Marta Moreno Muñoz. 2020: The Walk

2020: The Walk (Excerpts from the book)

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In aliis linguis

(The following texts are taken from the book published by Centro José Guerrero-Diputación de Granada in 2023 about the artistic and activist project called 2020: The Walk.)

Foreword

2020: The WalkIn recent months we have seen countless climatic and ecological records being beaten across the world (ocean temperature, land temperature, ice sheet and permafrost melting, degradation of ecosystems and loss of biodiversity, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, droughts, early heat waves, number and timing of fires, to name a few). We are also exceeding the planetary boundaries that have allowed life as we know it to prosper during the entire history of our civilization. Exceeding just one of those limits could throw the entire Earth system out of balance and push the planet into an unknown and uncontrollable state. At the time of writing —7 th of July 2023—, seven out of the nine planetary boundaries have already been exceeded. Scientific studies have been revealing the data and warning of the severity for decades, but this has not resulted in meaningful measures to avert the worst effects of the crisis.

Meanwhile, governments around the world are trying to silence the scientists and activists ringing the alarm. There are around 100 open legal cases against members of Scientist Rebellion for their participation in climate protests, and 20 scientists have already been convicted. In the UK, peaceful activists are facing jail sentences of up to 3 years[1]. 2020: The Walk ended with a participation in Scientist Rebellion’s #UniteAgainstClimateFailure campaign in Germany, in autumn 2022. For actions in that campaign, we were remanded in preventive custody in Munich, and are still awaiting trial. In addition to this situation, there are ten scientists-activists prosecuted in Rebelión Científica in Spain and many other activists worldwide.

We need a climate revolution, or we will lose everything. Only a massive, global revolution based on non-violent civil disobedience sustained over time may bring about the changes necessary for our survival.

2020: The Walk

(With contributions by Oscar Martín.)

Our task now is to do the very best we can without knowing if it will make any difference. To vow to save our planet. We can’t be attached to results.
We should act because it’s the right thing to do
— David Loy referring to the path of the bodhisattva

My name is Marta, I am an artist, PhD candidate in History and Arts and activist of Extinction Rebellion and SR, the scientific and academic rebellion. Since the beginning of 2019, I have been fully involved in XR Spain in different roles at the national level in coordination, strategy, communication, and action. Coming from other activisms (feminism, transition and degrowth), when XR emerged in the UK I immediately knew that it was the movement we needed and had been longing for many years.

Born at 335.42 ppm, I have always been ecologically aware, but it was in the early 2010s that I became increasingly conscious about the very real possibility of collapse happening not by the end of the 21 st century, but throughout my own lifetime. I had lived in countries of the Global South for almost a decade. Between 2013 and 2016, a series of personal encounters and historical and climatic events that took place in the Philippines opened my eyes to what was coming and to what was already happening. The dystopia was already here, now, and those who had contributed least to the crisis were already suffering most from its consequences. The increasingly hostile environmental conditions caused by global warming and the loss of biodiversity were irrefutable. These facts led me to a momentous time in which I made several crucial decisions. I had been living a simple life in the Philippines for several years, Iearning and admiring from the Filipino people both their resilience in the face of adversity and their strong sense of community. I decided to uproot myself once again and return to Europe to become fully involved in activism, committed from that moment onwards to the fight for climate justice. In the words of an indigenous leader, Lumad activist and Earth defender, “being an activist wasn’t a choice, it was the only thing that made sense”.

“What did you do when there was still time? What was the meaning of your life? Will you die in peace knowing you did all you could?”, a good friend asked me at the time. He was very involved in the Transition Movement and introduced me to the work of Joanna Macy —a scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. With her methodology, The Work That Reconnects, she asks us what it would be like to be a good ancestor today, to think about the next seven generations. Without a doubt, I had an epiphany. That moment brought me back to the question that the original peoples had already formulated long ago. It has profoundly shaped my activism and my life choices ever since.

