Key Thoughts: Care + Relevance + Love

Archive Date: February 11, 2018
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Research Studies: Wrap up of thoughts on Art + Love + Relevance + Ethics of Care

At first, I was really bogged down with the Maria Puig De La Bellacasa’s Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds. My grandmother went through the adult care system and suffered greatly from overmedication, lack of care, and oversights made in her diagnosis with Dementia and Lewy Bodies. This experience was traumatic, and when she found her end, I was relieved that she no longer suffered. Her place was at home, and the detachment from her home left her in limbo. Since the experience with my grandmother, the discomforts surrounding care and ethics have been on my mind.

However, after some time this reading began to open up. Bellacasa says, “Care is a human trouble, but this does not make of care a human only matter”(Bellacasa 2017, 2) I pause here because I noticed my own relationship with care is rooted in human, and my view of care reduces to only thinking of the human as beneficiary. I enjoyed how Bellacasa and scholars bring in multiple areas in which care can be applied – to the doing, repairing and continuing – weaving into the everyday world. Care is what we do on a daily basis. Take care of children, bills, self, others, body, friendships, lawns, plants, homes, health, animals, planet, solar system, water, pollution, car, schoolwork, politics, global warming, toxic waste, trash, and so on…

Bellacasa moves to consider the “three dimensions of care – labor/work, affect/affections, ethics/politics” which helps to build out the model for the different levels of integration each of these can have per situation – or lack (Bellacasa 5). By breaking down these dimensions it becomes easier to grasp how each example begins to make sense – thinking with these considerations. I most enjoyed the example Bellacasa gives here, “…one can also love intensely without committing to the “work of love,” without involvement in the sometimes tedious maintenance of a relation” (Bellacasa 5). Here the example gives us a model that lacks affectivity. I can also relate this to my first marriage where there was no work in the garden of our relationship, and the relationship served one person while burdening myself. Bellacasa uses Toronto’s definition, “care about” vs. “care for” as a means to situate the dimensions of care into effect for aligning with the ethical and political questions that arise per this poignant matter.

What I most appreciated from this dense article is the feminist lens it looks through. The breakdown of carers that is provided along with the consideration of the sphere “care” is applied in today’s society does model for a collective change or should I say awareness. In a moment of utter saturation during this reading, I came across a call to action of Bellacasa’s, “So rather than give up on care because it is enlisted in purposes we might deplore, we need to have its meanings debated, unpacked, and reenacted in an implicated way that responds to the present. Yes! Not only does this get me excited about care in relevance to present, but is an example of a feminist approach to look at other areas needing the same reconfigurations.

How relevant the ethos this book gains…I will have to continue to read Bellacasa’s work in hopes to deepen my practice of questioning the worlds of care.

The Art of Relevance by Nina Simon

Reading this book aligned so much with my core thinking. Every page made me excited that Nina Simon had taken the time to put these words on paper. Simon started by saying “Relevance is a paradox” which gave me a chuckle right away (Simon 2016, 23). However, I agree it is a complex, contradicting, and almost absurd effort to be relevant. Time is the dictator in the situation that overcomes all relevance, and more importantly, relevance is more of a time warp, to each individual, family, community, town, city, town, state, country, continent, and the planet. Could also be applied to other species, however, to not overcomplicate let’s stay with humans.

Usually, for art to be absorbed, we rely on the audience and this book focuses on the models and approaches used to be considered, while also focusing on the curiosity, humility, and openness of the individuals who produce art. Including the theorists in the study of relevance Deirdre Wilson & Dan Sperber’s “positive cognitive effect” and “effort” criteria aids in Nina Simon’s stand for the possibilities of relevance (Simon 32). They also act as lenses to look through for all the examples provided throughout the book. I thought this was helpful in providing a structure to the research that is collected in this book and demonstrated a way to formulate when applying ideas to art.

One of my favorite sections was the Two Delusions about Relevance. Discovering the relative and the linear. Simon says, “The sooner we start focusing on becoming relevant to the people we most care about “and “Relevance is relative, and people are busy”, not only approaches the word “care” we were just analyzing, but references something other than yourself or desire (Simon 41-42). This shifts the way we think about relevance and approach of care to the matter and points to the heightened awareness around the “practice of empathy” that is brought up throughout this reading (Simon 51). Empathy and care are utilized when opening the door to relevance, and noting that this door is always in process – is important, while considering the inner discomforts one might have while making progress outside the sphere of selfism. Similar to my own experience with culture shock or dominate white spaces that are more conservative, here I am actively practicing empathy and meeting people where they are. This is the space where together we can learn empathy and relevance for other cultures, ideas, languages, and acceptance. I enjoyed the architectural language: threshold of fear (Simon 68). 

all about love by Bell Hooks

In summary Bell Hooks’s, approaches love through a feminist lens and apply an approach to care and ethics that is all too relevant.

Hooks’s says, “When we see love as a combination of trust, commitment, care, respect, knowledge, and responsibility, we can work on developing these qualities or, if they are already a part of who we are, we can learn to extend them to ourselves” (Hooks 2001, 54).

Love is a nebula of qualities, and with this statement suggests the constant work needed to understand the complex idea of love. When reading Hooks’ book I began to find relevance in the fluidity of love and the many ways the current construct/model for love can be disrupted. On societies level, the consideration is raised to address the relationships of love we have and how on many levels they are a paradox to the very word. The notion of love ethic Hooks introduces saturates my being and awakens my own internal restructuring framework/blueprints for renovation. Hooks suggests, “A love ethic presupposes that everyone has the right to be free, to live fully and well.” By accepting this notion we are accepting the transformation of our very foundational structure. The work seems unaccessible almost defeating. To access this level might take lifetimes, but one I would be hopeful in enacting immediately.

Hooks wrote this book in 2001 and the writing is relevant today. Noting, “Talking to a university audience recently I expressed my faith in the power of white people to speak out against racism, challenging and changing prejudice – empathetically stating that I definitely believe we can all change our minds and actions” (Hooks 89).

“There is a gap between the values they claim to hold and their willingness to do the work of connection thought and action, theory and practice to realize these values and thus create a more just society” (Hooks 90).

“Fear of radical changes leads many citizens of our nation to betray their minds and hearts” (Hooks 91).

“Our willingness to embrace this “unknown” shows that we are all capable of confronting fears of radical change, that we can cope” (Hooks 91).

We are all witnessing the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor, between the haves and the have-nots”(Hooks 123).

Eighteen years have passed since Hooks’s words were written, and we are witnessing the surge of these matters at hand. It saddens me greatly that in an age of great knowledge, success, and technology that the world is distressed by matters of love, care, relevance, and acceptance. The machine at the structural core is off and could use a reconfiguration on the large-scale. On matters of racism, classism, greed, capitalism, consumerism, and privilege – another time.

Don’t lose hope.

Do the work.

There is much to be done.

With Love…



Bellacasa, María Puig de la. 2017. Matters of Care: Speculative Ethics in More Than Human Worlds. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

hooks, bell. 2001. All about love: new visions. New York: Harper Perennial.

Simon, Nina. 2016. The art of relevance. Santa Cruz, CA: Museum 2.0