The 3 Ecologies Institute is an autonomous organization dedicated to participatory experimentation in research-creation. It operates at the intersection of artistic practice, philosophy, and community engagement, building on the nearly two decades of experience of its parent organization, the SenseLab, based at Concordia Univerisity, a pioneer in the theory and practice of research-creation (senselab.ca). Its aim is to catalyze the emergence of new forms of creative collaboration across disciplinary boundaries, and to disseminate the resulting “techniques of relation” for adoption by artists and social actors, for adaptation to their needs. It seeks to operate as a “process seed bank” disseminating seeds of creative practice that can impart self-organizing momentum to outside artists, collectives, and organizations. The 3Ei operates as an extra-university research and learning environment, according to the principles of a processual gift economy. It is dedicated to an ethos of radical openness. A nonprofit organization registered in Quebec, all of its activities are open to all and free of charge. The 3Ei places special emphasis on creating a welcoming environment for neurodiversity, not only supportive of but positively learning from the normally undervalued experiential and perceptual worlds of pathologized and racialized communities. The perspective is ecological, in an expanded sense adopted from philosopher/activist Felix Guattari. The “three ecologies” are the social, the environmental, and the conceptual, as they enmesh in every event. The 3Ei poses the question of sustainability in that expanded framework. 3Ei operates as a node in the international network developed by the SenseLab, which includes over 800 participants worldwide, with active local groups in Montreal, Australia, Brazil, and several locations in Europe, and formal partnerships with more than two dozen university and art-organization partners. Distance collaboration tools are used to cross-pollinate ideas and approaches between network members. Activities cycle between online collaboration and live participatory research-creation events of experimental format. The development of new digital tools for cycling between locally embodied and networked online interactions as part of an integrated “creative process engine” is a long-term goal of the 3Ei.
What it is
a collaborative learning environment
dedicated to participatory experimentation
where concept-making meets embodied creative practice
Where it begins
with the premise that concepts must be experienced: they are lived
Where it moves
between philosophy – understood as the creation of concepts in language and art – understood as the choreography of concepts in movement and the sculpting of thought in materials
What moves it
bringing art and philosophy actively together
at critical points where the three ecologies intersect
heralding emergent modes of life, prefiguring new forms of value
Who it addresses
• all those, of any age and any level of formal education, neurodiverse or neurotypical, inside or outside established institutions of learning, who wish to join with others to pursue learning as a life-long process of social engagement
• students and teachers in higher education looking for
a transdisciplinary milieu to supplement their disciplinary studies, and interested in exploratory techniques to expand the horizon of their existing methods
• creative practitioners and cultural workers wishing to renew their thinking and rethink their practice in active dialogue with others
• community workers and activists wishing to explore the connections between their particular domain of practice and the larger ecological eld of powers and potentials
THE THREE ECOLOGIES
LAYERED AND INTERLINKED
relation > collaboration > research-creation > neurodiversity >sustainability >conviviality
The 3Ecologies Institute is an autonomous learning environment exploring collective techniques for creative thought and practice. Its activities are radically open, guided by an ethos of self-organization and open accessibility. It affirms the value of neurodiversity and non-normative modes of thinking, being, and perceiving.
The 3Ecologies Institute resists the neoliberal debt economy currently transforming the university into a colony of the job market. An essential part of its mission is to experiment with the invention of new alter-economic platforms that might offer it — and kindred projects for collective autonomy — the long-term possibility of becoming self-sustaining.
As an alternative or supplement to the university, the 3Ecologies Institute does not grant credit or degrees. It regards participation in collective thought and practice as rewards in themselves. Its aim is not to transmit already packaged knowledge, but to explore new modes of knowledge production that push the limits of how we know.
The 3Ecologies Institute is a non-profit organization officially registered in Québec, Canada. The Montréal group serves as a coordinating node for a self-organizing federation of local groups active in North America, Europe, Australia, and Brazil.
- live participatory events (research-creation events, philosophical reading groups, movement practices, materials-based explorations, seminars and workshops)
- collective initiation, development, and remote participation in activities through online collaboration tools, presently using a combination of off-the-shelf platforms including Basecamp, Slack, Skype, and Google Docs.
- the development of a replacement for off-the-shelf proprietary collaboration tools in the form of a new digital collaborative platform embodying the self-organizing ethos of the 3Ecologies Institute and its emphasis on emergent collectivity. This platform, the 3E Process Seed Bank,will be an open-source self-governance platform (or creative process engine) integrating an alter-economic system based on new forms of post-blockchain crypto-finance, operating on the principle of the common rather than private gain. Collaborations are under way with Holochain, the Economic Space Agency (ECSA), and the Volatilities Working Group (a network of radical economists and political thinkers).
- an open-source journal, Inflexions: A Journal for Research-Creation, founded in 2008. Inflexions is an Open Humanities Press journal.
- the 3Ecologies Books imprint at Punctum Books, featuring the Immediations book series (a continuation of the book series developed by SenseLab at Open Humanities Press). 3Ecologies books are available free of charge in PDF format. Paperback copies are available for a charge from Punctum Books and online book marketers.