But it wasn’t until the end of 2018, when Extinction Rebellion co-founder Gail Bradbrook gave a talk called “Heading for Extinction and What to Do about It” that I first became aware of the possibility of our own extinction, something inconceivable, unheard of in human history, a genocide on an unprecedented scale, the greatest crime in human history. In this talk, the British climate activist and PhD in Molecular Biophysics spoke about the ecological crisis, presenting the latest scientific data on the risks that exist if we continue on our current trajectory. Those include the possibility of abrupt climate change and human extinction. She urged the audience to understand our own emotional and social responses and what we could collectively do about it.

2020: The Walk[2]

2020: The Walk is an art and activism project, a walking journey between Granada and Helsinki to help spread the demands, principles, and values of Extinction Rebellion. It was conceptualized in early 2019, the year I decided to stop flying after meditating on it for about a decade. I went to Helsinki to present the performance Collapse at Myymälä2 gallery during the Helsinki Night of the Arts, where I read the Declaration of Rebellion with fellow rebels from Elokapina —Extinction Rebellion Finland. That was my very last flight and I announced that in 2020 I would return to Helsinki on foot. That was, at least, the original idea, which evolved based on what was realistically and materially possible for us given our limited time and resources.

In 2019, we managed to get the climate emergency declared, we exhorted our governments to tell the truth. The climate and social movements created that momentum together and with no further disruptions, 2020 would have been a key year for climate activism. I was supposed to depart alone on the first of May 2020, connecting along the way with other rebels from Extinction Rebellion and climate activists from related movements amongst the waves of rebellion. Some of these activists would have joined me on some marches, understood as a regenerative time. A time to share feelings and reflect together on civil resistance, where we are now, and where we are heading as a movement.

Marta Moreno. 2020: The Walk2020: The Walk was postponed for two years due to the pandemic, but we decided to keep the project’s original title considering the importance of the year 2020 for climate activism[3].

During those two years the planned route changed several times to incorporate different climate actions. At the beginning of 2022, the artist Oscar Martín joined the project. He accompanied me through-out the journey helping me document the trip and providing both emotional and logistical support. We finally left Las Barreras, Órgiva, in the Alpujarra of Granada, on the first of April 2022. Only then did we finally know which countries we would be passing through: Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland.

In the face of the climate emergency and out of a commitment to life and the values that protect it, we walked from Granada to Helsinki and from there up north to the permafrost. We walked for five months and also took a few trains and a ferry to cover the 4000 kilometres. That stretch is just a symbolic part of the whole journey, which would have taken us two or three years to complete on foot, given the bad weather and because we were carrying extremely heavy backpacks with all the necessary items —shelter, water, food, documentation equipment, which slowed us down considerably.

This was a climate pilgrimage, but it was also a response to a personal need for a pause after years of intense activism organizing movements. We needed to take a break from our daily existences and inertia in order to build alliances with like-minded collectives and individuals. We needed the time to reflect together on the next steps and the need to escalate our tactics if we wanted to actually spark a real climate revolution. 2020: The Walk was documented on video and the process was also broadcast on a podcast and social media. The compendium of these testimonies, the collective reflections, and the transcript of the main film are now also included in this book.

Although Oscar Martín is not part of Extinction Rebellion, he felt the need to get involved in some kind of more explicit eco-activism beyond his individual art practice. Thus, he converged in 2020: The Walk as an act born out of a political desire to use his body to engage with the eco-social crisis we are facing. In his own words:

2020: The Walk seemed to me to be a very interesting project that brings together these two worlds of art and activism. When Marta invited me to join her for a one-day walk during the pre-production phase, I had no hesitation in fully jumping into her project, taking on the role of audiovisual documentarian and co-producing the podcasts and the film with her. A very deep and beautiful bond was forged between us. Going through all these territories made us thick as thieves. We supported and cared for each other. We did a great listening exercise to articulate all the daily decisions and to understand how we felt in each moment, sharing so much time and intimacy.

