Forest School writing: What did I think this was going to be, the revolution? On the Free/Libre Arts Unconference and TropicalBurn

(1) Notes on the Free/Libre Arts Unconference and TropicalBurn / The difference between me and a free person

July 2019, Ixodos at A Casa Lar, Tijuca Forest, Rio de Janeiro

Are YOU able to trust in a fully participatory format? / On the academy as capitalist enclosure (edu-factory). / On the (arts) academy as a capitalist enclosure / On the significance of deconstructing patterns of gathering and working (labour) that leave out the common good, in order to come together anew. / On the political continuity between being a parent, learning-theory, and the academic format: how to identify and re-evaluate governmentalities in real time. / Parenthood as coming with a new perception of responsibility about the structural and ritual realities we create for other people and ourselves / Contemporary parenthood and its reconfigurations of labour / You either trust in a fully participatory format or you don’t: there can be no middle ground, no hybrid format, no backstage / THE CAKE IS A LIE / 5 types of freedom at the Free/Libre Unconference: (1) those who don’t know they are free to leave an oppressive set-up (2) those who know they are free and leave, (3) those who know they are free but stay to help others see through the illusion, (4) those who know they are free, leave, but project that others ought to stay, (5) those who know they are free but stay because it ultimately makes no difference and they’re enjoying the company. / I wasn’t sure whether I was free and stayed, even though the 16month old was clear about wanting to leave. Except he enjoys the cloth, it’s colourful and makes promise of ritual / How a Free/Libre Unconference can reveal the truth / The truth as graspable primarily in false starts. In small grasps. / The truth as not-text. Certainly not as academic text / Tineke called it soulwriting / My small grasps of a truth, apospasmatically shared, from the forest. The school that is being in the forest. This must be what Guilherme means. / You either trust (make space) in a meaningfully participatory format, in allowing (!) people – each other – to fall freely into patterns of work and live together, and enjoy sharing out of their own drives, or you don’t. There is no middle ground. There can be no filter, no editorial layer, no concerns about professional appearances, no institutional requirements, no maximums or minimums, no preconceived restrictions of time or place. When you have this trust (and considering the Unconference line-up, come on!) ‘it ends when it ends’ is a primary value, not something conveniently forgotten about as organisers never become participants, and participants are herded onwards to tick another box. When you show trust in the people you’ve brought together, you value your time with them too much to try and structure it. You become impatient with gatherings that are arbitrarily over-organised, you find them oppressive. You are impatient with gatherings were those who take charge aren’t seeing the deepest, most beautiful vision of what could exist between us in that moment. You are saddened by others’ will to override a gathering’s human tendency for beautiful ritual. For beautiful sharing. / When you’re organising a meaningfully free and participatory event and Silvia Federici prefers not to be in an airconditioned university building but go to the beach/Famagusta instead, you don’t skip out on the event and everyone else in order to take her there. You invite or let everyone else know too. You take the Unconference to the beach of Famagusta, and this is how you change the world one deconstructive gesture at a time. / “It ends when it ends”: on deconstructing the division between work and life as a primary topos of resistance. / How to refuse-deconstruct the kinds of labour that reinforce rather than dilute this division: there can be no revolution/serious mass ritual/simple coordination for fast change if we always need to go to work the next day. The possibility of a sudden break needs to have a chance to override everything / The favela knows this. Hadjimike knows this too: going home because we have to work tomorrow as the reason Cyprus is still divided. / On moments where we radically ‘decide to stay’. Some people call it falling in love / “Don’t take the children out of the room”: On community, Mujeres Creando, and integrating work and life with a new human. / Federici & Caffetzis discussion of the health-war-edu industrial complex – how something different and new and better can begin with childcare that isn’t like “parking our children while we go to work” / “In Rio there is a growing movement of community parenting” / On how the Unconference was never going to be deconstructive of politically regressive elements of the academic format, of structures of sharing and learning / On unfair projections of sexism / On unfair projections of a division between art and technology / On RMS’s graceous nature / On RMS’s unexpectedly immediate intuitive appreciation of community and connection / Why did the cultural historian need to cross the ocean with her kid after the Unconference? / On the mindful practice of identifying communal