A conversation between Robert Downes, Foluke Taylor and a book: Unruly Therapeutics.
Disclaimer & intro: Foluke is my friend of 23 years. I love this book already and the work that has been done in the making of it and the work that will come of it.
Foluke and I came together with another colleague, Sue Lee, to develop training for counsellors working with young people. We created an integrative, disruptive and creative site of practice and thought that resulted in a work book called Listening in Colour – we’ve been listening in colour since and this has been the ground of our work together and our friend-boat where we have reckoned with race, blackness, critical theories, colonial legacies, gender, sexuality and a therapeutic project that embraces the social realities that Lauren Berlant refers to as ‘modes of population disgust’, aka racial capitalism, white supremacy, Babylon, the end times and so on.
Whilst in writing mode Foluke shared pieces along the way with me and other friends, husband Hakim, and we were stunned.
In your writing you gather the company of a sisterhood of Black feminists, story tellers and music makers to infuse a disruption to the usual therapeutic modes of thought and practice, bringing to the therapeutic the boundlessness of Blackness, a necessary disruption that provides for the Black therapeutic practitioner a richness has often been missing in the wider field and training institutions. This book points to the necessity of the inter disciplinary in therapeutic thought and practice.
Each chapter, paragraph and specific sentences caused me to gasp and be re-arranged. I could feel the love of it, the making of a witness as text, the permission to be undone and released from white racial capitalist modes of thinking and being, to refuse whiteness, a book that isn’t for me – it is for Blackness and possibility – and it undoes me and makes me anew as a subject inscribed with whiteness. This is a book that offers something to being in this world that we see is ending, whilst also in the making of what has both been imagined and lived otherwise more possible.
A good book does this, it disrupts and extends and stretches us beyond a familiar and into more of ourselves and into the multiplicity of us all – this book is a stretch further into the depths and widths of what is possible and what is required to become more possible within a pervasive anti-blackness – an example of that being the use of Wake Work from Christina Sharpe’s In The Wake – On Blackness and Being (…..).
So my first question for you Foluke: I know something of the journey and dedication that went into this book, the everyday work of writing, thinking and dealing with the residents of the psyche that challenge and disrupt along the way, until something is formed and ready enough. (Ready or not – here I come – Fugees).
I recently heard African American artist Lorraine O’Grady speak of her art practice as “trying to pull myself together”. We can certainly think of writing as pulling ourselves together as well as an undoing of ourselves and then offering that to others. In this book that is both personal and collective, a book that serves as a site of work done and to be done, an ancestrally infused location, that takes “a past that is not past” (Sharpe’s Wake Work) to be implicit in the now, – can you tell us something about how the book as ‘living room’ became, its origin story and how it made and unmade you and what you imagine/hope/foresee/know the work of this book to be?
Next question: at the recent Venice Biennale 3 day gathering called the Loophole of Retreat , Saidiya Hartman described artist Simone Leigh’s invitation for Black women to gather for this retreat of thought and care in these words:
“…she [Simone Leigh] has an understanding that when we bring Black women together we plot to undo the world.”Saidiya Hatman
Can you say something about your book in relation to this understanding and the plot to undo the world given that many of the people you are in communion with in the book were also at this plot of undoing gathering.
We’re still at the Loophole of Retreat event for the next question. Tina Campt spoke of care as a refusal, a refusal to look away. That is central in this book, this act of refusal as care, as insisting a Black subject, of refusing the limitations and impositions of whiteness. Campt spoke of care as having a multiplicity of forms and registers. Again, this book offers plenty of registers of care in a variety of forms. Can you say something about the multiplicity that this living text embodies from your perspective?