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An Interview with Fresh New Anxieties

Image courtesy of Fresh New Anxieties.

In advance of ‘Research Network: Luxury’ at the Stuart Hall Library, we caught up with participating collective Fresh New Anxieties. 

Tell us a bit about the collective and areas of interest.

Fresh New Anxieties was originally formed as a series of seminars in reaction to an alienating university environment which created a culture of anxiety for both students and staff. We have now evolved into a smaller, more insular collective which aims to function as a ‘community of care’, making space to share and unpack our emotions and experiences in a political context, committed to being mindful of how our human connections are impacted by societal power structures.

What are you working on or researching at the moment?

Our current thinking has been around disability, labour, value, and luxury: how we value our own time and energy, as well as that of others, in activist, academic, artistic spaces specifically, as well as wider contexts. In caring for ourselves and others, what is a necessity and what is luxury, where and how do those boundaries overlap?

How do we navigate self-care in a time when it is becoming increasingly commodified?

Why did you apply for the Research Network? Why were you interested in the theme ‘Duties of Self-Care’?

We applied because self-care is something that is central to our practice and also has been frequently examined within our collective. Self-care is something we perceive as being promoted by universities as a way of minimising the student mental and physical health crises, resulting from the changing nature of higher education. It is individualising, de-politicising, infantilising. We want to turn that on its head, to talk about and act as a reminder that self-care can be a conscious contextual social act.

It has sometimes proven difficult to find a balance between focusing on the maintenance of self-care, while at the same time, maintaining radical action in a collective setting where each member has different circumstances and energy levels. This is something which has real life consequences and which is an ongoing project for us to work on.

What are you hoping this experience will bring to your practice?

We are hoping that this experience will allow us to share our ideas on these matters as they have evolved, and to elicit fresh input, but also to be able to encourage participation. We have found that doing these types of actions, where we engage in a process with those who attend, is deeply constructive – each time we have done so has proven to be a turning point for us. Doing these kinds of sessions has given us the sense that what we find relevant can resonate with the concerns of others. By doing it here we are hoping to find out what this particular community might consider most important from our ideas, and to take that on board.

What would you like the audience to take away from this?

We hope that people will feel heartened by the ideas around solidarity and finding strength in shared vulnerability.

Each session we have organised is unique, and the real purpose of them is to facilitate conversations between people who would not necessarily talk to one another, about things they would not necessarily speak about, in an environment dedicated to mindful, radical communication. We are not experts, we just want more of these spaces which we have gained so much from, to exist, and to be accessible.

Meeting weekly at each other’s homes, Fresh New Anxieties try to create a community of care, centring collectivity and an empathetic but critical environment allowing people to speak openly about their struggles and self-doubt. This supports them to develop methodologies of radical self-care, unpicking ingrained ideas about their own value based on productivity and capacity for labour. All this as resistance to institutional structures which systematically contribute to people’s disempowerment and alienation, adding to an epidemic of poor mental and physical health.