation that weaves a critical narrative of mutual aid against the extractive and disciplinary mechanisms of state and privatised politics of care. COVID19 intensified a crisis in care that many have experienced for years. The disinvestment in and privatisation of care has meant that sustaining societies various configurations of family and community have increasingly fallen to the individual. In response to inadequate government solutions to the pandemic, many feminist, antiracist, migrant and religious communities self-organised. This was the context in which I initiated a series of interviews, centering the experience of antiracist collectives and religious associations, largely migrant run, based in Barcelona who were implicated in the distribution of food, the production of masks and other tasks of support associated with care work during the early days of the pandemic. The process was carried out during September and November 2020, with the collaboration of Columbian artist Violeta Ospina and presented as part of “Dissenting History” – a series of talks, conferences and workshops around migrant and decolonial memory which I co-curated with Anyely Marin Cisneros, at the Born Centro Cultura i Memoria (the Born CCM) in Barcelona.


The installation shared fragments of the interviews, together with poems, slogans and spiritual texts chosen by the collaborators and read in Romanian, Arabic, Spanish and Catalan. The collaborators included Aurel Bunda and Antonia, from La Parroquia ortodoxa rumana Sant Jordi; Samuel Cespedes, Carina Ramirez Castro and Nicky Susana Justavino Cedeno, from Sindillar Sindihogar; Linaxa, Wenda Trejo y Baro Aboubacar Landry, from la Red de Cuidados Antirracistas; Aly Saad, from the Centro Cultural lslamico Catalan; Aminah Akram and Hafsah lmaan Shabbir, from Minhaj-ul-Quran (Foro Minhaj Dialogo). As this project involved working with people and circulating audio-recordings of their words, the project’s production process followed a series of self-assessed and formal ethical guidelines.[20]


The installation itself consisted of a two-channel audio that sounded around directional speakers arranged in a circle. In the middle of these I placed a series of ceramic pieces –pots, plates, cups– which I fabricated already broken down the middle. Over the break I inscribed a word, poem, slogan or spiritual text, shared by the collaborators during the interviews. 


Just in front of the installation site lies another exhibition of broken ceramic objects: the Born CCM is an archaeological site with a permanent exhibition of materials spanning the Roman period up to the 18th century. The ceramic material in the permanent display are mostly kitchen and storage vessels: plates, earthenware bowls, pans, lids, pitchers, jugs, clay pots, casserole dishes, oil dispensers, jars and mortars. Apart from the gleam of cobalt-blue of the Barcelona blue ceramics period of the 15th century, most of the pieces are dulled by time. The bright colours of the broken ceramics in Monument was intended to signal a rupture in the present, a crisis in care that the “Dissenting History” sessions explored through linking the critiques of the coloniality of memory in Barcelona to migrant struggles over the organisation of labour, citizenship and belonging in the city in the present.

A Combined STS, Queer Marxist and Artistic Research Approach to the Study of Reproductive Politics

ان استطعت ان تساعد شخصاً واحداً، فقد ساعدت العالم بأكمله

'Giving life to one person is like giving life to everyone'
Ceramic piece inscribed with political critique, slogans and poetry, 2020.

Image courtesy the author.

Network of care=critique (III) (2019).

Image courtesy the author.

Networks of Care=Critique (I-IV) (2018-2021).

Image courtesy the author.


Speaking to
the media

Monument to Networks of Mutual-Aid (2020).

Installation view, Born CCM.

Click above to hear the audio.

Image courtesy the author.



Screen grabs from various films and shows featuring the use of reproductive technologies (Test Tube Baby (1948); She Hate Me (2004); If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000); L Word (2004); Chutney Popcorn (1999); Seeking Dolly Parton (2015)).

Image courtesy the author.

The Assisted Reproduction of the Voice, Installation display,

Casa Velazquez, 2019. Click to listen.

[19] The term ‘Mutual Aid’ used in the project’s title was first coined by the anarchist philosopher Peter Kropotkin in his essay collection Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution (1902), which argued that cooperation, not competition, is the driving force of evolution. The term ‘mutual aid’ (‘apoyo mutuo’ in Spanish) has since been used by many anarchist, feminist and antiracist groups who seek to establish forms of cooperation and support that oppose patronizing or patriarchal logics. As Dean Spade writes in Mutual Aid: Building Solidarity During This Crisis (and the Next) (2020) it’s about ‘solidarity not charity’.

[20] As this artistic intervention involved the particpation of many people, I committed to a number of ethical principals, some of which are formalised in the European Union grant research guidelines for self-assessment (v.6.1, 2019). These include establishing verbal agreements with participants regarding the circulation of their words in an exhibition, community radio, press and research publications, as well as the possible future archiving of the interviews in municipal or self-organised collections. The conditions of informed consent were upheld, and people’s right to withdraw at anytime during the interviews was affirmed. The curatorial team, of which I formed a part, were responsible for making further ethical decisions. These included the decision to work with collectives and associations, and not individuals, because of the tacit knowledge and experience that forming part of a collective assumes with regards to local political cultures and the risks involved in intervening in public space. We considered that this experience of organising potentially prepared and protected participants more than if they were acting or speaking as individuals. The individual representatives of the collectives were paid an hourly rate of 100 euros, reflecting an ethical obligation to value the work of memory-making not only symbolically but also materially. A modest monetary contribution was also made to the activist’s collective funds. The project's budget was provided by Barcelona City Council.

