Sara Cattin: Reconnect, and Stay Alive: Leaving behind the idea of domain at the passage of roaming shepherds.


Advisor/tutor: Antonia Majaca

Arnhem, August 2020


This thesis is part of a broader artistic research that investigates the role of material practices within a contemporaneity that constantly abstracts reality into immaterial relations of capital. With the aim of re-connecting to materiality, I suggest considering “rural” forms of transgenerational, embodied knowledges and ways of relating to the land. The logic of maintenance will guide me in the investigation of a specific vernacular practice of human subsistence that has managed to survive until today: roaming pastoralism—the practice of raising animals while roaming through land, orally transferred from one generation to another.

The maintenance of natural resources and the cohabiting of human and non-human forms of being is at the core of roaming shepherds’ mobility, but their passage through land includes different forms of dealing with property. From rented to private property, from “passing through” to occupying space illegally, roaming shepherds challenge land use and the progressive capitalization of both public and private property. Researching pastoralism through a feminist relation of proximity, I use the valleys surrounding my home town of Biella (Northwest Italy) as a case study, and explore how transhumance shepherding survived the heavy industrialization and the post-industrial depression of the region, moving up and down the mountains as in between the “cracks” of the law. As a cultural producer, I intend to re-think the binaries of Nature and Culture, body and mind, object and subject, and defend roaming pastoralism as a real form of knowledge that goes beyond its aesthetic representation, providing tools for a universal and sustainable long-term future.