‘Vulture’ offers a different shape of hope: hope not in solutions or saviours but in the smell of soil, the migration of birds, and the intense beauty of seeing each other dance at the edge of things.


Vulture is an on and off-line experiential co-inquiry into the textures of our troubled times. This course is a 90 day journey of intimate inquiry and intentional uncertainty and an attempt to ‘skill up’ in matters of love, grief and listening to the other/wise. This is a call to turn and face the inescapable themes of breakdown and demise that now confront us, and to listen for what might be wanting to emerge. It is a call to meet a world wilder than our plots of survival, more complex than our algorithms, and more surprising and flirtatious than we can imagine. This is action research, grief tending, ritual making and possibility. A simultaneously fierce and tender approach to knowing what it means to be human today and embracing the possibility that we might not be at the centre of things after all.

An Introduction

Here in the Anthropocene the age of mastery is dying. It has become increasingly hard for people to ignore that we are moving through cultural, social and ecological crisis. Physical and environmental science studies show that our planet is now in overshoot-and-collapse as we grapple with intensifying climate change, rapid depletion of top soils, ocean acidification, growing wealth inequality, increasingly corrupted media, and exponential technologies like artificial intelligence and bioengineering. Political leaders, corporate CEOs, and a significant part of the population seem oblivious to the ways industrial growth generates extreme social inequality, racial injustice, planetary-scale collapse, and great mental suffering and a profound sense of powerlessness. Through all of this, we are told to trust that the future will be better – and that it will be self-defeating to entertain feelings of hopelessness. We are encouraged to notice the brilliance of our technologies and the confidence of our epistemologies in the stern face of an increasingly irregular planet.

However, our confidence has met something greater. Our older road-maps no longer work, and the terrain does not respond to our steps like before. Everything has changed. The monster that now stands before us will not be circumvented. We cannot escape. Many of us already sense this. We sense that radically different modes of engagement are needed to richly respond to these existential, spiritual, political and civilizational crisis that haunts us. We sense that we often reproduce our problems in an effort to solve them.

Our thesis is that when we slow down, we notice the world differently: we develop new capabilities and response-abilities that might help wiser bodies/systems to emerge. We re-member our intradependence. This course is based on the idea that how we got in to this mess was an ignoring of understandings and necessities held elsewhere, and that perhaps we and these places of the other/wise are longing for each other.

In a courtship we lean in to each other, we write love letters, flirt, compliment. We surrender to something greater than us as the gods of love step in. At times we weep and wail, plead and prostrate ourselves to our beloved. At times we are our most beautiful and generous selves, made more by this. We are intrigued by each other and we open to intimacy. It takes courage, presence, humility, awkwardness and poetry to court the other-wise.

It’s time to court the other/wise…

The narratives and habits that dominate the modern globalized and colonized world keep our abundant and wilder romantic and erotic natures in check. So many parts of ourselves and our more-than-human kin are deemed unsuitable suitors. As such, our falling in love has been limited. In that loss, we have also been impoverished by limited ways of knowing and being. Here we hope to surrender to an innate pulsing love for life – including death. Not some fairy-tale version but the kind that is messy, surprising and revelatory. This involves learning new skills in good company.

As the habitual patterns of change, agency and activism look for conclusions and try to fix things, we want our brokenness, our crushes and our sensuality to lead the way. We want to have animatedly intimate conversations with our rivers and local landfill sites, and to flirt outrageously with the wind and the mosses growing in city walls.

We need new ways of knowing and being with the world. Our attempts at leadership, change and activism, while well intended, are too embedded in the very systemic oppressions we wish to liberate each other from . We need spaces to listen in for what might be wanting to emerge if only we had the courage to slow down in urgent times.

About the Course

The Modules
You will be asked to surrender things you know and to sweep up tenderly things we avoid
You will be invited in to awkwardness and possibilities of kinship
You will be tasked with small actions and inactions, research and undoings.
You will be asked to break stuff and make stuff…
You will be asked to bring the whole of you in service to love.

Landing Together

Module 1

Welcome! It is time to arrive well, meet each other, and find out how to be together as we embark on a shared journey outside the map and into the terrain of an alien world that confronts our exhausted patterns and ideas about justice and change. We’ll talk of courtship, culture and a wilder kind of research. We’ll find shared understandings of what we’re facing in to.
As a start to our journey together we’ll ask: How do we build healthy group culture? How do we practice making kin? What really interests us when we don’t know how to do this? We’ll look for love together.