priorities in the present. / On the necessity of free writing / On the importance of repetition. / On why people choose to stay in oppressive set-ups / 10 reasons why this wasn’t an Unconference / 10 reasons why if it was, it would have left with Silvia Federici / 10 reasons why the Free/Libre Unconference couldn’t be free / On formats that remain disconnected from their content as means of control / On expired formats in the information age / On formats that do not allow ritual / On ritual as constitutive to commoning and commoning practices (moments of defiance to the normalisation of enclosing practices) as necessary for connection and change / Parenting by connection & conflict resolution by connection / On art by connection as conflict resolution / On how Federici and Sholette knew to get out / On how Stallman and Vergara stayed in to help others see that they can get out for themselves / Catlow’s self-referential eye-opener: Excel Sheets and Unconference schedules: How the grid-table creates or limits possible states of being / Soderberg and de Seta in true freedom: the social science-anthropology of contentment whatever the setting / What’s in a name: Marys get transcendence. / I wish I was a Mary / Must remember that I am free to leave oppressive setups. / You either trust in a fully participatory format or you don’t: There can be no middle ground. Insistence on a middle ground “because people need (to be given) structure” means that you don’t quite admit that you don’t have this trust, which arguably contains that you don’t quite know what this kind of freedom looks or feels like. That’s OK. Most people don’t. (Sylvia Serena: Most people don’t know how to be free. Carol: And they may not like others being free in front of them). We’ve been educated out of our ability to engage and produce meaningfully outside of safe layouts. Because unsafe layouts lead to community, ritual, dance, trance-like states, sharing, sudden change in the course of things. This is why rethinking the format of politically oriented academic gatherings is important, and this is why it’s difficult. / And this is why the carnival is so important. They know this well in Brasil. / What did I think this was going to be? An EU-funded revolution? / Maybe it was always going to be an enclosure: alienated academic labour in the guise of community discourse / No, at some point there was a choice. / Was this always going to be an enclosure: maybe nobody else ever imagined it as anything else. / Dear Evi and Helene, please include both texts: the first is a necessary self-critique (a tradition for the hackathons and unconferences I’ve previously worked on), and the second is a summary of the work I did for the Unconference but was only partially communicated. Better late than never, no? The text provides the conceptual backdrop for the suggested practice of ‘Don’t take the children out of the room’: as a contribution to current reconfigurations of practices of community, learning, and care. / Perhaps I should specify that I’m suggesting a post-fetishistic use of the term ‘community’! How disappointing, this labeling as ‘community-fetishism’ of our need to reconnect and repair labour-based (children-parking) conditions of alienation. I suspect Natalia was making an indirect critique of how community is used as a fundraising keyword, perhaps even for this particular event, but I was crushed by it: by the realisation that there may be opportunistic academic capital in not taking seriously or even destroying efforts to repair our problems with coming together (ie. through free-er, or freedom-respecting ways of gathering). I don’t wish to have to defend my and my child’s instinct to be where we don’t feel alone, as fetishistic. / Why did the idealist cross the ocean? / Why did the idealist go to TropicalBurn / To discover better attempts at reconnection, among people who know how to survive in the (as) wild (as possible), in the Tropics / THESE COCONUTS ARE PRIVATE / From one enclosure to the next / TropicalBurn as spectacle / But this is on private land. But this is on private land. But this is on private land. But this is on private land. But this (eco-paradise) is on private land / “If this wasn’t guarded people would invade” and if it had belonged to the state it would have been ruined or … privatised (like it is now). But maybe it doesn’t matter who (we) think owns the land, maybe what matters is what happens there, or how it’s allowed (!) to be. / TropicalBurn brings Burning Man into paradise. It makes it deal with it’s alienations. / TropicalBurn as a powerful post-capitalist experiment in environmentalist community participation that will grow stronger and stronger, and more beautiful and politically challenging every year. Its effect on the contemporary digital image economy is phenomenal. Its paradoxical reconfiguration of spectacle is enough to drive a cultural theorist crazy, or provide them with such material that they have no choice but to step away from theory, and into life. Into the carnival. TropicalBurn knows-feels about ritual what Burning Man doesn’t. Its transformative social (media) potential has been trapped in Instagram, until now: diaspora*: #tropicalburn #neospectacle #liberatingcontent #xamanaxana

