"Strong imagination yields happening"
"Strong imagination yields happening" is a sentence I heard from artist Idoia Zabaleta that always comes back to mind whenever I participate in a mediation process.
Spending time together, imagining collectively and producing common desires are all social and political processes that yield community, future and happening.
Through the mediation process and via monthly meetings, Land Commons is creating a context for the neighbours of Couso to get to know themselves and strengthen the community while building ties by composing new knowledge and conceiving possible futures for the artwork we are imagining together.
We had two meetings in June, following a platform for international exchange that allowed us to gain perspective and learn about the projects that are being developed within the 'Art Living for Sustainability' European framework. The first one was with the CRA Antía Cal (Couso pre-primary school) education community, and the second with the neighbours of Couso.
The Couso Antía Cal Pre-primary school is a public school in the municipality of Gondomar belonging to a group of schools that apply the Montessori methodology in public education and that are located in various villages throughout the municipality. The Couso CRA is formed by eleven families and eleven children, out of which only three are Couso residents. All the others come from different villages in Gondomar.
The families choose to bring their children to Couso because of the school's Montessori methodology, but mostly because of its location at the bottom of the woodlands and its close contact to Nature and its related values, something they hope will last in the future imaginary of girls and boys.
The future of the school is a concern for the families, since a minimum of seven families is required for its continuity. This is an issue to be considered when imagining the artwork for Montes de Couso: the generational replacement and the attachment of the people to the territory, an issue that was also pinpointed by the Montes de Couso community. This translates in the need to highlight the importance of Montes de Couso, the project as a communally-owned woodland, its value as a community and its goal of self-sufficiency.
The families propose that an annual collaboration agreement be signed between the Couso CRA and the Montes de Couso community. The idea is for the school project to gain value as its privileged position earns more and better visibility, all the while its collaboration with the Montes de Couso community provides it with singularity through programmes such as seeding or the monitoring of animal reproductive cycles (like the tadpole's).
Currently, families can walk around Montes de Couso or visit the already-existing projects such as the Memory Forest. They believe that in the future Montes de Couso could be a profitable source for the area at productivity level, and they highlight its cultural value too.
A second meeting conducted that very afternoon and attended by a group of Couso neighbours started to approach decisions that were more committed to the commission of this mediation process. Two questions were asked: the first one being who do we want to do the piece, artwork or artistic intervention for; who do we want to address?. The second question was: for what?, what are we looking for? Which problem, of all the ones identified by the community, do they want to address through the artistic intervention?
A long debate ensued in small discussion groups, as per the 'world café' method. The conclusion of the debate was the need to give the project of Montes de Couso more visibility outside of the community, in the whole region and beyond, while strengthening the self-esteem of the community and the neighbours.
Couso is a world renowned woodland community with regular visitors coming from different parts of the world. Yet, its visitors are either linked to the commons and the communal woodlands, or they are from academia, researchers or joint-landholders from other communities and the like. In order to place the procommons, the communal woodlands, the community management and all the values present in this project at the centre, the Couso community feels that they need to reach the general public. In an era of degrowth like the one we are at, this kind of resources need to be validated and put on the map for the interspecies futures.
Conceived for the youth, the elderly and those related to the woodland alike, the imagined artwork for the Couso community is one that allows to take pride in belonging to the community and that provides it with visibility. They imagine an artwork that validates their project, the Couso woodlands themselves and the community that manages them.
They aim at generating pride so that exile can be avoided and belonging can be fostered.
Two ideas emerge: one is to complete the Forest of Language through a nature-based artistic solution, and a second, stronger and more self-governed, is to make a documentary in which the memories, the present and the future potentialities of the Montes de Couso are registered.
They imagine a meeting place, a space for debate and forward-thinking expression where the communal woodlands can be validated and where changes in geography, society, economy and lost knowledge can be collected. The art project is to be linked to memory and the productivity of the woodland in an attempt to maintain their presence and prestige as a woodland community.
They imagine a proposal that is unique, special and mobile, so that Couso can be brought out to the world, in which education and leisure, but also tourism and information about Montes de Couso, is incorporated.
Take a look at the photo gallery from the communal trail here.