PATHS OF RADICAL IMAGINATION or How to make a collective?


Society is engaged in a continuous process of self-creation and self-determination. Its institutions are built through a form of social creativity which Cornelius Castoriadis calls radical imagination. This creativity emerges ex nihilo, precedes distinctions of the ‘real’ and the ‘fictive’, and exists in and of itself without cause. But it is determined by relations and originates in the dynamic field of imaginary meanings that guarantees the self-institutionalisation of society. Radical imagination is inherent in humans, analogous to the social imaginary, and is a major driving force behind social flows.


At first glance, any organisation, club, team, or sect might be a good choice for exploring the conditions of the radical imagination. However, the focus of this lecture will be on the artistic and activist collectives in which the practice of commoning, organised by egalitarian principles, becomes an alternative mode of social reproduction. In addition, artists and activists engaged in commoning are frequently and intentionally involved in imaginative work. Their joint actions, in a non-institutional framework,  provide an opportunity to examine the paths of radical imagination on two levels:  firstly, by following the principles of collective creativity [a], which operate through different forms of artistic and socio-cultural production, systematically targeting the development of social imaginaries;  secondly, by creating a collective [b], based on imaginary constructs aimed at the production of sociability itself which are evolved and tested through practices. Certainly, the very creation of a collective is based on the prerogatives of collective creativity, as are the principles of joint work during the creative process conditioned by the structure and dynamics of the collective. Thus, these are neither destinational paths, nor linear ones. It is important to observe them carefully before explaining their entanglement.


A model that explains imaginative work on both the micro-level of joint artistic actions, and on the macro-level of the social imaginary (in the context of radical social changes) requires an understanding of the structure, dynamics and development of the collective. Beyond this, the role of dissensus, as well as (self) reflection tools that enable the emergence of a new collective construct must be taken seriously. It is the processuality, evident in the dynamics of the social imaginary, that guarantees the openness of the community to change. Provided that the imagination is not reduced to reactive mental representations, this becomes the drive of practice: the material manifestation of certain relations, their testing in reality, their growth and simultaneous performance, progressing towards new forms of collectivity, and perhaps collective autonomy. 


Irena Ristic is a researcher in the fields of psychology, social science and art. Focused mostly on generative processes and collective practices. Graduated from the Faculty of Drama University of Arts in Belgrade, Department of Theater directing, followed by postgraduate studies of the psychology of art at the Faculty of Philosophy, Department of Psychology (MSc) and the Faculty of Fine Arts Department of Theory in Belgrade (PhD), as well as the specialized education at the Institute of Psychodrama (EAPTI, Belgrade/Vienna). Conducted a number of studies, art pieces, performances, and cross-disciplinary projects.  Also known as the author of “Essays of Friendship and Possession” (2019), “Beginning and The End of Creative Process” (2010), co-author of “Psychology of Creativity” (2013), the editor of  “Taking Care of the Yard” (2017), and co-editor of the books “Theater Within the Context… and Not Just Theater” (2016), “Theater and/in the Times of War” (2009) and “On Creativity and Arts: Contemporary Psychological Research” (2015). She is a co-founder of the micro collective Hop.La!, Associate Professor in the Department of Theory and History at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts University of Arts in Belgrade, and guest lecturer at UNESCO Chair in Cultural Policy and Management, University of Arts Belgrade/ University Lyon II. Her complete bibliography is available here: www.irena-ristic.comorcidresearch gate


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