The only thing we can control is the texture of our interactions / And this may be our primary teaching/sharing tool. / The only change possible through Whatsapp, Facebook or Instagram is one that necessitates more Whatsapp, Facebook or Instagram / Instagram art and why there seems to be no free software movement in Brasil (it turns out there is!) / The missing principle to the free software movement is ‘use as few pieces of software as possible’ / The absolute necessity of familiarising your kid as early as possible with techno-survivalist petro-anarchist (?) post-capitalist spectacle communities / A crazy wonderland of hardship balanced by beautiful miracles. A tribal village (or a number of very different tribal camps actually) working to make every second a sublime experience. / TropicalBurn and the image economy / TropicalBurn as a capitalist enclosure. / Seeking baby compatible ambience pockets – a broader metaphor / Must listen to infants more. They know when to stay / TropicalBurn: Thank you for the subtly branded extremely useful artifact you’re gifting to me, in conditions of deprivation, I will remember you as an excellent marketeer and invite you to future projects / But the goddess singer didn’t sing at TropicalBurn, Carol didn’t bring out her guitar – But the burning of the Serpent the night after almost everyone left was amazing / Community: the public art of creating a beautiful and meaningful life, without taking the children out of the room / The only thing we can control is the texture of our interactions: Playlistening / What Israeli parenting gurus (military trained, military minded) don’t understand is the wonder of connection through play / Livia’s answer to the suggestion that children should be kept out of an experiment on concentration-intention: “If you can’t focus your intention because there are children around, then you don’t know how to focus your intention.” / I found a ribbon in the sand bearing the words ‘radical self-reliance’, and tied it on my wrist, astonished. The baby had been ill the previous days and had taken a while to open up to people or engage in extended meaningful interaction with anyone, including me. He wouldn’t let other people hold him (indeed why should they? he’s interested in play, in balls, and voom sounds, in running around, not being at the mercy of the unpredictable approaches to intimacy of strangers.) He wants to be free. Livia to J: “You just want to be happy!” / He also needs to feel connected and given the chance to communicate with new people, not be among people who are stuck in non-communicative behaviors, who need isolation, or are staring at screens / On social media as oppressive setups / To my friends producing amazing work for Instagram: The only change possible through mobilisation that takes place there, is one that perpetuates the use of these media. This is far from the most beautiful thing we could be doing right now. We will live better lives, our children will live better lives, people far away will be less negatively impacted by the systemic effects of such isolating and disconnecting automatisms if we decentralise, slow down, look around and at each other. We need to be free of the built-in distractions and addictions of these tools in order to connect with each other and our environments. And if these media stand in for the connection missing in our environments, then we need to see this placebo for what it is, and make the changes we need so that we stop relying on these bad tools for the design of our future. These media centralise control over information and are actively stopping us from creating futures where these forms of exploitation are absent, futures with other kinds of values at their core. The only meaningful thing to do on these platforms, asap, is organise where to meet when we leave them. / How the heart of the carnival was elsewhere. / How the Unconference was a success. / How TropicalBurn was beautiful. / How letting go is a difficult thing. / On letting be.

Tineke called it soulwriting. We were talking about caring too much about one’s project design/funding proposals. / On hereby exiting the edu-factory through soulwriting. / On exiting the sad politics of longing for a community/unconference on the beach with Silvia Federici, towards a militant politics of joy, in the forest.

