Cassie Thornton is an artist and activist who makes a “safe space” for the unknown, for disobedience and for unanticipated collectivity. She uses social practices including institutional critique, insurgent architecture, and “healing modalities” like hypnosis and yoga to find soft spots in the hard surfaces of capitalist life. Cassie has invented a grassroots alternative credit reporting service for the survivors of gentrification, has hypnotized hedge fund managers, has finger-painted with the grime found inside banks, has donated cursed paintings to profiteering bankers, and has taught feminist economics to yogis (and vice versa). Her new book is available from Pluto Press called The Hologram: Feminist, Peer-to-Peer Health for a Post-Pandemic Future. She is currently the co-director of the Re-Imagining Value Action Lab in Thunder Bay, an art and social centre at Lakehead University in Ontario, Canada.
What do you plan to do during Phase 1 of Rapid Response?
This summer I am planning and recruiting for the second online course for The Hologram. It’s called ‘We must begin again: Asking for help as a new world”. It’s running for 6 weeks starting this September and we are open for 28 participants. It’s got a team of researchers who are attending from https://creatures-eu.org/ so we are figuring out how they will be involved in the course as auto-ethnographers. I’m also preparing for the release of a book I wrote about The Hologram. It’s my first book published by a ‘real’ publisher (Pluto Press) and it comes out in July. I think we will do some events to support and distribute it, but a lot is up in the air about what that will look like. I’m also trying to organize the online systems that make the Hologram function. I have hired a part time assistant to help me for three hours a week to figure some of this stuff out, because I am not actually a very organized person, especially when working in isolation/online. We are trying to make all the documentation and tasks really transparent so the project can begin to grow and be taken on by other people. I’m also rebranding the Hologram, and trying to imagine a new website for it to be launched in the fall. It’s a lot of stuff:)
How does your work relate to the theme of the open call?
I’ve been working slowly on a rapid but long term response to the ‘crisis of care’ for the entire lockdown, and for the 4 years before. I think that the response to COVID19 is the area I align most with, but it is really a pandora’s box that opens up to all the other themes of the open call. I am interested in using the health, environmental and economic crises to change our habits and our sense of what we are, using the tools that we currently have online. I’m interested in creating decentralized networks and living health records that can support us to transform back to a cooperative species that can survive and thrive in the times after capitalism. I think that the Hologram project is really great for people living in isolation and alienation, people who have not had access to a caring community, which is most people.
What does the future look like to you?
Honestly, I am really scared. I asked a friend to pull a tarot card for me a few months ago about the future, and whether I should work with the Hologram through the pandemic. The card has been illustrated by Amanda Priebe and is attached to the images above. Stella Lawless describes my relationship to the future, via the Hologram: “The fool shows up. The zero. The beginnings that tell us that if we had any idea what we were getting into, we’d never do anything. Fools are dangerous as we know from past experience. And they speak truth to power when no one else can a la the jesters. As for overcoming, whatever obstacles, stalls, walls or barriers you come across are there to make you stronger. We don’t know what we don’t know and we can’t know it until we try. Fool cards are often people on a precipice about to take a step into the unknown. This is major, bigger than the 10 of swords, which is a conclusion whereas the fool is the always be beginning part of us. The part of us willing to do what’s never been done before. Willing to wait for a train that might never come. Willing to walk forward in innocence and ignorance…that part of us that’s never been scorned or wounded or failed that keeps going. It’s that part of us that poet Wendell Berry writes about when saying “Praise ignorance, for what man has not encountered he has not destroyed.” This card has come up more times than I can count during the pandemic. This is the card of going and being and knowing there is no arriving. The real treasure is in the beginning that is before beginning. You’re walking the edges and it’s impossible to know much more than that except that when it’s time to go, you’ve got to.” I don’t think the future looks anything like what we know. The sooner we shift our imagination of what is possible, the more likely it won’t look like a bad sci-fi movie when we get there. I dream of building new stuff, and a new world, out of the rubble of racist, hegemonic, patriarchal capitalism. What the hell does that even mean though?
What is your grounding ethos?
We are a cooperative species. We just have to remember how.