Culture Lab
Europe

June, 2020
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CFS:
The Participatory
Action Research

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10th July 2020No Comments

Under the radar: partcipants’ reflections in Miro

~ What is it about?

How do you get to know if you do or do not have something in common with other people? Have you ever been misled by your preconceptions? Can other people's questions help you to find your answers?

Do you think this platform serves to provide direct answers and suggestions? Would you be surprised if its scope is to develop critical thinking by deepening our understandings and challenging our thoughts and "truths"?

Would this change the way you talk with other people or even the way you think?

What would it be like if we could connect people from all over Europe through questions and uncertainties? Would that create a tool for change or would it just be a recipe for an awesome mess?

~How does it work?

Can you imagine a better start than choosing the way you want the others to see you?

Have you ever had the freedom to ask what you really wanted?

What would you ask: personal, political or maybe philosophical question?

Are you really sure offensive content will be allowed?

Do you believe Google will answer your question better than the Fellowship of Questions?

What if you can choose the language and media you prefer?

What do you think about not having a limited number of questions you can pose?

Are you ready to question everything, even the questions?

Would it scare you if this is the only way you can react to other questions?

Would you prefer to know who is answering to your question or is it better not to know it?

Do you also think sharing and using social media will help us connect but also our curiosities and uncertainties?

How does it feel knowing that you are not alone in this?

Or that there is also someone else thinking about what you are thinking?

Would you like to try this in the real world or you prefer to stick to the virtual one?

Who says that virtual world is not the real one?

What if you try?

5th June 2020No Comments

Culture Lab Europe methodology

Thank you all for joining the 2nd session of Culture Lab Europe - Spaces for Solidarity today. For the ones who missed it or the ones who can't get enough of it, please watch the presentation on CLE methodology by Ruben Diaz.

3rd June 20202 Comments

New! Interesting FACES#3 LOOKING out of European Windows #SPACESforsolidarity

mikes badhuistheater amsterdam

mikes badhuistheater amsterdam

 

The Cultural scene in Amsterdam (read :your major European Capital)  needs some adaptation to meet demands of the present population. The original Dutch (whicheverCity) are in minority but most cultural services still reflect the ideas of 1970s when the performers were colored and the audience was white. A few cultural centers serve the ‘categorial’ “Official” minorities of the former Colonies. but these “official” minorities all  together these days form  a minority in the non-Dutch crowd. The  Present “minority” population  in whatever European Capital , lumped by the expat label, cover a few dozen nationalities. There are large communities of  East Europeans, Anglo-Saxons, EU neighbours, South-Asian and several others are found. Most live well and have fun because people are friendly and many styles are encountered. However, the cultural services and facilities  for them are minimal  and the Municipal cultures do not benefit from their vibrant communities. It is  because the cultural policies of the Municipalities  prioritize the few institutions too “ big to fall “ and the “official Minority”  organisations have small audiences, each one  a subsidized club. A Change is necessary  toward services for the “other “  cultures. And this diversity would refresh the scene. Why not start with such innovation in the parts of the Cities  where so many cultures study and live. 

ThePower of the SMALL

100 years ago in New York in the 1920’s ,there were Italian,Yiddish,Irish,Afro American and Russian theatres all being successful with original language productions. As a Theatre centre  ourselves in Amsterdam , we host productions in many languages other than English or the Secret language of Dutch 🙂  The refreshment and renewal of the cultural scene can start from outside  because many good performers are interested. Given that “our city “ of  Amsterdam has much goodwill as a European metropole on a human scale, a number of reasonably priced European Theatre groups  can be attracted, not only for a one-night performances , but also for workshops with the Amsterdam professionals, and  workshops  for the  more ambitious amateurs than typical spectator. Such combinations of performances with  training and education generate vibrant local culture and enlarge public interest in culture and arts because ‘delights make people hungry’ as the  Polish say. 

We are ready for your Proposals ! and Solidarity and looking forward to cooperating with

ECF, Krytyka Polytizcna and ZEMOS98 

The ALTERNATIVE SPACES, The SPACE FORCE!

