On the Ethics of Care

The panel is on Art + Hospitality. We are in the basement of an East Williamsburg building hidden from the street. It is artfully decorated and warmly hospitable. Ecclectic; "Brooklyn." The space is a gallery, rounded out by studios made into Airbnb rooms and the back office where the owner lives. The only working bathroom is the private one in back; how does the other half of a gallery live? With lots of dental hygiene products, a full trash, a tube of mascara with the toothbrushes in the cup on the sink. I wait to use the bathroom when I arrive, and more toilet paper is produced from an undisclosed location. The cat eats from the dish at my feet as I wait. 

The panel in the basement is cozy, the stage elevated just enough to amplify the event under the lights. The perfectly-fitted rug and tea mugs on the coffee table, the semi-circle of motley chairs with the panelists facing out to us, the audience in our lines of other motley chairs. But the panelists are speaking to each other, of course. The hierarchy of sitting horizontally makes me consider the challenges of The Last Supper from a service standpoint. Only the cat enters and exits the stage.

The panel consists of four women: an academic on slave/master relations; the gallery owner who runs the space; my friend whose beds are the current exhibition; a performance artist who carried her mattress in response to being assaulted. The panel is moderated by a curator who runs an artist space and residency with an interest in cyberfeminism.

The women don't have a history before tonight; their meeting now is part labor, part hospitable roleplay for the audience. It is selfless to accept an invitation from a stranger.

The academic points out that empathy only means understanding, not caring. That empathy can be the foundation of cruelty, a bedrock for exploitation. I wonder if bedrock is an unconscious pun and if being unconscious it is disabled as punny.

I care and I want to care, about others. But I ask for understanding before I give my efforts.

My friend the artist says, vulnerability. The performer counters by saying, resistance.

The artist talks about beds as a space, as a point of entry. The academic adds that a bed is a known.
Whatever is possible in a bed can be figured before ever approaching, seeing, or being in the bed; its architecture is merely a space constraint. Breakfast in bed. Sweet nothings in bed. Conceiving children. Giving birth. Crying. Assault. Death. Work. Netflix.

The artist talks about hospitality versus availability. She calls a bed a place of surrender.
She says that by getting into the beds upstairs, in the gallery, you can relax in a piece of art.

Is it that to relax = to surrender or is it that to relax : to surrender?
Is the condition being hospitable or is the condition being available?
The variables need not be constant, but they require definition.

The moderator asks to unpack hospitality.

I think of how unpack is inherently hospitable, how you arrive at the hotel to unpack your suitcase, how you call up the concierge to ask for room service, to order food. As a guest one both asks and orders. It doesn't matter which because at the end you are still paying.

The gallery owner asks what is the hospitality of an inanimate object.
There is passivity to receiving something, that caring only comes with consecration. We deal with what is important only if it carries meaning, in which meaning carries value, in which value carries the receiver's attachment to keeping an object or selling it or leaving it poised on the curb as a gift to the culture.

A pillar of care is that it does not require reciprocity.
       To care there is not need for >< (both ways).
A gift is the manifestation of not expecting a return.
To care is a gift, but it activates power.
       The care by the giver is archived against the receiver.
To gift is to be selfless while archiving the self.

What is the masochism of becoming a museum?

product <> process

If I show you care, I do not expect it returned, but I expect you to acknowledge that I have cared.
Here is power through understanding, which is only empathy, which is not help and is not care.

A bed does not reciprocate but a bed does not care either.

vulnerability <> resistance

Equal is not the same as fair. Equal requires measurement. Fair requires two observations.
Fair requires two understandings, but remember that empathy can be used for cruelty.
Remember that memories erode and dissolve.
Remember that memories are subjective, not objects.
Remember that your view is not the point I see.

care <> labor

"You have to become before you matter," the academic says.

You can't make nothing out of something, but if what exists is nothing already then you have something you can work with.

Dividing by zero causes an error but that does not mean zero does not exist. 

you who is destroying you <> you who is being destroyed

The performer says all art is masochism and I disagree.
I question how much consciousness plays into performance.
If performance is conscientious of action and reception, it requires understanding but does not require that you care.