The main route was decided based on historical routes and well-established long-distance paths. We had some fixed ‘nodes’, places where something was going to happen on a certain date, such as a talk, an NVDA workshop, a collective walk, or an action. The ‘in-between’ was rather uncertain —we improvised deciding on key places to visit based on different aspects: the significance of the landscape, our strength, or the sudden appearance of people joining to organize an event. Most of the time we chose routes with access to villages every few kilometres to stock up on drinking water and food, recharge batteries, etc., which also became a major factor. We walked under extremely precarious conditions as well, not only in terms of budget and production, but also in terms of time, as we only had six months in total.

Although this was extended by another month until October-November 2022 with the nonviolent direct actions during the SR campaign in Germany after the end of The Walk, which resulted in me being remanded in custody —in pre-trial preventive detention in Munich for a week, still pending trial.

2020: The Walk2020: The Walk was articulated around several ‘objectives’. To create regenerative spaces to meet and discuss with activists from Extinction Rebellion and other related movements. These spaces would be created in the areas we passed through. In some cases, these spaces became collective marches, regenerative marches where activists and newcomers could process emotions and feelings such as eco-anxiety and eco-anger, and share concerns and experiences. To organize talks to disseminate and communicate the project, presenting the demands of Extinction Rebellion and Scientist Rebellion with experienced rebels from local chapters. Aim of these talks was to make known the true dimension and extreme severity of the eco-social crisis we are facing, and to call for commitment to collective action and participation in civil disobedience. Additionally, workshops and spaces for reflection on ADNV—nonviolent direct action—were also organized in order to prepare new mobilizations.

These collective reflections were about where we are now as a movement, what underpins our activism, strategies, and new tactics, and what art can bring to this conversation. They are an essential pillar of this project and as such some of these reflections—collective voices—have been incorporated into the film script and into this book. These questions were raised not only during the face-to-face encounters in 2020: The Walk, but also at the end of the project, emailed to over fifty participants. Those questions will populate both the guided tours accompanying this exhibition at Centro Guerrero and future workshops. I will develop these workshops within a new activist platform named La Cultura Declara la Emergencia, akin to the one that already exists in the UK and that I am about to launch in Spain.

Mapa 2020: The Walk
Map of milestones and events showing events and activities held during 2020: The Walk. For a complete list, see the book from which this excerpt has been taken. Illustration: Lucía Guzmán.

The walking journey ended in Sweden at the Art See Ocean residency near Stockholm, where we arrived physically and mentally exhausted after weeks of walking through different regions of the country. Thanks to their hospitality and generosity we were able to enjoy a few weeks of deep rest. After arriving in Helsinki by ferry, the final presentation took place in Myymälä2, where the project started years ago. Thanks to their invaluable help, especially that of the artist Egle Oddo, we were able to contact the Bioart Society and obtain their support to conclude The Walk in Lapland, the northernmost part of Finland. The last collective walk with Elokapina – XR and Scientist Rebellion Finland fellow members took place on 19 th September, starting from the Kiasma Museum in Helsinki.

2020: The Walk ended at the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station, where we spent two weeks exploring the subarctic environment, researching, writing and filming the final scenes of the film along the Mount Saana Nature Reserve and the Malla Strict Reserve, where the three nations meet —Sweden, Norway and Finland. These weeks were part of the Ars Bioarctica artist-in-residence program, facilitated by the Bioart Society, as part of Rewilding Cultures, a Creative Europe project of several European arts associations, including the Bioart Society.

This residency was the epilogue to 2020: The Walk, and during that period we were privileged to coincide with a team of researchers doing fieldwork at the station who showed us their process. Thanks to them, we physically encountered the permafrost, where in some way we concluded this climate pilgrimage. This encounter was one of the most striking moments of this project, quasi-religious, I would say. Having finally arrived in the northernmost part of Finland, it was a moment of immense emotion, gratitude and surrender that helped us reconnect with our higher purpose.