Surviving the Plague

THE Non-commercial Venues essential for Post-Corona Major Cities

SO , new paths in arts should be pursued, in particular ,the multimedia combinations because they can be homemade, which is attractive to younger age groups , thereby fostering continuity in this Endeavour. Key is that all these lines progress because only the combinations can avoid the deadlock of “too small” arts for attracting audience and ” too small” audiences  for attractive arts; this is a conclusion observed in many cultural organizations. All  together ,The Art Scene needs sufficient numbers  to satisfy the performers ,the policymakers and the costs.

The  New Faces at the European Windows are looking out and asking at the #spacesforsolidarity , And we as the art centres face questions and challenges of different demands ,not the commercial ‘as you ask, we run’ neither the artists as ‘donkeys carrying politician messages’ as Gerrit Komrij has written.  Are we up to it ? Can we deliver answers for our “new” populations ? Since all the City monies are already spent twice to maintain many anachronistic  buildings  and out of touch  businesses and even more bullshit jobs, we have to be clever instead of big. Clever means combining things together. It is a combination of organisers. The organizers cover costs of performing, marketing and organization and make the performers happy to serve, stay and come back. The Cities and Municipalities ,with European support, need to find Capital to  pay reasonable accommodation and costs of stay during the services. So we are going Dutch.

 In addition, investment is needed for the start-up and goodwill to attract extra  sponsors.

Written by Yoram Krozer,  Professor of Sustainabilty and Member of the Artistic Council of Badhuistheater Amsterdam.

Best Wishes. Mike Manicardi Gimpel   email   :badhuistheater@gmail.com      www.badhuistheater.nl

19th April 2020No Comments

Culture and Solidarity: Conclusions

... our research allowed us to outline certain conclusions:

1) Solidarity may be provoked as part of a cultural and artistic activity, if the said activity happens based on a social, i.e. cultural, religious or class difference and sets in motion tensions caused by this difference by programming cooperation of people representing such difference. Active encounters of differences in order to reach a common objective (preparation of an event, artistic or cultural activity) is the first step towards rebuilding social solidarity using cultural tools.

2) It is necessary to shift the mindset from thinking about solidarity as a reaction to a crisis of another subject towards solidarity manifesting as building relations with another subject. To make it possible, organizational framework needs to be redesigned together with material infrastructure and interfaces that would form the basis for developing social solidarity. This is how we approach culture: it has greater chance of affecting how the social solidarity practices emerge and consolidate if it provides material foundations, tools that would act as a scaffold for erecting solidarity as a relation, and not only a reaction. Culture should also be able to develop and provide scenarios for social solidarity activities, a sort of dramaturgy, narrative, practical clues on how to carry out collective processes aimed at development and consolidation of social solidarity practices.

3) Thus, we find it is an imperative to rethink the category and the practice of performance which in our opinion has incredible potential as an artistic genre that can be taken over from the avant-garde culture and adopted to serve popular social culture focused on creating communities. Performance is an activity; it stimulates all senses of the participants and has a transformational potential. If aptly applied in the area of culture dedicated to solidarity, it may bring incredible results in future.

4) Other performative genres that in our opinion bring hope as far as provoking social solidarity is concerned, are the ludic genres, referring to dance, collective celebrations, carnival-related practices. Apart from the qualities of a performance they also apply laughter and humour as tools to slightly crack identity and subjectivity.

5) Last but not least, before we as creators of culture take on the task of establishing the new paradigm for cultural practices that will contribute to the restoration of social solidarity we need to fight for the reform of the culture itself, for creating conditions that will allow us to focus on the positive social impact instead of the everyday struggle for survival and concern about the future caused by insecure, precarious conditions of our own work. Without cultural organizations founded on the logic of solidarity, social culture does not have any chance to impact the solidarity of European societies.

This last point that we mention has not only the sociological, but also a deeply philosophical dimension. Solidarity is a function of the subject; only by being a subject, i.e. a person who has control over his or her life, we are able to bridge with another subject. When we do this, our subjectivity is complemented, we become even more ourselves. All in all, solidarity constitutes the subject; only if we are able to act in empathy with others, we can be certain to have control over our own life. The stake in any analysis of culture and solidarity is Europe, our society, politics, our cultures. In the end, however, the final stake here is us, our dignity and the meaning of our lives altogether.