Leaning in to the Trouble

Module 2

Grief infuses our streets, our flesh, our conversations and yet remains taboo. When we allow ourselves to be broken by it we are re-configured. This module is about memory and loss, climate and extinction emergencies, colonization, grief and anger. It’s about meeting the shadows, the monstrous and welcoming them into the circle. What is possible when we allow it all to be spoken? What is the intelligence of tenderness? When we open the gate of grief, what blessings might arrive?

The Art of Slow

Module 3

Here, in our usual transdisciplinary and experiential blending of the poetic, the intellectual, the spiritual and the political, we examine the counter-cultural nature of pausing. Skilling up our capacity to enter deep time, we roll up our sleeves, tone our muscles and wait in receptive sensate awareness for what wants to happen. Sensual, clumsy, tender, immense. From within the pause, anything is possible.

Dancing with Destruction

Module 4

What generative qualities are possible when we meet with the great teachers of decay, demise and destruction? What strange beauty and fierce wisdom hides behind the cultural, emotional and perceptual barriers we have placed around these essential movements? When something dies in the web of things it is not left alone, or chemically embalmed and boxed up to be preserved in isolation. A whole community of kin come to simultaneously celebrate and mourn this movement of being. Flies, jackals, micro-organisms and kettles of vultures find their way to this place of change. We will explore: the false gods of growth, development and longevity; the other-than-human experts in these vital processes; related practices and myths from different cultures; science of chaos and order.

Going Feral

Module 5

Re-wildening, deep play, foraging and edge dwellers, micro and macro returnings to belonging instead of centering. A time in our journey to experiment more, make wilder gestures of love, expand in to the spaces we have made. What are the barriers to freedom and belonging? What is it to relinquish a human-centric worldview? What is wild anyway? Here our research deepens and allows new directions to appear.

Marrying the Other-wise

Module 6

What happens at the end of a courtship? If love has blossomed, surely there is marriage? If we go beyond fairy tales and western myths, what shape of ritual might we gather around to commit and recommit to these multiple and constantly changing relationships? What does commitment and reciprocity look like in an entangled and polyamorous world? We will explore: how other creatures and other cultures serve the health of relating; initiations and thresholds; wedding vows and q/wo/manifestos; the polarity of love and indifference; sacrifice and nourishment.

What now?

Module 7

We return to this question both as a focusing arrow and as an ongoing unanswerable unfurling. What do we need to stay with the trouble, to deepen the love and to ongoingly allow space for the otherwise to speak? How do we chop wood, carry water, surf the internet, speak with family, pay the bills…? Romance is all very well, but how do we live this in the everyday occlusions of the human-centric world? How is our love made manifest? This last module is a chance to: harvest, give form to and celebrate our research; feast and make merry together; deepen our commitments to courting the other-wise in the spaces where breakdown reveals the longing for it.

‘Vulture’ is a research expedition to the wild places where perhaps new affinities, new questions, new visions and new vocations might be embraced. In the ‘vulture’ we meet not just a figure of death, we meet a figure of sensuous change and movements. We meet compost. We meet ourselves.

The Course is for you if...

    • Your worldview is crumbling, or perhaps you feel alone in the understandings you have. You long for a time of radical kinship, kindness and coming down to earth.
    • You identify as a professional activist, artist, academic, community leader, facilitator, culture builder, organizational professional or are in transition to a new shape of practice.
    • You understand that the Anthropocene – this time of tragic loss and porous boundaries – demands a keening of our social justice and ecological imaginations, but are unsure about how to frame responsiveness in this time. You’re keen to be part of a collective action research endeavour to re-frame activism, agency and change beyond what we’ve known and done so far.
    • You’re confused, worn out or on the verge of giving up your badge as a change agent and you long for a space to unravel and re-member. You want a generative space to grieve, to love, play and to weave new movements of being human.
    • You’re keen to explore the fertile margins between existing conversations about ecosystem and social collapse / de-colonialism / deep ecology / regenerative design / mysticism and shamanism / deconstruction and destruction of capitalism.
    • You understand this to be no time for pretense or grandiosity, for hiding or playing small, for being right or wrong, and are ready to bring more of you to courtship with the otherwise.