Walking as an act of rebellion

Not so long ago, as a species, we used to walk long distances. In some places this is still a daily practice. Walking today, in our context, is also an act of resistance against the speed and acceleration of global capitalist societies. And it could become a necessity again in a post-oil and collapsed world.

Through this slow walking displacement and the immersion in the landscape that it induces, new altered states of consciousness and perception emerge. Walking and living outdoors also brings a different kind of experience and perspective on territories. By being radically in the here and now, it is easier in this slowness to understand what kinds of plants, trees, animals, fungi inhabit those specific ecosystems places and to understand how we are all connected through infinite relationships.

2020: The Walk has been very much about a degrowth kind of travel: a radically different perspective on what we think of as travel today. We have also felt it as a kind of transhumance or extreme nomadic lifestyle: living outdoors, in the open and embracing uncertainty. Reconnecting with nature, appreciating all the beauty of the web of life, while grieving for what has already disappeared or is about to disappear. We witnessed landscapes dramatically affected by human activity and extractive industries. All of this also evoked in us a deep sense of solastalgia: the mourning of knowing that much has already been lost due to climate and ecological collapse, while sometimes feeling anger at those who look the other way. Grieving for the future we had dreamed of, emotionally processing as we walked the reality of our loss. In many ways, this was our last summer.

2020: The WalkWe are aware that the current migratory crises will grow in scale and complexity and that other factors will be added to these forced mass displacements —food insecurity, vast uninhabitable areas due to the effects of climate change, the escalation of protracted conflicts. Without the privilege of a passport, with closed borders, isn’t this the collapse?

Although we were carrying only the bare essentials, it was still too much weight for so many months of walking, so we stopped often, slowing down our march. We were forced to change our route, often improvising. One of the main difficulties we encountered on the journey was finding water and food. It seemed to us that nothing is designed for travelling on foot or by any other means other than car, train, or plane. Another problem was camping, setting up a tent, which is ‘illegal’ in many of the territories we passed through, so we had to find isolated places, generally forests, fields, or coves where we could hide and spend the night from sunrise to sunset. On the contrary, in other latitudes, such as Sweden, enjoying nature and wild camping is considered a constitutional right: the right of public access—almost always with the most exquisite civility, with some exceptions, and you can usually find some infrastructure, such as small shelters, along well-marked paths.

Perhaps what we will be infinitely grateful for after this experience is that we were able to deeply experience this feeling of unity with nature. The intimate relationship with the natural world for long periods of time became part of our everyday life, this new way of living that we co-created during those months. Observing how reality is shaped by interconnected parts and animated by infinite relationships, we have also become more aware that we are truly interdependent beings, and we now know for a fact that we need each other for our wellbeing and survival. Through mutual support, active listening and a culture of care, our activism can become a path and a process of learning new ways of being. To be the change, to embody the change that we want to see in the world, strengthening our ties to humanity and life.

Art and activism: No Art on a Dead Planet

One of the aims of 2020: The Walk is to weave a network with different actors from the art/activism worlds. The project was presented at the conference Barricading the Ice Sheets, organized by Oliver Ressler and held at Camera Austria in February 2020 with artists-activists from the climate justice movement.

Before our departure, during the walk itself and until now, there have been ongoing conversations with other artists and activists who have participated in or supported the project in different ways, creating face-to-face meeting spaces and strengthening bonds between the different territories we have crossed. It has also encouraged the active participation of civil society in future civil disobedience and non-violent direct action.

2020: The Walk revolves around two spheres, that of art and that of activism. Faced with a multidimensional crisis, the project aims to contaminate those two contexts by involving us all in collective action. At this crossroads, the synergies between art and activism have much to contribute to create the conditions that favor the social, economic, ecological, and cultural paradigm shift we need if we are to survive as a species and leave a livable planet for future generations, human and non-human.