 

This final excerpt is from a paper based on the action research carried out by an international group of researchers and artists across Europe in 2018 as part of the Culture for Solidarity project. You can now access the final version of this participatory-action-research in both English and Polish. Soon we will also publish the Spanish version. 

Read the final English document in PDF

Read the Polish version in PDF

Information on the project - English website

Information on the project - Polish website

19th April 2020No Comments

Superheroes need solidarity too

Tuning is like dressing up, a masquerade. This is exactly what it is in the Seville experiment. In one of the interviews, when asked about a situation that he would consider a disruption of the habit and the routine underlying operations of the organizations and about the conditions that would facilitate solidarity towards the employees themselves and extracting their subjectivity, Felipe González Gil fantasized about a support group for tired superheroes:

"We, employees of culture, are like mutants, like superheroes. We have our mission and we tend to forget about our own needs. I wish I could create a situation, a theatre play, maybe, where we would sit in our superhero costumes, tired, with our make-up melting, trying to talk about our ideals. Or maybe rather we should be discussing our weaknesses, that everybody has some, though we can rarely expose them. This is what I imagine it like: we are sitting together and then one of the superheroes says: I’m so tired of flying..."

This image was the starting point for the masquerade that was meant to serve as a sort of solidarity experience, action research focused around the question: What needs to happen for the tired superheroes to reconnect with their desires, needs, with each other in their vulnerability and subjectivity, rather than in tasks and the productive work mode? The answer was to be reached through the already mentioned reality tuning, an intensive time of a performative city ride, made up of situations when they experience events that they previously mentioned as unusual, dream situations, disrupting the shell of values and the burden of the mission. They were roaming the city for fifteen hours dressed up as Spiderman, Catwoman, Batman and Superman, participating in surprise events that they prepared for each other based on the knowledge collected during the interviews.

 

This excerpt is from a paper based on the action research carried out by an international group of researchers and artists across Europe in 2018 as part of the Culture for Solidarity project. You can now access the final version of this participatory-action-research in both English and Polish. Soon we will also publish the Spanish version. 

Read the final English document in PDF

Read the Polish version in PDF

Information on the project - English website

Information on the project - Polish website

19th April 2020No Comments

Working conditions in culture – II: Stability, solidarity and dignity

Similarly to how educational institutions may not put their values and ethics into practice, the reality of institutions of culture and art, as well as organizations dedicated to social change, is that their values may not necessarily be translated into the way they are organised.

The dissonance between the modus operandi and the contents is like a blind spot. It often remains out of sight. What represents the essence of work in the given institution, its main mission statement, the set of values and addressed issues, very often is not implemented in production structures. Theatres producing plays on social justice operate using extremely unjust mechanisms.  Progressive institutions aimed at civic society development struggle with insufficient transparency in management and lack of any internal democracy. Small organizations work on permanent take-off run, always lagging behind, uncertain, giving in to a grantosis, losing their marbles out of fear whether they will be able to maintain their open undertakings on one hand, and pay wages to their employees on the other. At the same time, they carry out projects to persuade participants about the need to look after themselves, about the value of subjective choices and that “less is more”, as the popular catchphrase assures. Can anyone imagine a more overwhelming schizophrenia? Almost all institutional cultural centres work based on habits that are a sort of default system setting. Work procedures and methods are full of contradicting and unfair rules that become translucent, absorbed by the blood flow of the system, operating on the routine level.

As a result, nobody has any first-hand experience of emancipation here, however, we always insist that we do what we love. Maybe we don't feel the cognitive dissonance, maybe we believe that this is the price to pay for this unusual privilege. How can it be changed? How do you keep your enthusiasm stemming from the sense of mission and absolute involvement in produced values and keep a clear head, not forgetting about your own needs and ambitions, not giving up on your basic sense of security, to put it plainly? Is it possible to work in dignified conditions in culture? Can we empathize with ourselves, knowing that we need both bold visions, as well as to be able to pay our bills without the recurring end-of-the-month anxieties? Are we able to create such ways of working that will be the best artistic and social project on its own talking about justice, equality and balance?

