Toward Sympoietic Systems for Film Circulation

As a followup to Think Well #01 (hosted by Wekalet Behna, Egypt) and Think Well #02 (hosted by AVEC – L'Association de Volontariats, Échange Culturel et Action des Jeunes, Tunisia), we are pleased to organise the third edition of the Think Well series in collaboration with NAAS – Network of Arab Alternative Screens and the United Screens Network. 

We continue to take cue from reflections on film cultures powered by community practices. Over three days film practitioners and system thinkers will come together to imagine tools, methodologies, value metrics and network logics for the circulation of alternative cinema and video art. Flutgraben will be our playground to experiment with simulated scenarios, marked with rich discussions, and moments of collective decision making. Think Well 3.0 takes on an immersive game format to help us address issues common and urgent to all of us, and weighs on our collective intelligence and imaginaries to mandate – hand-in-hand – conditions, and technologies for a better film ecosystem of the future. 


Toward Sympoietic Systems For Film Circulation

Sympoiesis: a simple word; it means “making-with.” Nothing makes itself; nothing is really autopoietic or self-organizing … Sympoiesis is a word proper to complex, dynamic, responsive, situated, historical systems. It is a word for worlding-with, in company. Sympoiesis enfolds autopoiesis and generatively unfurls and extends it.

Donna Haraway. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene [1]

International film dissemination is in trouble. The system and its flows are disturbed, out of sync. While a multitude of stories and imaginaries are produced, remixed and brought to life, bringing a pluriverse of perspectives, ideas and worlds to the fore, their international and local circulation is clogged, blocked by a few centralised gatekeepers who have consolidated their power. This condition is far from novel. Since the 1960s, filmmakers, scholars and cinema practitioners from across the South/ Tropics have adequately critiqued the colonial, Western-centric film distribution and exhibition system. And they have found a multitude of collective responses, resistances and subversions. We take cue from their thoughts and the many offspring and subverted practices that have since manifested in film cultures across different geographies. Rather than working toward a universal system, we believe in a pluriverse of systems. 

In her seminal work, Donna Haraway argues that biological, philosophical and social systems exist and sustain by "making-with" other systems, instead of the understanding that systems are self-producing or autopoietic. In fact, for her the idea of individual and independent units plus contexts/rules no longer holds. Neoliberal individualism is not good enough. "Sympoiesis is the game in spades.” [2]

How can we think of film circulation as an ecosystem that is more than the sum of its parts? The urgency of this question has been accelerated by challenges of our time which have exposed the limitations of centralised systems. New decentralised infrastructures for cinema and video art circulation should be independent of state and capital based regulations – instead conceived, designed, developed, prototyped and implemented collectively by community cinema practitioners. Inspired by French-Caribbean writer and philosopher Éduard Glissant, relationality and its poetics in all its senses are the key to transforming and reshaping realities. [3]

To this end, we feel the need to collectively unpack the technologies and protocols that can facilitate the organisation of such systems. What can methodologies of new internet and digital technologies praised as revolutionary tools, offer when stripped down to the essences of their mechanisms? How can we hack and appropriate these technologies and dissemination systems to act in our favor? How can networks act as technologies of solidarity? And what role does the performance of spaciality play within it?

This third edition of the Think Well series will manifest in Berlin as a collaboration between SAVVY Contemporary and the Network of Arab Alternative Screens – NAAS. We aim to explore the nuances of collective practices that enable the creation, sustenance and preservation of cinema cultures, especially the ones that exist on the margins of the dominant cinema industry. With the "players" and "disruptors" we have invited to be part of this symposium, we would like to ruminate on the shape of the ecosystem emerging from the coalescence of collectivity and collective practice(s). Together we hope to renegotiate network bonds with the principles of value sovereignty, care work, practices of commons toward emergent ecosystems for interdependent film and video art. 

Think Well 3.0: Toward Sympoietic Systems for Film Circulation will take the form of a game. We understand the hegemonic capitalist financial system – or any other social systems -  as games with a set of rules, participants, logic, storylines, and goals. Thus, in order to subvert the dominant order of the system, we propose to play out a speculative imaginary of value, economics, decision making practices, socialities, infrastructures etc. Together with the Network of Arab Alternative Screens – NAAS and Economic Space Agency/ XORG we are bringing together cinephile networks from different parts of the world for a game simulation over three days.

For the love of film! 


Donna J. Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016).


ibid, 33.


Édouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation (Michigan, USA: University of Michigan Press, 1997).