The project aims to challenge the art world to articulate a politically positioned response. The art world must open up and understand the actual dimension of the ecological, civilizational, and systemic crisis. Its contribution can be twofold —by dismantling and deconstructing the cultural myths of the extractivist, patriarchal, colonial, capitalist systems that cause the rampant exploitation of the Earth and the beings that inhabit it, and by helping to build alternative cultures/systems/imaginaries based on the protection of life and eco-social justice. On the other hand, the project intends to challenge the activist world to open up and understand the power that art and culture can have to produce changes in mental and social structures, allowing us to collectively create other worlds and other ways of living together.

I see artistic practice as a vehicle that can transform life, our relationship with ourselves, society, and the natural world by experimenting with our subjectivities, expanding consciousness, and thereby creating new existential scenarios. My latest performances internalize our existential crisis in the midst of the current planetary emergency.

Marta Moreno. 2020: The Walk.We need to re-evaluate our priorities and rethink the meaning of the good life in this new context of emergency in the era of the Capitalocene, where we face the possibility of our own extinction. As Jorge Riechmann points out, we need to embrace the principles of renunciation and self-restraint. I think we must also rethink the function(s) of art itself. Thus, I have shifted the direction of my own artistic and research practice considering this crucial historical moment —the crisis of our civilization.

2020: The Walk is the final project of my current PhD research, Art as an Experience of Dissolution of the Self. Towards an Art Practice in Times of Collapse. This is my response to the question of the survival of our species in the Anthropocene, delving into the idea of art as a practice capable of transforming the self. “The ego should dissolve in order to proceed to its integration with the environment and, once it has become liquid, act in connection with the rest of the depleted planet”, as Azahara Palomeque, who also writes in this book, succinctly describes.

My original research aimed to explore the diverse experiences of the dissolution of the self, both within and outside the artistic context. The notion of the dissolution of the self has been approached by many different disciplines such as psychoanalysis, philosophy, studies on religions and mystical experience, amongst others, but I would like to approach this research from the perspective of live art to delve into the idea of art as a practice that can transcend the ego and return art to its original function: to enable the experience of the sacred.

In the context of the spiritual failure and homogenization of societies in global late capitalism and the contemporary narcissistic hyperinflation of the self, we may be in need of a shift in consciousness, and in this sense various methods of emptying the self can be very valuable in allowing us to alter the way we perceive the world and ourselves. The polarity between object and subject can be dissolved through various techniques by which the subject transcends the ego and fully experiences the total oblivion of self. The self becomes immersed in the original unity. Thus, in this research I have tried to point out, from a secular perspective, the similarities and differences between the expansion of the self as experienced in mystical states such as ecstasy and some other processes of dissolution of the self that arise in the context of art, especially art as an experience that lies on the margins of representation.

The Western model of individuality is based on the conception of the human being as an isolated ego, possessing a unique personality, a singular capsule of inner consciousness whose skin would act as a barrier between the self and the outside world. This view, culturally integrated in modern societies, is the result of a historical process, but it has not always and not everywhere been the case. The illusion of a world seen as separate—in which the self is isolated from its environment—is leading us to climate breakdown and ecological devastation. Non-western traditions and indigenous knowledge have been telling us for millennia that all life is interconnected. The founder of Deep Ecology, Arne Naess, called this expanded identity an ecological self, the self to be understood as deeply connected to and part of nature.

I have devoted myself to studying these questions over the last decade and I have started to realize the true dimension of the climate, ecological and civilizational crisis in which we find ourselves. Once you know, once you have acquired this knowledge, there is no turning back. I am aware, as are my fellow activists, that this is the fight of our lives, something much bigger than ourselves. This realization comes with a growing sense of responsibility. We are living at a threshold, at a unique moment in history. It is our moral duty to act.


