The programme of the eighth edition is divided into four quarters and has a monthly structure involving three weeks of teaching and one of personal research. It begins on 14 September 2021 and ends on 30 September 2022 with the students’ presentations of their research. There will be no teaching in December 2021 nor from the second week of July 2022 onwards. In addition to the taught sessions and workshops, the PEI has an open programme of international seminars, monographic courses and lectures during which participants will meet other agents in the city.

What can art do in relation to the ecological and social crisis? This is one of the fundamental questions behind this edition of the PEI. The situation today demands a commitment to renewed alliances between art, institutional experimentations and the new forms of activism in the struggle for social and environmental justice. In this respect, we propose to take a fresh look at artistic practice from the perspective of political ecology and to rewrite the genealogies of art from feminist standpoints in order to pose questions about the potential of art in relation to the transformation of the existing world, as well as in the configuration of new subjectivities and the reorientation of desire. So, what utopian thinking activates art? And how can we connect desires, limits and utopia?

Any situated and politically engaged institutional practice that supersedes the formalist account of the history of art and the boundaries between the disciplines of modernity must include social movements as instigators of artistic creation (and institutional work): from the struggles for civil rights, sexual freedom, the struggles to raise awareness of AIDS and green, pacifist and decolonisation movements to the more recent Black Lives Matter mobilisations.

How should we hone an imagination not subject to the normativity of the status quo? There is no imagination that is not political. Individualism has led us to believe that being imaginative is an inherent trait, even a gift, a grace or a talent that some have and others do not. But imagination is not a gift; it is a practice that is learned. It is the practice of making the absent present. It is the free but not arbitrary formulation of viewpoints about the world. It is the power to confer the highest possible reality on thoughts, actions and people that are not ours, nor even close to us. The prerequisite for doing this is recognising that we will never know ourselves sufficiently to be able to base ourselves on an identity that prescribes our conduct for us. Thus, the imagination, as an ethical and political force, derives from a not-knowing, from a not-knowing-ourselves enough that opens up to us the existence and perspective of others. Of other presents, but also of those that have already existed or are yet to come. As a result, our work will be based on a number of questions, among them: what are the tensions that arise between fantasy and the imagination?; how can we connect desires, limits and utopia?; how can we be bodies that imagine?; and how do we want to be educated?

What does being life-centred mean? The prevailing idea of Progress is founded on the fantasy of the Promethean thriving of nature and bodies. The denial of our condition as creatures of the Earth, of our vulnerability and individual mortality, is just a grand illusion that ends up irreversibly altering the environment on which we depend for our survival. After applying the logic of dead things to living nature for decades, we have arrived at the civilising emergency: global warming, the loss of biodiversity, an environmental footprint that exceeds the planet’s biocapacity, pollution of the land, air and water, zoonosis, the spread of diseases, pandemics, inequalities, exploitation, exclusions and so on. We can no longer look the other way. The geopolitical and the geophysical have met in a dramatic encounter. Gaia emerges as a historical subject, without consciousness but with agency. Justice, the law and culture can no longer be considered without taking Gaia into account.

Facing the ecological and social crisis will require us to leave the fantasy of individuality behind us and to stimulate an imagination, one sensibly grounded as regards the Earth, bodies and their needs. An imagination that enables us to look at capitalism from the outside even though we are caught up in it. This ‘outside’ may be Gaia, a point off-centre from which to twist the arm of money. What pedagogies, rationales and emotions foster symbiotic relations founded on sufficiency and fair distribution, that make the commons and care a political principle?