Vultures straddle worlds, their diligent beaks picking apart soft tendons, breaking bones. In their enchanted biology, life and demise collide, hope and hopelessness become bedfellows. Like the ferryman that ushers weary souls across River Lethe, vultures are avian midwives of the other/wise. Tricksters at the crossroads. Èsù’s companions. Nature’s way of keeping things flowing. Agents of constant becoming.

More Information

This course is designed as action research, ‘learning by doing’ and ‘knowing by getting sensuously involved’ with a world that is often left out of our calculations of social change and deep ecology. Mediated by online sessions, ‘Vulture’ is really about doing work with our hands, designing case studies, performing tender exercises in the ‘outdoors’, sharing our research in a trusting cohort of other seekers, testing our questions, and cultivating skills together with the communities we are part of.

14 weeks, 90 days
7 modules: 7 online sessions, 7 parcels of invitations, 7 kinship calls
April 1 to June 29 (1st zoom call on 6th of April)

Each module will consist of:

  • invitations to inquire, experiment and make offerings in your own time and place + things to read, watch, sense and try.
  • a 3 hour interactive and experiential curated group zoom call including dynamic group processes, feral meditations, stories and theories, grief tending, embodied inquiries, bird calls and more. These will include breakout small group-and-pair sessions.
  • opportunities to upload stories, images, findings, reflections and questions on a curated online forum.
  • kinship calls to enable peer inquiry and support.
  • we estimate an average of 2 to 4 hours per week on top of the zoom calls.

You will receive a course introduction ‘booklet’ with poems, action research methodologies, core models, theories and readings, and technical support for your participation.

Don’t expect a blueprint or fail-proof scheme. While we will be supported by robust methodologies and practices, each step will be our teacher, bringing new perspectives and opportunities. We will meet dead-ends and revelations, fail abundantly, fall flat, hold and be held while exploring what it means to be human in a time of collapse.

We will dance between chaos and order, balancing planned sessions and space to respond to emergence.

April 1st to 14th – 1st Module – Landing together

April 6th – Online session

April 15th to 28th – 2nd Module – Leaning in to the Trouble

April 20th – Online session

April 29th to May 12th – 3rd Module – The Art of Slow

May 4th – Online session

May 13th to 26th – 4th Module – Dancing with Destruction

May 18th – Online session

May 27th to June 9th – 5th Module – Going Feral


June 1st – Online session

June 10th to 19th – 6th Module – Marrying the Other-wise

June 15th – Online session

June 20th to 29th – 7th Module – What now?

June 22nd – Online session

4:30pm – 7:30pm GMT (UK Time) / 10pm IST (India) / 8:30am Pacific Time (California) / 11:30am EST (New York)

We are very keen about how we invite others into this journey. We want to make certain that this is the right fit for you and that you gain as much as you can from participating. Hence, we have created a registration form that allows us to get to know you, and to understand how Vulture might meet you and also invites you to reflect if this course comes in the right time for you. To register, hit the link below or simply click on any of the many buttons littered across this page.

APPLY TO JOIN ‘VULTURE’

The Standard Course Fee is 400 Euros.

You may also choose to pay in part and offer the balance later. The Partial Course Payment Fee is 300 Euros.

If you are willing, we invite you to consider the Support Fee of 600 Euros. This will help people with less financial capacity to get a scholarship.

If you can’t commit to the standard price, you can ask for a Scholarship (given on a case by case basis according to the number of contributing participants). The team trusts your judgment about what represents a commitment on your part and respects your financial situation. If you cannot afford the standard fee but know this course is for you, get in touch. Write us at vulture@emergencenetwork.org

Curators

Toni Spencer

Lead Curator, Vulture: Courting the Other/wise in a Time of Breakdown

Nuno Da Silva

Co-Curator, 'Vulture: Courting the Other/wise in a Time of Breakdown'

Bayo Akomolafe

Chief Curator, The Emergence Network and Visiting Teacher, 'Vulture'

Team

Aerin Dunford

Chief Basketweaver (The Emergence Network) and Team Member, Vulture

Jiordi Rosales

TEN Fellow and Team Member, Vulture