Reading Assembly: Care is a curatorial research platform that connects grass roots community groups, artists, educators, academic researchers and students from different departments of the University of Reading (Art, Film, Theatre, Television, Architecture) to come together as co-investigators on urgent issues around ‘care’. The project is based on a long term engagement of various research groups who act as co-investigators of the theme of care in their own terms (see below partnerships for more detail).

During the public engaging event on 27th, 28th of May, Reading Assembly: Care will be launched as a digital platform that connects all the different co-investigators who have been working on the programme, for the first time. During the event, we would also like to welcome the public to join workshops, debates, to listen to sounds, watch films and live performances, and talk to artists, academics and a range of other professionals, as well as other visitors on urgent issues around ‘care’ that are relevant in their own lives. 

Care-work has a central social function in all of our lives, yet it often remains invisible and under-acknowledged. To care means different things for different people. There is often a great difference between the way governments measure and evaluate care work for instance, and the way we care in our everyday lives. When we think of care we usually think of the feeling of caring about someone or even caring about a particular situation within the wider context of ‘the state of the world’. 

Individual intentions and actions of caring often appear inadequate in the face of the overwhelming problems of our time, however. When we look at the political, economic and power imbalances around us, acts of everyday care sometimes feel isolated, and at times even futile. Acts of everyday care however, also become our strength when organising in solidarity. Caring of course, is not only a private responsibility, but is also a matter of the state. 

What does caring mean to you? How has your understanding of ‘care’ changed during recent times? 

The audience can share their own memories, experiences and stories of care, engaging in a dialogue with the existing research groups around themes like:

  • Care as solidarity: ‘As an act of ‘acceptance, willing to engage with others even if you don’t agree with them. Accepting that you need help. You are NOT an Island’ argue members of Compass Recovery college.
  • Self care: ‘If I can’t care for myself, I can’t care for others’, argued the women from Reading Refugee Support group, during one of our first sound-based workshops.
  • Care during lockdown: Investigating collectively alternative self-care strategies like: walking as a creative practice of caring for oneself and for one’s environment, cooking as an act of self-care/cooking for and with the community, students self-care strategies when faced with restrictions placed on them from university.
  • ‘Small care versus big care’ (voluntary care versus publicly and collectively funded care). What are the differences between caring as a matter of personal responsibility (a sense of charity or other forms of moral obligation), versus caring that is publicly organised and collectively funded (on the basis of solidarity, and enshrined in the right or citizenship)?
  • The limits of care: Yes we need to care more for each other. But not everyone has the same capacity to care. Care workers all around the world are overworked and underpaid. Vulnerable groups like single mothers, people with disabilities, refugees, or the long term unemployed are structurally disadvantaged and the coronavirus has been a painful lesson in this regard. The recent rise in mental health issues, especially amongst the younger populations are issues of concern. Expensive childcare or seeking therapy are not accessible to all. Whether locally or globally the inequalities are obvious and the limits of caring need to be taken into account if we are to re-evaluate our societal responsibilities of caring.
  • Women and care: Drawing attention to the specific experiences of women, feminist theorising of social reproduction and its histories, like the international movement of Wages for Housework. 
  • The care crisis:  The ‘crisis of care’ does not affect everyone in the same way. As care becomes more and more privatised, access to care becomes more and more dependent on what one can afford to pay. To speak of crisis is thus to ask the question, a crisis for whom?
  • The language of care: ‘According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the origins of the word care are not related to the Latin cura (to look after something of someone, to ensure their wellbeing). The word care stems from the Old English caru, which means sorrow, grief and even anxiety, or also ‘burdens of the mind’, writes Emma Dowling in her book title The Care Crisis: What caused It and How Can We End It? (2021). What is care? Is the language we use around ‘care’ still useful? Please contribute to our very own ‘Care Vocabulary’ section, a work in progress thesaurus of alternative words to ‘care’.

This space is not only to share and critically discuss ongoing projects, but also to exchange ideas and engage in debates and community organising around issues that are interesting and meaningful to everyone’s own lives. Each activity is intended as a starting point one can follow, select from, combine or use as inspiration to create their own responses. Members of the public can choose one or more activities to engage with. 

In this way, we hope to not only celebrate the amazing work of our co-investigators, but also allow for a flux of new ideas inside, some of which will be recorded and used as research material for future interventions. The aim is for the platform to provide a hub of activity that will continue long after this first pubic engaging event is finished. 

This is only the beginning of an ongoing practice-based research project. 

On going Participatory-Action-Research (PAR) based questions:
  • How does art care? Evaluating participatory arts strategies impact specifically during Covid-19, for those care groups that are hardest to reach (and thus most vulnerable).
  • How does research care? How can can academic research have an impact outside academia, ie organising curatorial ‘research actions’?
  • Accessibility of participation in the Digital Realm: Can we expand our participation reach by working digitally?

 Please contact us here if you wish to further engage with the project.