[21] See: Marcelo Expósito, Walter Benjamin, productivista, (Bilbao: Consonni, 2013).

[22] My approach to the discourse of the monument as a space for artistic intervention is indebted to the artist Alia Farid, who has created many experimental participatory monuments and who told me about the influence of the Monument to the Third International (1918) on her practice. For a commentary on her work, see: Rebecca Close,'The Problem with Display: In the right context, artist museums are telling new histories', ArtAsiaPacific magazine – Issue 77 – Mar/ Apr. (2012).

[23] Vladimir Tatlin, “Iskusstvo V Texniku,” in Vystavka Rabot Zasluzhennogo Deiatelia Iskusstv V. E Tatlina (Moscow-Leningrad: Ogiz-Izogis, 1932). Quoted In Christina Lodder, Russian Constructivism, (New Haven And London: Yale University Press, 1983).

[24] The link between the plastic extensions and the erotic connections that I develop here is also influenced by the thought of the Portuguese-Colombian artist Mariana Portela Echeverri who reads Rebecca Horn's sculptures as ‘erotic extensions of the body, extending and “reaching out” to connect in new ways’ (paraphrased from the course ‘Eroticism and the exaltation of the Real' at CrisiCoop, taught by Echeverri in Barcelona, 2021).

Sergei Chekhonin, Signature Platter, 1918-23

Image courtesy Nina Lobanov-Rostovsky.

Monument to Networks of Mutual Aid.
Installation view Born CCM, Barcelona, 2020.

Image courtesy the author.

Documentation of Faith Wilding's 1974 performance Waiting.

Image courtesy the artist.

[3]Silvia Federici, Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle. (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2012) p.19. See also: Lise Vogel, Marxism and the oppression of women: towards a unitary theory (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1983)

[4]Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought. New York and London: Routledge, 1991.p.44

[5]Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (New York: Routledge, 1993) p.232

[6]Kevin Floyd, The Reification of Desire: Towards a Queer Marxism. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009).p.25

[7]Documentation of the performance was recently exhibited in the exhibition “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85” held at the Brooklyn Art Museum between April 21, 2017 and September 17, 2017.

[8] Esa Kirkkopelto, ‘From Quasi-Objects to Artistic Components’ in eds. Henk Borgdorff, Peter Peters and Trevor Pinch, Science Studies and Artistic Research, Dialogues Between Artistic Research and Science and Technology Studies, (New York, NY: Routeledge, 2020) p.36.

[9] La Ribot, ‘Gestures and Variation’ in Internacionale (forthcoming).

[10] Audre Lorde,Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power’ in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde (New York: Crossing Press, 1984, 2007), p.59

[11] Ibid, p.53

[12] Ibid, p.56

[13] Anette Baldauf el al. (ed.) Spaces of Commoning: Artistic Research and the Utopia of the Everyday (Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2016).

[14] Esa Kirkkopelto, ‘ART X ART, From Phenomena to works and back again’, Talk at International Center for Knowledge in the Arts, 2021.

[15] Audre Lorde,Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power’ in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde (New York: Crossing Press, 1984, 2007), p.57.

[16] On the origin of the term ‘inscription’ in STS, see: Bruno Latour, Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987).

[17] Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonising Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, (London: Zed Books, 1999, 2012).

[18] The concept of the commons has been taken up by multiple theorists and practitioners in relation to struggles over land, education, communication and resources. This is the meaning I refer to here, which connects naturally to feminist, queer and decolonial theories and practices, particularly Audre Lorde’s theory of the erotic as it generates critical reflections and knowing of ‘what is shared and not shared’ (see footnote 14). For Marxist and Marxist feminist histories of the English common law concept of ‘the commons’ see: Peter Linebaugh ‘The Magna Carta Manifesto’, in The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008); Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch: Women, The Body, and Primitive Accumulation. (United Kingdom: Autonomedia, 2004). For a practice-based study of the commons as a method in contemporary art, see Emma Balkins, Estovers: Practice based research on the concept of the commons within contemporary art (2018), PhD Thesis Glasgow School of Art.

'Nadie se queda atrás es cinismo'

('Nobody gets left behind is cynicism').

Ceramic piece inscribed with political critique,

slogans and poetry, 2020.
Image courtesy the author.

Networks of Care=Critique Drawing Software (2021) Screen recording of online exhibition of creative code projects "The Love Ethic" at

Speaking to
a class

Network of care=critique (III) (2019), detail. 

Image courtesy the author.

Images (top left to bottom right): Dance (1979), Lucinda Childs; Mlle Bourgeoise Noire (1980), Lorraine Grady; Revolutionary Love (2008), Sharon Hayes; Refundación de la Universidad de Chile (1988), Pedro Lemebel and Francisco Casas; Ever is Over All (1997), Pipilotti Rist; Brandon (1994), Shu Lea Chang.

Image courtesy the artists.


Speaking to
a parent

Vladimir Tatlin, Child’s Nursing Vessel, 1928-9.

Image courtesy the artist and Christina Lodder.

to a

El Born CCM permanent display.

Image courtesy Born CCM.

Networks of Care=Critique,Installation display,

Casa Velazquez, 2019. Image courtesy the author.

Monument to Networks of Mutual Aid.
Installation view Born CCM, Barcelona, 2020.

Image courtesy the author.

'El sindicato se volvió familia'

('The union became a family').

Ceramic piece inscribed with political critique,
slogans and poetry, 2020.

Image courtesy the author.