Going Underground in 2021


Dear friends, 

Sometimes the shortest shortcut to a destination is to walk in the other direction.

In 2019-20, The Emergence Network gained a lot of visibility as we moved our conversations to the crosscurrents of the public eye. We convened over a thousand people for The Wilds Beyond Climate Justice to explore what conversations and work can lie at the end of hope, pushing ourselves into the cracks that the mainstream discourse on climate change would rather close. Our curator, Suélen Brito, created art and revived cultural memories through her project Rolê Holi, making the favelas of our immediate surroundings a cultural moment of departure and co/unlearning. We ran a six-month series, “Meet at the Crossroads” where we gathered in the digital living rooms of our friends for intimate conversations on postactivism, fugitivity, and being alive in these times. 

Given the growing interest in our work and the promise of more collaborations and possibilities, we are doing the opposite of what our growth-minded society tells us is obvious and natural.  In 2021, we are going underground. 

After these years of fertile, strange and experimental ‘work’, the folks at TEN took some time to reflect together in recent months on those familiar questions of “what now?”. We sense that something wants to be born, something that exceeds design and conscientious thinking; something that challenges the recognizable modes of action and intertwines our bodies with forces we don’t yet have names for. Having lots of calls, strategic planning processes, and measurable goals just ain’t the way we will cultivate the necessary receptivity to ‘become pregnant’.

So we’ve decided to give the centre of TEN some good sweet time for resting, sighing, surrendering, and listening. Time to allow the entity that is TEN to visit us in ways that may have been prohibited because of the logic of business-as-usual. For the next 6-9 months or so, you may not hear much from us. It may seem we’ve dropped off the map. Know that we are here, in the wilder margins, the compost heaps, the places not yet codified on the maps we have so far. 

Existing projects that are already underway including Rolê Holi, steal a way, Kairos, Vulture and Vunja will have time and attention to grow and flow a little. We’ll share any announcements about the projects as they arise.

In the meantime, Bayo offers this reminder of what TEN is:

In the midst of a dying planet, what is our location in the trans-cultural field of activism, responsivity and movement? What is TEN about? In brief,

1. The vision of TEN is to proliferate/nurture projects of sensitization: to cultivate and invite openings in dominant habits of responding to shared troubles. Psychologists often speak about desensitization as the moments when repeated exposure to a stimulus diminishes our responsiveness to that stimulus. It’s like being in a room with a foul smell so long that you can’t smell it anymore. It would take someone coming into the room to remind us that something awful is afoot.

2. At the rhizomatic heart of TEN’s quests is the idea that the way we see/respond to/conceptualize/articulate our problems is part of the problem. Sensitization is like opening the door, a crack in the atmosphere of things, and saying (much like the fictionalized Harriet Tubman in my head): “Pssst! Over here!” Within the cultures of solutions that we are surrounded by, subcultures of giant conferences and photo-ops and big funding and glittery logos and performative wokeness, there is a need for wilder coalitions of acting. This is what postactivism is about. We may never be able to solve our most pressing challenges as a species; however, we may not need to.

3. The vision of TEN is assemblage. Chasing cracks in the edifices of agency and responsivity might be the playful and spiritual heart of our shared quests but constellating these cracks so that they speak to the moments we are in… so that they meet those seeking it halfway… is a vital objective of TEN.

4. The vision of TEN is inquiry. Trouble needs research.

So this is what we’ll be doing. Quietly…because resting matters.

It’s so easy to get swept up in these momentous forces of progress, growth, and productivity. We’re playing with the idea that going forward sometimes means ‘going awkward’, meandering off the map. 

We hope you find ways to slow down too. Especially when it’s least expected…

We look forward to sharing when we reemerge.

Your friends at TEN

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