 

This excerpt is from a paper based on the action research carried out by an international group of researchers and artists across Europe in 2018 as part of the Culture for Solidarity project. You can now access the final version of this participatory-action-research in both English and Polish. Soon we will also publish the Spanish version. 

Read the final English document in PDF

Read the Polish version in PDF

Information on the project - English website

Information on the project - Polish website

Miya Tokomitsu - In the name of love

19th April 2020No Comments

Working conditions in culture: “Do what you love”

During the research carried out for this paper, it was noted that one of the possible barriers to social impact and culture for solidarity gestures, is the working conditions of artists and cultural organisations. These conditions are precarious, unstable, with low pay and excessive work...

 

Paradoxically, the world of culture, art and social activities is based on the tension between the above described working conditions and the fact that the persons shaping this world very often have sincere, deeply rooted ideological motivation, and  they invest in their work a lot of energy and life resources, engaging passion, hope and thoughts. Sometimes professional activities absorb these people totally, which is not so difficult, when the profession you practice is at the same time your passion and hobby. In a simple way it helps you efface boundaries between the work and private life.

Additional factors, such as flexible working hours, high mobility, combining social and professional life, increased sense of responsibility can soon stop being a blessing, a privilege and turn to a curse instead. The problem has been diagnosed in a powerful way by Miya Tokumitsu of Pennsylvania University in her paper opening with the famous slogan, Do what you love.(Miya Tokomitsu, In the name of love) Firstly, she points to the fact we seem to often forget and refers to the primacy of passion: many activities essential for the society can be hardly referred to as fascinating and stimulating. Unfortunately, these are also jobs that enjoy very little recognition, both socially and economically. The researcher argues that being so lavish with the positive thinking narrative and enhancing the love motivation at work not only encourages humiliation of professionals on the positions not connected with any big passion or fascination, but can even result in a peculiar invisibility of the huge area of services and people providing such services.

This, according to Tokumistu, is just the tip of the iceberg. For her the situation in the area of seemingly privileged professions is even more treacherous: “The »do what you love« mantra has also caused great damage to the professions it pretends to celebrate” she maintains, giving as the example the way universities operate and the situation of scholars employed in academia.

There are many factors that keep PhDs providing such high-skilled labor for such extremely low wages [...], but one of the strongest is how pervasively the »DWYL [do what you love]« doctrine is embedded in academia. Few other professions fuse the personal identity of their workers so intimately with the work output. This intense identification partly explains why so many proudly left-leaning faculty authorities remain oddly silent about the working conditions of their peers. Because academic research should be done out of pure love, the actual conditions of and compensation for this labor become afterthoughts, if they are considered at all.

 

This excerpt is from a paper based on the action research carried out by an international group of researchers and artists across Europe in 2018 as part of the Culture for Solidarity project. You can now access the final version of this participatory-action-research in both English and Polish. Soon we will also publish the Spanish version. 

Read the final English document in PDF

Read the Polish version in PDF

Information on the project - English website

Information on the project - Polish website

Miya Tokomitsu - In the name of love

4th March 2020No Comments

Neighbours ‘trapped’ in photography studio together

In late June – early July 2018 Paweł Ogrodzki together with Aziz Boumediene opened a communal photo studio in the restroom of the Bel Horizon block of flats in Marseille. In the field note of 4 July Ogrodzki describes his idea as follows:

Imagine a photo studio as a meeting point for people who do not know each other. Maybe they pass each other every day but haven’t had any reason to meet yet. Now they can by posing together for their portrait. In their best suit or dressed casually. With a specially selected object, a family memento or a vase hastily grabbed off the table. All this effort only to be together in a picture, to look together in one and the same lens. What is more, a lens held by a foreigner who does not speak their language. Like many of those who have arrived in France recently and live their new, complex migrant – French identity.

