The New (Form of) Work: CAS SEE Fellowship 2020/21

As the isolation period began taking its remote-work and restrictive-movement-measurements form, it had slowly begun being clear to us that our work is not “simply” being put to a pause, the famous “halt” and wait, but rather, that we have entered a new stage of organizing our endeavors. One of the immediate tasks which had had to be provided for was the Centre’s work around the CAS SEE Fellowship 2020/2021.

The Inauguration Day had been planned to follow Prof. Balibar’s lecture on engagement at the Moise Palace on the island of Cres. The date set was March 14th, 2020, which had coincided with Northern Italy and Slovenia closing their borders as the COVID-19 crisis escalated in Lombardy and Veneto, our neighboring regions. Had this not taken place, our seven fellows, six of whom from the most affected parts in Northern Italy, would have spent their April being “isolated” within the Moise palace and developing new insights and forms of rethinking the (immediate) environment and related issues.

Instead, it was “the environment” Who had responded by confining us to ourselves and what we tend to perceive as “our immediate lives”; relieving us from all social contact (that with our friends and colleagues as well as that with random humans) and assigning us to “our rooms”, the place one goes to find solitude, dormancy and where a child goes to endure punishment in form of involuntary reflection… (That is, provided one has a room of one’s own to go, to begin with.) So have all ten of us been condemned to virtual meetings and a completely transformed work reality and goals, as has the rest of the laptop-using world. Consequently and spontaneously, we have begun to transform our “talking” and to find new places to address some of the social issued arisen from the “2020 COVID-19 Isolation (Spring?)” – opening up from our kitchens or deliberately from in front of white walls, and with an occasional child running through a frame or the sound of a new-born, just loud enough to make us all smile. Things have certainly changed at the CAS SEE work meetings.

Gathered virtually from four countries, we have begun discussing and contemplating current projects when it became evident that new ones should be on the way, given the idea and impression input. With many questions still open, the evident lack and deprivation in terms of sharing both time and place altogether, and not without frustration (of every type one can experience while trying to communicate work and life) – the first Digital CAS SEE Fellowship is at the moment and fairly spatially-dispersed being although “forcibly piloted”, gaining daily on purpose, clarity, and enthusiasm.

Having been challenged so multi-levelled, this year’s Spring Fellowship has no alternative but to, appropriately enough, digitally respond to some hardly harmless and surely severe social implications and changes that have ever been experienced collectively.