română/ bucurești/ cluj/ iași/ sibiu/


Freestanding Course at the Experimental Station For Research on Art and Life,

Siliștea Snagovului, Romania, 2023-2024.

Course leader: Ovidiu Tichindeleanu (

* Wood Ladder, ~5.2m, dated 400-180 BC, Salt Mine Băile Figa

In 1973, based on collective research developed at CIDOC* in Cuernavaca, Mexico, on the monopoly of the industrial mode of production, Ivan Illich argued that “two thirds of mankind still can avoid passing through the industrial age”; he also proposed the concept of a “multidimensional balance of human life” as the framework for rethinking technology and re-evaluating one’s relation to tools. Illich showed that it is possible to identify a balanced scale to the growth of anything, and raised the challenge of doing the work at identifying such scales and convivial tools. Such work would enable communities and societies to exit the trap of the paradigm of infinite accumulation, to develop self-sufficiency outside globalization, and to regain an ethical life outside extractivism, exploitation and impoverishment.

Half a century later, Illich’s call is as relevant as ever. Modernization is an all-conquering force yet it is never enough. As the climate crisis looms large, degrowth and the “green transition” have entered the Western mainstream, issues of sustainable reform are a permanent fixture of institutional criticism, and various forms of the “return to nature” are proliferating in academic and artistic practices - not simply as fashion, but as a chronically felt necessity. Yet while the ends of life on Earth might be looming at the horizon, no end is perceptible with regards to the dominant system that has brought us in this situation, and is organizing the global socio-economy. Thus, the future is emptied of meaning and hope, and the imaginary of modernity is going through an existential crisis, as evidenced by the multiplication of crises: financial, energetic, geopolitical, pandemic, moral and spiritual. The specter of nuclear war is closer than ever, forced displacement and famine are at historical highs, and the worst tendencies of modernity seem to have gone out of control. Critical thought often falls prey to cynicism.

At the same time, a new articulation of hope has been woven by the rising “two thirds of mankind” of the Global South, in particular through the surge of indigenous knowledges and of a new generation of congenial practitioners from all over the world. The indigenous knowledges have been denied and derided, threatened and brutalized throughout the five-hundred years of modernity, and yet some have survived and constitute today crucial forces inspiring restoration ecology, re-wilding, re-forestation, ethno-botany or permaculture. Moreover, indigenous activists and philosophers have changed the political spectrum by advocating political philosophies of the good life and gratefulness based on relational economies (buen vivir, sumak qawsay, lekil kuxlejal), and have added the political and epistemic task of grounding thought and reconnecting to the Earth, thus opening a renewed dimension of transnationalism.

The present experimental course proposes taking up Illich’s challenge as well as the task of grounding thought in the context of the Experimental Station for Research on Art and Life. The course goes through a series of lectures, conversations, discussions with invited guests, workshops and collective research.

*CIDOC: Centro Intercultural de Documentación, influential institution of learning and research founded in 1965 at Cuernavaca by Ivan Illich, frequented by many teachers such as Paolo Freire, Susan Sontag, Peter Berger, Sylvia Marcos, Andre Gorz, Erich Fromm etc.

We will be learning together from selected readings and artistic work from thinkers, artists, and scientists such as Ivan Illich, Jaqui Alexander, Maria Lugones, Arturo Escobar, Asa Sonjasdotter, Ashish Kothari, Juan López Intzín, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Rozalinda Borcila, Clint Carroll, Kyle Powys Whyte, Ranjit Hoskote, Walter Mignolo, Aldo Ramos, Rolando Vazquez, Fabian Barba, Hiwa K, and Spinoza.

The grand task is to be shifting the geography of reason by engaging Eastern Europe with (mostly) non-Western theories and practices that are sizing convivial tools, re-membering relational histories, and re-tooling relational knowledges. At a more practical level, we engage with the global and local histories of the potato and corn, wheat and salt, coffee and sugar, we learn about the socialist river-based economy, about other similar projects, and we discuss the state of the sciences of meteorology and hydrology, forestry, and soil science, from the standpoint of the concerned outsider. We will tap into your own knowledge and experiences, to generate working ideas and relational practices. We will have to make plans and address the frailty of new beginnings and the difficulties of re-orientation.

No prior advanced knowledge of philosophy is required. Reading and speaking knowledge of English is needed. Up to 20 participants are selected through an open call, announced by The course is open to students, practitioners and cultural workers of all ages, who are honoring cultural difference and social justice, and are interested in learning and sharing. The languages of the course are Migrant’s English and Romanian. When the weather allows it, the meetings will take place at the Experimental Station for Research on Art and Life, at Siliștea Snagovului; alternatively, at a location in Bucharest that will be announced, and at Some sessions will be online and some of the external guests will be participating online. Calendar: two meetings per month, one in person, one online, from November 2023 to May 2024.

The course ends with a voluntary forum. External guests (tbc): Rolando Vazquez, Valiana Aguilar, Aldo Ramos.

To apply please send an email with one-page letter of interest and a short biography to the address until 11th of October. Selected applicants will be announced on the decision until the 21st of October. There is no fee to apply or take part; we provide food for the meetings and transport from Bucharest to the different locations of the course. For a number of 3 participants from the neighboring countries we can offer a modest scholarship to cover travel costs.

The course pursues an ongoing collaboration with Weaving Pluriversities (Aldo Ramos and Yu Chen) and the Maria Lugones Decolonial Summer School at Van AbbeMuseum Eindhoven.

The course takes place within the Museum of the Commons project of the confederation L’Internationale ( and is permanently open to exchanges of experience with the partners from the confederation. Museum of the Commons is co-funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.

Erste Foundation is the main partner of