Non-Western Technologies for the Good Life

The experimental course ‘Non-Western Technologies for the Good Life’ (November 2023–May 2024) celebrates as its starting point the anniversary of 50 years since the publication of Tools for Conviviality, considering that Ivan Illich’s call is as relevant as ever.

Modernization is an all-conquering force, yet it is never enough. The climate crisis looms large, while extractivism and the war against life are pressing on. Illich called for a ‘multidimensional balance of human life’, for finding a balanced scale to the growth of anything, and for identifying the convivial tools needed to rethink technology and the relation to the world. Relying on convivial tools 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. The course also responds to the new articulations of hope that have been woven more recently in 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 freestanding course is hosted by The Experimental Station for Research on Art and Life, in the village of Siliştea Snagovului, Romania, and challenges a growing community of diverse practitioners to observe the forces of modern destitution, to re-orient sensibilities by relating to indigenous philosophies of the good life, to engage in a process of grounding thought in a relational world, and to develop practices of renewal. The participants – artists, students, professionals – are invited to give themselves the time of slow growth and re-orientation of sensibilities which tends to be forbidden by the rhythm of productivity of the school, the university, the gallery, and the modern work. Each session goes through a process of collective reading in voice, and of receiving and offering tasks outside the space of the course, while keeping a diary of the encounters and a vernacular vocabulary of the learnings. Online sessions alternate with in-person encounters, which are events that are gradually gaining in complexity.

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