2020: The Walk ended with my participation in the Scientist Rebellion’s ‘Unite Against Climate Failure’ campaign in Germany in October-November 2022, which led me to being remanded in custody for a week in Munich with fifteen other fellow scientists and activists. We are still awaiting trial.

The film The Walk premiered at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid on 13th April 2023 as part of the program curated by José Luis Espejo “When Destiny Catches Up with Us. Desperate Actions Before the Sixth Extinction”.

The entire project was presented at the Centro José Guerrero in Granada between 14 September and 15 October 2023. During that month, the film The Walk was screened in one of its halls, accompanied by a documentary exhibition and various informative activities, such as guided tours and two round tables, in which the artist was accompanied by other experts in different fields and activists such as Azahara Palomeque, Juan Bordera, Oscar Martín, Gerald Raunig, Julia Ramírez-Blanco and Alberto Matarán.


This 2020: The Walk book is about the project and documents the journey together with the artist Oscar Martín, but it is also a collective work that brings together the voices of activists, fellow rebels and experts in different fields from different countries. It has been designed by the artist herself and Óscar Larrañeta.

Authors: Marta Moreno Muñoz, Joseph Mishan, Egle Oddo, Oliver Ressler, Alba Roberts, Juan Bordera, Azahara Palomeque, Julia Ramírez-Blanco, Alejandro Sacristán.

Contributors: Oscar Martín, Mar Zugaldía, Jaume Osete, Mayte Lillo Gutiérrez, Elisa, Mauricio Misquero, Bilbo, Belén Díaz Collante, Alberto Matarán Ruiz, Elena González Egea, Víctor de Santos, Laura Agea Zafón, Jorge Zhou, Juan del Río, Viktor Beloff, Lauranne, René Fanø, Sebastian Frank Schmidt, Wollie Metzeler-Kick, Anna Lia, Martin Colombet, Amelie Meyer, Fernando Racimo, X, Marceau Minot, Hugo Raguet, Sima Nasizadeh, Maria Scheel.

Coordinators and editors: Marina Guillén and Marta Moreno Muñoz.

Bilingual edition (Spanish and English). 328 pages.

Marta Moreno. 2020: The Walk.
Photos: Óscar Martín & Marta Moreno Muñoz.

Notes

[1] Scientist Rebellion co-founder and human rights activist Mike Lynch-White is the first example of the extremes to which a repressive government can go. He was sentenced to 23 months in prison for criminal damage during a non-violent protest with with Palestine Action, and he has an additional pending trial for a climate protest.

[2] Some excerpts in this text were first published at Makery.

[3] “The devastating pandemic, in addition to overshadowing the climate emergency (although it is intrinsically related), halted the take-off of the then newborn Fridays For Future and Extinction Rebellion, which were on a meteoric rise, thwarting all their plans and reminding us that, in the Age of Consequences, we will inevitably have to live with many of the most adverse and hostile impacts of the ecosocial crisis. It was no longer just the anguish of not being able to imagine our future. We were beginning to understand that the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the threat of nuclear conflict, the increasingly frequent succession of disasters associated with the climate and ecological emergency, such as the recent extreme heat waves, mega-fires, etc., are just the trailer of what is to come…”
Rubén Gutiérrez Cabrera.
https://www.15-15-15.org/webzine/2022/08/13/utopias-reales-en-tiempos-de-ecoansiedad/

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Artista y activista que trabaja en disciplinas como el arte de acción, el vídeo y otras artes basadas en el tiempo. Ha vivido y producido obras en España, Reino Unido, Turquía, India, los Países Bajos, Indonesia, Singapur y Filipinas, y ha mostrado sus vídeos y performances en festivales y exposiciones internacionalmente. En la actualidad inmersa en la producción del proyecto 2020: The Walk con Extinction Rebellion e investigando para su tesis doctoral “El arte como experiencia de disolución del sujeto. Hacia una práctica artística en tiempos de colapso".

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