May 30, 2023

Dancing on Moss – DisCO Underground Regenerative Economix

This is the story of the collective experience shared by a number of self-organised groups based around Berlin during the workshop Dancing on Moss: DisCO underground regenerative economix, celebrated at Moos Space in January 2023. The DisCO team, Sari Escribano, Ela Kagel and Irene Lopez de Vallejo, took the audience on a solarpunk, lunarpunk, twilight reflection on the meaning of governance and self-organisation in times of dire social and economic need. We envisioned how, together, we can co-build transformative resilience from the very decay of values in the current dominant system.

Although moss is known to be an expansive, non-vascular plant, many species have been found to develop a very advanced vascular system. Mosses reproduce using spores, not seeds, and have no flowers. Most mosses rely on wind to spread their spores. Moss can grow anywhere, in cracks, on hills, on oaks, among conifers; it can carpet a forest and cover a whole building on a damp city street. Moss adheres to surfaces, becoming the mushy fertile foundation for regeneration, and, why not, making the perfect forest dancefloor rug! That’s why we decided to call this workshop “Dancing on Moss”, celebrating the subterranean life below the moss that keeps resisting, robust and resilient, surviving in the margins through mutual aid and solidarity, sharing experiences of systemic oppression and serving as the foundational seedling for future festivals of care.

So, inspired by heavily vegetated fantasies, we decided to skinny dip in experimental waters and brewed an unprecedented and innovative approach to present the DisCO framework. We designed a workshop built on the imagery and conceptual lens of solarpunk, lunarpunk and a third element, a goblincore-themed twilight hour (we don’t like binaries and thought it necessary to include a transformative, middle stage). We must also confess that the DisCOnauts who ran and designed the workshop were going through a slight goblincore aesthetics fever at the time.

“For this workshop we wanted to sail across what lies beneath the surface, beyond the invisible, beyond the binaries. The DisCO framework proposes a form of organisation that is a living organism, and as such, it adapts to endure and resist everyday systemic stressors and corrosion.”

Striving for regeneration, we seek to nurture the subversive seedlings of life that emerge from crisis and decadence. Conceived as a pathway for fairer, more distributed futures of work and economics, DisCO reimagines value from a commons-oriented, intersectional feminist, P2P, cooperative, deeply organic lens. Our goal is to share and spread radical collaboration practices like mycelium intelligence spreads its collective rhythm of consciousness beneath the moss, deep underground.

The terms we experimented with during the workshop —solarpunk, lunarpunk, goblincore — are emergent expressions of ideas still coalescing, without fixed definitions, thought forms which we can creatively mold and share in community. These world-building analogues are ways to bring in an imaginary context and leverage the power of storytelling. We chose this method as an invitation to look at our reality and play with it, AWAY and APART from the dominant system for just a moment; to indulge in the fantastical, expose the quotidian, and question what habits of thought follow us into the imaginary. To illustrate this point and the versatility of the model, we began with a compilation of abstract descriptions of what DisCO might mean (these Ubik-styled descriptions were created during a SpaceCAMP exercise). We then observed what reactions they elicited in the audience.

These three spheres of action (Solarpunk, Lunarpunk and the Twilight Hour) are reminiscent of the three value streams that conform the DisCO Model: Livelihood, Carework and Lovework, respectively.

Three spheres of action and their associated values and ideas were reflected in the design of the workshop: day (solarpunk), night (lunarpunk), and twilight (the liminal middle ground).

For those not already familiar, Solarpunk is a speculative fiction subgenre focused on community-building and technology powered by renewable energy. Solarpunk imagines a brighter future (solar-), while deliberately subverting the system that keeps that brighter future from happening (hence the –punk). Solarpunk alludes to the countercultural, postcapitalist and decolonial enthusiasm for creating such a future. Associated with a more “maker mindset”, we saw a parallel between solarpunk values and the dimension of governance that deals with sustainability, commitment, decision-making, distribution of power, and autonomy.

Lunarpunk, on the other hand, symbolises aspects less easily seen or perceived but nonetheless there. Lunarpunk emerged as a more “feminine” counterpart to solarpunk, representing that which is perhaps not visible but which exerts a powerful force upon us, just as the moon affects the tides. Some things are not so obvious and only visible under the gentle light of the moon; things that are difficult to quantify or measure, like care, trust and mutual support, essential to sustain personal, project and group health. The moon speaks of art, creativity, imagination, spaces for expression, slow fermentations, community practices that favour bonding, conflict resolution, safe spaces.