(2) What future for education: on trust, protection, and community

April 2019, Kaimakli: Eimaste


With this [edited transcript of a video] I put forward my priorities or the conclusions of my effort to preserve my child’s “happiness in learning” or his delight in the world (and his ability to change it through a militant politics of joy). These priorities build on work that is critically deconstructive of schooling while it also demonstrates what I think of as a radical sort of “kindness,” following from feminist discussions of “care.”

This is a combined product for

– Coursera’s “What Future for Education,” a reflective and open-ended application of online learning technology,

– the “Free/Libre Technologies, Arts, and the Commons Unconference,” University of Nicosia 2019, an event that investigates the political need to think, learn, and collaborate outside of typical academic, creative, and community limitations and formats,

– the School of TropicalBurn Brasil 2019, an event where people gather to build a temporary community based on principles of gifting, decommodification, radical self-reliance, radical self-expression, communal effort, civic responsibility, leaving no trace, participation, and immediacy.

– towards an experimental merging of playlistening rituals/parenting by connection theory, Scaravelli yoga and contemporary work on emotional alphabetisation through art (see VAV)
I wish to put forward three key ideas as priorities in how we might re-conceive of schooling:

The first idea is the importance of trust towards learning as a natural process: a free process, without need for intervention, where all we need to do is what Ken Robinson calls ‘climate control’[1] or a kind of protection.

This is the second key idea. Protection of a kind approach to learning: protection from unnecessary limitations or warnings, from frameworks that are closed-ended or anxious, or fearful. Protection from misguidance, from “testing,” from undue comparison, from the stresses that characterise a lot of contemporary education.[2]

The third key idea is integration in community. The need for a view of education as part of life, as embedded rather than distinct, as continuous rather than walled off in purpose-built secure locations. Silvia Federici gives a meaningful example about a community of women called Mujeres Creando in Bolivia who started with a kindergarten: They developed a practice of daycare that went against the model of “parking” our children while we go to work.[3] This reveals how the dominant segregation between the working life of adults and the learning life of children, is a side-effect of lifestyles and labour conditions that go against our instinct to protect and guide new generations towards the common good, or to give them the tools for their own quests towards such a good, or indeed trust them to freely find their own tools.

Applying trust, protection, and community integration could be part of what Robinson calls a *necessary revolution in education. And further yet, they could be part of what Federici argues is our duty of resistance. She argues that education, health, and war, are all connected battlefields, and that we need to bring these struggles together and transform communities of reproduction into communities of resistance: “to reconstruct society, … to construct new forms of being, new structures – even if they are small.”[4]

I would like to connect this with the work of Anne Pirrie that exemplifies with humour, this type of trust, protection and kindness in education, by zooming in on the dominant values in the academic community. Pirrie performs a beautiful regrounding, or a philosophy of the virtues of the university, while keeping its limitations in sight. Pirrie is interested in what our current education system leaves out, and works to “provide scope for dimensions of life that are frequently suppressed in the quest for a convincing, consistent and comprehensive ‘grand narrative’ rooted in a particular disciplinary tradition or professional practice.” She “calls for an alternative aesthetic of academic practice, one that foregrounds lived experience,” and she encourages the celebration of alternative ‘epistemic virtues’.[5] Perhaps of the kind explored by the one year old in this video..

To conclude, my aim is to add my voice to a growing movement that struggles to apply what we have learned about learning as a primarily fluid, independent, community activity. And to apply what we have learned about learning as something that happens best beyond enclosures in terms of walls or paywalls, and that requires trust, protection, and working together with those around us in radically meaningful ways, through the formation of new kinds of co-ops, new kinds of socially engaged apprenticeships, or informal systems of peer to peer learning, and so on.

There’s a lot more to be said regarding the idea of a necessary revolution or resistance in connection to the need to reclaim the university, and by extension to reclaim the educational system as fundamental commons. One that needs to radically re-engage with our lived experiences, and community needs.