- networked research projects such as the ongoing Immediations project, initiated by the SenseLab in 2012.
For the last several years, the SenseLab has been working toward an alternative site for collaborative thinking, learning, and living that would spin off from the university while remaining in complex relation to it. We think of it as an autonomous “para-institutional” space — a kind of adjacent undercommons. We chose the name the 3 Ecologies Institute, after a phrase by Félix Guattari referring to the intertwinement between the conceptual or psychic, the social, and the environmental.
Integral to the project is the design of a cooperative alter-economy called the 3E Process Seed Bank, the goal of which is to eventually make the project self-sustaining, outside the constraining framework of traditional institutional funding structures. Over the next year, we will be moving toward weaning ourselves off of traditional funding sources, with a goal of launching the kernel of the 3E Process Seed Bank in prototype form in early 2020.
To fund activities during the transition and the start-up phase of the new economy we are launching an interim economy. It is still (sadly) in the capitalist vein. Strategic duplicity is sometimes necessary. By subscribing to the Patreon page below, you will be facilitating the movement toward 3E, out from the university into the city and beyond. Everything SenseLab does is free and will continue to be free. Patreon contributions go through the 3 Ecologies nonprofit, officially registered in Quebec.
Collaborate with us to imagine what an autonomous alter-university (unaccredited, neurodiverse, free) might be.
Learning at the 3Ecologies Institute takes place at the limit of what one knows. It involves risk – the risk of extending oneself beyond one’s own comfort zones, where what was previously unthinkable, imperceptible, and undoable suddenly becomes a possibility to explore, with consequences that are as yet uncertain. This exploration is best accomplished in relation. However, moving beyond one’s comfort zone carries the risk of disorientation and even demoralization. Finely honed techniques of relation are necessary to facilitate this taking of knowledge to the limit while ensuring that it takes place in a supportive and sustainable environment. These are collective techniques, of care and conviviality, of concern for the collectivity of the event of learning. The Three Ecologies Institute continues the work of SenseLab in the invention and dissemination of collective techniques of sustaining exploratory relation.
The 3Ecologies Institute is an outgrowth of SenseLab, “a laboratory for thought in motion” based at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada. Founded in 2003 by Erin Manning, SenseLab has explored the intersection between thought and creative practice through an ongoing program of event-based collaborative activities. The focus of SenseLab is on the development of techniques for catalysing and sustaining a self-organizing group exploration, or what we call “emergent collectivity.” The approach is one of research-creation”: taking seriously that thought is creative and that creative activity is a mode of thought in its own right. SenseLab is an internationally recognized leader in this area. From 2013 until its constitution as a non-profit, the 3Ecologies Institute operated as a project under the umbrella of the SenseLab, with which it maintains close collaborative ties.
The 3Ecologies Institute officially launched in 2019 through a series of Minor Movements (improvisatory research-creation gatherings hosted by local groups in the larger SenseLab network). Minor Movements took place in Sao Paulo-Brazil, Montreal, Amsterdam, Helsinki, Edinburgh, Manchester, Copenhagen, Berlin, Budapest, Cluj-Romania, and Bendigo-Australia. The events were interwoven through the circulation of “emissaries” between groups and the sharing of “anarchival traces” (spin-offs meant to enliven the next event rather than document past events).
As an alternative to the traditional course structure, the Institute’s encourages the innovation of participatory platforms for exploratory learning encounters. Examples are:
1 knot: a paradox or temporary impasse in one’s work, life, thinking, or creative practice that might become newly productive if staged in a way that opens it to a collaborative exploration, in language or between language and other modes of expression
2 juncture: a known conjunction reopened for further exploration through new techniques reconfiguring its potential; the juncture might be a theoretical perspective, a set of established techniques informing a particular practice, an already-operating collaboration or project, or an existing disciplinary, interdisciplinary or intermedia platform, restaged with a new inflection.
3 vector: a move out from known junctures into a wander-line that is oriented by a proposition, and in that sense directionally constrained, but is at the same time open-ended in way that invites new takings-form on the fly.
Platforms are activated by propositions leading into a collective process. They are springboards for thinking and acting together (rather than boxes for content-delivery).
The traditional role of teacher or professor is inflected toward that of the facilitator. The facilitator sets in place initial conditions to jump-start the process and accompanies its unfolding as guide, coordinator, or orchestrator. Collective facilitation is especially encouraged.
Rather than deliver a syllabus, the facilitator(s) launches a platform designed to activate a specific proposition, including in the platform-design techniques for eliciting the interest of prospective participants and facilitating their entry into the process. In addition to ongoing activities, any 3Ecologies Institute participant is empowered to launch a pop-up proposition at any time to spark emergent creative movements.
The duration, group size and structure, techniques, and approach of each learning proposition will vary according to the kind of platform (knot, nexus, vector), the specific nature of the proposition, and the inspiration of the facilitator(s).
Although collective facilitation is favoured, solo facilitations are not be excluded. Each platform is encouraged to seek opportunities for intersecting with other activities under way at the Institute, in order to open the unfolding proposition to a wider circle.