Several Invitations to Dream our World and Welcome all Kinds of Diversities, including Organic, Indigenous, and Technological. Our most Magic-inspired list so far!

Curators Book Club #7

Dream cycle (starting April 5th, 2022). The director of Sao Paolo’s Pinacoteca, Jochen Volz, pointed to the work of environmentalist and defender of indigenous knowledge Ailton Krenak, in particular in his book “Ideas to Postpone the End of the World”. Ailton Krenak is one of the founder of the platform Selvagem, “cycle of studies about life”, which proposes starting April 5, 2022, a series of four dream sessions on Youtube called The Cycle on Dreams. The cycle proposes to share the knowledge of those who trust the language of dreams and believe in their transformative power, and will serve as an introduction for how to dream/envision our world moving forward “involving collaborative relations and Gaia’s regeneration”. The sessions will feature multifaceted personalities, anthropologists, shamans, a neuroscience professor who is also a capoeirista, an indigenous philosopher who is also a midwife etc. and invite us into dream living and making, symbolic writing, dream-plants and more. You can download the full programme with the profiles of the participants here (at the bottom of the page) and follow them on Youtube here. See you on April 5th. 

More Dreaming and Nature. For Diana Campbell, the book that still haunted her at the moment of our interview is the “Nutmeg’s Curse” by Amitav Ghosh. In this book, Ghosh draws a parallel between the commercialisation of the spice and the “conquest, colonialism, and exploitation of the New World that led to today’s climate crisis”. He discusses the genesis of this book and previous ones here (such as “The Great Derangement”), at the Chicago Humanities Festival on November 1st, 2021. Next month, he’s due to release another story, “The Living Mountain”, which he wrote during the pandemic and which is described as a “fable recounted like a dream” centred around the Mahaparbat, the Sanskrit epic. 

Science, Tech, and Anthropology. Donna Haraway’s “Staying With the Trouble” was one of the books chosen by Salma Kossemtini. Haraway is a leading theorist who brings together the study of science, technology, anthropology, and multiple-species fields, and speaks about the relationships between humans and non-humans, including machines. In 1985 she published the noted “The Cyborg Manifesto”, which you can listen to here. Also, you can listen to an interview she gave to the podcast For The Wild, here in 2019. Kossemtini also mentions the bestselling thriller “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” by Patrick Süskind, which is a brilliant example of storytelling based on the sense of smell set in eighteenth-century France.

Spiralling. There are only a few novels in this edition of the Curators Bookclub but Merlina Rani also highlighted a skilled mystery: Orhan Pamuk’s “My Name is Red” (1998, Pamuk would receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006) featuring miniaturists in the Ottoman Empire of 1591. But more particularly, Rani mentioned the work of philosopher Yuk Hui and his Cosmostechnics—if you are intrigued, there is a 2020 masterclass online hosted by La Casa Encendida (in English, subtitled in Spanish), titled “Why do we need techno diversity?”, which you can watch here. And finally, Rani pointed at the work of horror mangaka Junji Ito and his series in three volumes “Uzumaki”, which centers around a Japanese coastal town, Kurouzu-cho, haunted by a pattern: the spiral. 

Mexico. Cristina Rivera Garza’s “The Autobiography of Cotton“, proposed by Daril Fortis, takes us to Northern Mexico for an intimate and geopolitical novel telling the stories of labourers and “peasants who worked the land that now makes up the border between Tamaulipas and Texas, a region that achieved economic, social, and cultural prosperity thanks to the cultivation of cotton”. Here a 4-minute introduction where Rivera Garza expands on her process and her research about the land, the humans, and the non-humans, as she merges fiction and non-fiction in her compelling book. (Additionally, Fortis shared a link to “Obra Negra, Una aproximación a la construcción de la cultura visual de Tijuana”, in Spanish, drafting the art history of Tijuana, and you can find the whole volume here).

Stories of our Time. Olga Grjasnowa’s “The Power of Multilingualism”, highlighted by Matylda Krzykowski, hasn’t yet been translated into English, so if like me you can’t read German, you can get one of her other books such as “All Russians Love Birch Trees”, which follows a young Russian polyglot immigrant’s life in Frankfurt or “City of Jasmine”, which follows the struggles of several Syrian characters in Syria and in Europe. Grjasnowa discusses “City of Jasmine”, how and why she wrote it, as well as her overall writing process at the 2019 Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C, and you can see that very interesting and candid discussion here

Before theTechnological, Magical Myths from the Arab World. Fatos Ustek dug out for us an intriguing and charming volume: “Folktales of Iraq” by E.S. Stevens, who became Lady Ethel Drower by marriage and who accompanied her husband to Iraq in the 1920s. Stevens’s approach in this book is rather anthropological than literary, she was indeed otherwise known for the study of the Mandaeans, a gnostic ethno-religious group from Mesopotamia, and collected Mandaean manuscripts. Here she gathered an enchanting collection of fairy tales and magical stories that still echo the time when storytellers trumped cinema and machine-recordings. This is our more magics and dreams inspired list so far.

Art critic and writer.

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