This is certainly a tall order and an intimidating task. But at the same time we are no doubt surrounded by the most wonderful examples of best practices that we could hope for. And we can trust that we are already equipped with the best of tools to approach and realise this future for education, perhaps as beautifully and simply as a one year old teaching himself basic motor skills through play with leaves and sticks.



[1] I am referring, in the first instance, to what Ken Robinson describes as a necessary revolution, of moving from the factory model of education to one that offers institutional or policy respect and, protection perhaps, for the conditions under which humans are ‘free to learn’. A model that is more organic and positive in its recognition that learning is a default, non linear, organic process, that is too easily stifled by structures that attempt to command and control.

[2] This has to do with an idea I encountered in the work of Ina May Gaskin: in order to labour with the best chances to deliver a healthy baby, what a woman needs most of all, is not medical supervision or checks, as the very presence of the medical gaze can cause delay and thus complications, nor does she need ‘support’ which denotes that she may be incapable or lacking in her own ability or in her nature to do what must be done. Instead what she needs is protection. She must feel safe, she needs protection from fears, stresses, and influences that would have her question that she is capable, whole, and perfect in her labour.

[3] According to Federici, Mujeres Creando questioned the dominant practice of ‘parking’ our children in order to get to our ‘real’ work, with the awareness that this is about raising a new generation. It therefore becomes appropriate for all of us to ask questions like “what do we want the children to learn? How do we want them to relate to each other?” She describes how this questioning of daycare or the early function of showing ‘the ropes’ to our young, so to speak, led Mujeres Creando into community discussion and mobilisation about childhood that lead into a community restaurant and a meeting place for archives and cultural activities.

[4] An article written by Silvia Federici and George Caffentzis entitled “Notes on the edu–factory and Cognitive Capitalism” (2007; in EIPCP – Transversal) addresses the role of the university as “a key space of conflict, where the ownership of knowledge, the reproduction of the labour force, and the creation of social and cultural stratifications are all at stake [and] a crucial site in which wider social struggles are won and lost.” Federici and Caffetzis bring up how the university -and, by extension, the education system- plays a part in the military-industrial complex, and discuss the “strategic role of knowledge in the production system in a context in which the “enclosure” of knowledge (its privatization, commodification, expropriation through the intellectual property regimes) is a pillar of economic restructuring.”

[5] In her book entitled “Virtue and the Quiet Art of Scholarship” (2018) Pirrie discusses alternatives to the dominant conceptualisation of scholarly work, and of education more broadly, as the pursuit of goods like ‘knowledge, truth, and understanding’ (p.7). In one instance, she suggests, after Italo Calvino’s take on literature, that a conceptualisation of scholarly work in celebration of ‘lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility and multiplicity’ can help in the defense of the ‘quiet art of scholarship’ and towards ‘reclaiming the university’ from the privatising forces and the managerial culture that are breeding competitive and exploitative academic environments.



Bergman, C., Montgomery, N., Federici, A. (2018) “Feeling Powers Growing: An Interview with Silvia Federici.” Retrieved on 20 July 2019 from

Caffetzis, C. & Federici, S. (2007) “Notes on the edu–factory and Cognitive Capitalism” In EIPCP – Transversal. Retrieved 29 July 2019 from

Federici, S. (2015, April 15) “Witchtales: An Interview with Silvia Federici”. Retrieved 14 November, 2018, from

Gaskin, I. M. (1976/2010) Spiritual Midwifery. Book Publishing House (TN)

Goodell, M. (2019) Cultural Course Correcting: Black Rock City 2019. Retrieved 24 July 2019 from

Janni, D. (2018) Burning Men: Consumption and Creation in the Late-Capitalist Wasteland. Retrieved 24 July 2019 from

Loizidou, C. (2016) NeMe: Not(es) on participation [on writing (on art) in the first person] (updated).

Pirrie, A. (2018) Virtue and the Quiet Art of Scholarship. Routledge. London.

Robinson, K. (2010) “Bring on the learning revolution.” Retrieved 28 July 2019 from

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s