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CARE SYLLABUS to Present New Module, ‘I Can’t: Feeling Through Burdens of Care’ Starting March 21

NORTH ADAMS, MASS.—CARE SYLLABUS, a justice-oriented public education and community resource featuring original text, visual media, recordings, and virtual live events by activists, artists, and academics, will present a new module, “I Can’t: Feeling Through Burdens of Care” beginning March 21.


Accessible at, this cross-institutional, multimodal public education resource is a project of THE MIND’S EYE—a research and praxis initiative of MCLA. In collaboration with MASS MoCA. CARE SYLLABUS highlights artistic expression, activism, and thinking that fosters a radical communal imagination. The creative impulses rooted in these modes of collaboration and critique spur new ways of exploring the histories of care—and shifting praxes of care—currently at work in our homes, classrooms, and communities.


To celebrate the launch of the module, CARE SYLLABUS will hold a virtual event, streaming and available to all via MASS MoCA’s YouTube channel, from 7-8:15 p.m. on March 21. This virtual event brings together the writer Maggie Nelson and the artist Marc Swanson for a night of conversation on the occasion of Nelson’s recently published book, On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint (Graywolf Press, 2021) and Swanson’s new MASS MoCA exhibition, A Memorial to Ice at the Dead Deer Disco.


With anecdotes from art and life, this conversation draws attention to the particularities of care as they arise in nuanced relation to the labors and limits of artistic creation and interpretation. When the rally cry of care sounds far and wide, where do we focus our energies? What role, if any, might art — and artistic engagement — play in navigating our capacities to give and receive care? In their discussion, Nelson and Swanson will touch on shared investments evident in their recent works, which explore connections between queer experience, alternative understandings of time, and climate crisis.


About “I Can’t” 

To admit the “I can’t,” the theorist Jan Verwoert has suggested, may sometimes be “the only adequate way to show that you care—for the friends, family, children or lovers who require your presence, or for the continuation of a long-term creative practice that takes its time.” Which admissions of limitation, and which textures of refusal are yielding new ways of navigating this current moment of personal and collective exhaustion? How might the burdens of care reconfigure binary logics  that structure popular discourses of care? How is saying “I can’t” a privilege? What happens when refusal is not an option, but rather a boundary consistently undermined, or a reality regularly enforced?


“At CARE SYLLABUS, we are questioning the conditions that produce ableist allegiance to unchecked labor; to the feeling that we are not doing enough, that we need to do more, faster and better at that,” wrote CARE SYLLABUS Co-Director Victoria Papa, an assistant professor of English at MCLA, in the module’s introduction. “We are interrogating the ideologies of individualism which fuel cultures of supremacy — and in doing so, we meet the limits of our capacity over and over again. Part of this practice is feeling through burdens of care and routinely facing our constraints. To care is to embrace an inherent failure that is also a form of belonging together to the quandaries of being human.”


Supported with the help of the Northern Berkshire Cultural Council and the Mass Cultural Council, “I Can’t” is curated by the CARE SYLLABUS Advisory Collective, whichcomprises members from MCLA Arts and Culture, MASS MoCA, MCLA, The Clark Art Institute, Williams College, and Williams College Museum of Art. It also consists of artists and makers from the community. Unlike other modules, which have been authored by a single expert in care, this module brings together many of the voices which have supported CARE SYLLABUS programming in its many forms.


About MCLA:
At MCLA, we’re here for all — and focused on each — of our students. Classes are taught by educators who care deeply about teaching, and about seeing their students thrive on every level of their lives. In nearly every way possible, the experience at MCLA is designed to elevate our students as individuals, as leaders, communicators, fully empowered to make their impressions on the world. In addition to our 127-year commitment to public education, we have fortified our commitment to equitable academic excellence. For nine of the last 11 years, MCLA has been named a Top Ten College by U.S. News and World Report. MCLA also appears on the organization’s list of top National Public Liberal Arts Colleges. Since the list was created, MCLA has risen to #21 as a Top Performer on Social Mobility and ranks first among all Massachusetts schools, which measures how well schools graduate students who receive Federal Pell Grants.
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