– A Prelude

Dear friends, family, comrades and allies,

in the past weeks, we took a long pause from the online world, and in solidarity we listened. On May 1st, International Workers’ Day, we convene, reappearing in an online square for assembling and invoking. We do so in order to honor work and labour, as we have been doing for the past years. 

This convening is a prelude to a layered project including seminars, workshops, and public programs that was going to culminate in an exhibition opening in June and that will instead manifest by the end of this Summer. The project is a timely reflection on production and consumption, inspired by the children’s book Die Kleine Raupe Nimmersatt (The Very Hungry Caterpillar). Things have changed like things change. And we invite you to a prelude of a project shifting forms in growing, caterpillar-like. 

This Friday, we begin by listening to children recount the story of the Kleine Raupe Nimmersatt, a tale born in the U.S. of the post-"Affluent Society" of 1969, which grew in time throughout Western societies, translated into over 40 languages. The tale rings of the core result of neoliberal promises at the peak of their crisis. It also reminds us of the way out: when the caterpillar listens to the warning and stops eating, it eventually flies. 

In our conversations, we will focus on one of the professions that have always been under great threat across times and geographies, a type of work and labour that is so fundamental it turns invisible – one that stays exploited, un-recognized, unprotected, uncelebrated, threatened and rendered more vulnerable than it is by society’s indifference: seasonal labour which migrants are forced to and put into, in the agro-business in particular, and within the entanglement of economies that make it possible. Activists, organizers and workers directly engaged in the field will be sharing with us their experiences.

With this convening, SAVVY Contemporary launches its research, artistic and discursive project RAUPENIMMERSATTISM. The Affluent Society as Consumed Society or the Myth of Endless Production and Consumption: a project to feel the pulse of affluent and growth societies in their contemporary condition, with a focus on our context of Berlin and Germany. 

The project was initiated in 2019 with the aim of understanding the machinations, technologies, and cultures that allow for a rich society, wherein production and consumption are ever rising, to exist alongside people in the so-called middle of the society, who live in fear of imminent poverty – while some feed from the trash cans of the city and others sleep on the pavements without a roof over their heads. Today, these thoughts have gained an unprecedented significance. As Covid-19 spreads around the world and the markets crash, more than ever the pitfalls of the capitalist economy are under the spotlight of even mainstream media. 

The outbreak and spread of the virus have further exposed to us the structural gaps in the system of the world we are living in. If we borrow Fanon’s description of the colonised world of his time and extrapolate it to the neo-colonised world of our time, we see the violence embedded in this system and can also see the perpetrators, beneficiaries and the sufferers of this violence. Through this global pandemic it has become even more evident that the crisis is an issue of class, gender, race, and various marginalizations.

Investigating the ambivalent and shifting roles of value in consumerist and postindustrial societies, as well as in post-plantation and postcolonial societies that have freely adopted the crux of the neoliberal consumption, we question the accelerationist, capitalist, and financialised Western world – and crucially, seek to understand what it would mean to invert its logic of increase.

If in the 1930’s, the economic crisis (Great Depression) created a fertile ground for the installment of fascist governments in Europe, in the second decade of the 21st century (Great Recession) the economic struggles for neoliberal sovereignty have been assisting the rise of the far right. Austerity policies have crafted the grounds for discriminatory social welfare Darwinism and national economic policies (“America First”, Prima Gli Italiani, etc). And again, a primacy of economic support has been coupled to nationalist logics; pairing growth and nation. The ranks of the European far right did not come anymore from the underprivileged and marginalised but from the middle class, the group most threatened by the aftermaths of the financial crisis. The consequences of that global financial burst are still affecting our societies, where extremes of wealth and poverty have been fuelling plutocracy and “oligarchic domination” with dangerous forms of populism.

How do we reconcile, day by day, with these discrepancies? How do we address vulnerable positions? And how do we address the current state of affairs with generations to come?

M. is a seasonal agricultural worker at the migrant farms of San Ferdinando in the Gioia Tauro plain who will participate anonymously in the conversation.

Beatrice Gakubais the director of the African Women Agribusiness Network (AWAN)

Siraj Izhar is a London based social activist & artist. Recent writings include articles in the New Left Project (on the riots of 2011), Occupied Times of London, Low Impact, the Hermeneutic Circular (on activism and RD Laing). He blogs occasionally at amplife​.org.

Nadia Lucisano is a photographer, activist and community organizer from Piana di Gioia Tauro (Calabria)

Emilia Roigis the Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Intersectional Justice (CIJ), a Berlin-based organization combatting intersecting forms of inequality and discrimination in Europe.

Bouba Touré is a photographer and a filmmaker. He was a migrant worker when he arrived in France in 1965, working from 1969 as a projectionist, and finally as a photographer. Since the 1970s, he has been documenting the lives and struggles of migrant workers’ movements, as well as the foundation of the agricultural Cooperative of Somankidi Coura in Mali.