Our third element in this alchemic experiment, the Twilight Hour, describes not a set of values but a moment: the twilight. That’s when the biosphere is thriving and transformations occur. The garden might seem dark and quiet but there is more than meets the eye. There are little hints of movement, subtle shifts of light and colour all over the place… the Twilight Hour serves as a catalyst and link between the contrasting values represented by solarpunk and lunarpunk. What are the concrete ways in which both worlds are interwoven? How do we transform current practices so one can mirror the other? How does the Twilight Hour bridge these two dimensions?

The DisCO framework has attracted a huge community that resonates with the way DisCO reflects their own long term practices. We want to clearly remind everyone that we don’t claim to have reinvented the wheel. Over time, we have composted many existing ideas and practices learned while translating game-changing texts at the original DisCO pilot, Guerrilla Translation. The community around DisCO is formed of groups that are rewriting the rules, producing their own proposals, and they are the real deal when it comes to cultivating hope in a decaying world.

The groups were prompted to collectively imagine their  activities around the three metaphors described above, to stimulate a discussion around governance, love and care work, values, decision making, the invisible activities that take place in organisations and the dark, grey areas where conflict arises.

After this prelude and scene-setting, the DisCOnauts introduced the DisCO framework and took the group through a journey through the 4 seasons of a year.

Spring, the first season, is a time of awakening and birth, with ideas that are fresh, inspired, and lively. Spring is young, has yet to experience burnout, still full of initiative and hope. Here we sow the seeds of a caring governance, design a culture and practices that will provide us shelter in the upcoming tougher seasons. These were the questions we cast into the forest mists:

“What does it mean to you to build governance practices that have care at its core?”
“How would a solarpunk/lunarpunk-inspired governance look like in your group?”
“What happens in the Twilight Phase? What do these terms evoke in each of you?”
“Composting: what inspiring subterranean ideas would you like to put into practice and see on the surface?” 
“How can your organisation accurately reflect all people involved and affected? How does this affect the internal finance distribution?”

Summer is the time to celebrate a festival of collective journeys. During this season, the groups present were introduced to the 7 DisCO Principles and to the work and practices of several DisCO LABs: the original model for DisCO, Guerrilla Media Collective, and one in a more advanced phase of ripening as a DisCO, Space of Urgency. We had the pleasure to partner the core founding team of Space of Urgency, and one of its members, Lucas Counter, explained their vision to develop a SuperDisCO, a concept we are co-creating together, along with other artist collectives around the world, like REPAIRE in the Quebec province of Canada, and SODAA Club in the UK, among others. Lucas illustrated how they’re applying DisCO to co-imagine a future where non-dominant cultural spaces and their communities are self-reliant, both in rural and urban environments, even when political support is non-existent.

Similarly, our very own DisCOnaut Sari Escribano, also a proud member of the original DisCO LAB Guerrilla Media Collective, revisited the history and background of DisCO’s original pilot, explaining how the model emerged and developed over the years and detailing how it works in practice, with concrete examples and anecdotes.

Ela, Irene and Sari listen to the presentation of Lucas Counter, who explains how the DisCO model inspired Space of Urgency to dive into the world of cooperativism, the commons, and distributed networking.

We smoothly transitioned into the nostalgia of Autumn, a time to harvest the learnings and reflections of the day and apply them to the uniqueness of the attendants. In groups, the moonbeam audience was asked to “build their own proto-DisCOs”, following these questions:

  • What’s the name and purpose of your group?
  • Where does the livelihood of the group come from?
  • What is care work in your community? How do you make it visible and account for it?
  • What is the lovework you do to contribute to the commons and your mission?

As usual in the DisCOverse, the exercise invited the audience to make it ✨FUN and SPICY✨. The outcome was overwhelmingly imaginative and passionate. Judge for yourself from the short clip above.

The day concluded with a Winter reflection: once we embarked on this journey, having set sail towards fairer, more caring horizons, will our community vessel resist the inclemencies of weather and future, whatever is in store for us? Resilience results from the radical collaboration and federation of value between communities that speak the same language. DisCO offers that language pattern for self organised groups to cross-pollinate their economic activities through a lens of purpose and care. The DisCO Journey is a peer-learning odyssey for groups ready for a process of clarification of their values, methodologies and governance according to these principles. We extended an invitation to join a global collective celebration of care, purpose and hope

The DisCO Mothership is approaching a new harbour and we’re already preparing the second leg of this journey in the shape of a follow-up workshop. Stay tuned!