It is true that Bel Horizon is inhabited mainly by foreign families: “The Cape Verde Islands, Comoros, Majotta, Algeria, Morocco”, Ogrodzki lists in his field note of 1 July. Adding: “The tenants’ turnover is relatively quick; they don’t strike roots here. Our activity is a bit like approximating a glass in order to focus rays and start a small fire in the community relations.” The artists invite Bel Horizon residents to have their photo taken together with their neighbours. However, in order to avoid shooting only people who know each other, they make appointments for different neighbours to arrive at the same time. It turns out that usually the studio welcomes people who had never had any contact before, except for the exchange of polite greetings. Because it takes a while to prepare for the photo shoot, the neighbours start talking to each other. The artists also ask them to bring along objects that are important to them. Stories behind those objects allow them to get to know each other's biographies better and learn about the experience of the members of this multiethnical community in Bel Horizon. In his summary of the activity Ogrodzki notices that “operation of the photographic studio was a sort of artistic trap [...] where people who decided to take the photo with their neighbours would fall. These [...] efforts put them in a situation of an encounter, of a talk and a shared portrait with people whom they have previously looked at with reluctance.”

The “trap” category was taken by the researcher from the works of the British anthropologist, Alfred Gell. The co-author of this paper in her paper written with Tomasz Rakowski and Ewa Rossal, explains this notion and its links with art:

The figure of the trap turns out to be [...] useful in interpretation of artistic projects, creating new ethnographic situations. […] Gell believes that all contemporary artwork works the same as traps. They generate questions but they do not provide answers, they provoke to trigger reaction in the audience, they create situations where not only the viewer, but often the artist himself or herself is entrapped in a network of meanings and relations between themselves and between them and the object. Traps not only tend to embody complex ideas and intentions of the artist, but also  disclose traits of the potential recipient, since, as emphasized by Gell, »The trap is therefore both a model of its creator, the hunter, and a model of its victim, the prey animal. But more than this, the trap embodies a scenario, which is the dramatic nexus that binds these two protagonists together, and which aligns them in time and space«. On the linguistic level we can study traps as tools/ devices/ objects for catching and/or as a method or activity aimed at entrapping somebody in a more or less defined situation.

The photographic studio is a regular piece of infrastructure. In Marseille it became a solidarity trap.

 

This excerpt is from a paper based on the action research carried out by an international group of researchers and artists across Europe in 2018 as part of the Culture for Solidarity project. You can now access the final version of this participatory-action-research in both English and Polish. Soon we will also publish the Spanish version. 

Read the final English document in PDF

Read the Polish version in PDF

Information on the project - English website

Information on the project - Polish website

The Bel Horizon neighbours project 

 

4th March 2020No Comments

Dancing with the neighbours – II

"The act of walking is to the urban system what the speech act is to language or to the statements uttered. At the most elementary level it has a triple “function”: it is a process of appropriation of the topographical system on the part of the pedestrian (just as the speaker appropriates and takes on the language); it is a spatial acting-out of the place (just as the speech act is an acoustic acting-out of the language); and it implies relations among differentiated positions, that is, among pragmatic “contracts” in the form of movements (just as verbal enunciation is an “allocution”, “posits another opposite” the speaker and puts contracts between interlocutors into action). It thus seems possible to give a preliminary definition of walking as a space of enunciation”

If walking is enunciation, then dance you may treat as an utterance that generates greater momentum, is more audible, more complex, makes the individual present, lets him or her individually define their place in space, take their place and leave their mark. When walking and dancing in the urban space the artists assigns relevance to simple elements of everyday life, this is where her presence and utterance are manifested. In this undertaking solidarity (although the word does not occur in Alice's essay too often, still she examines it, redefines over and over again using synonyms) entails creating similar space for Bel Horizon residents for their self-expression and giving meanings to their gestures, appreciating the importance of their activities. They dance, while she brings out the meanings, keeps up the dramaturgy, enhances their voice.

As Tania Alice emphasizes, “My role as the artist is focused on discovering the field of autonomy of the participants. [It happens through] listening, making their ideas audible again, touch, unveiling their visions and thoughts.” Solidarity here is understood as giving space and opportunity for being present and being-with. Descriptions of meetings with the residents are moving examples of “making the voice resound”. Just like when the artist is dancing with Hamsa, an autistic boy, who selects reggae music and an energetic song Karma by Naâman. “Reggae is the only word he can say”, Alice emphasizes. In this dance there is space for an equal, strong performance of a person who is very often socially considered to be different, silent, even mute. By dancing the boy has the chance to express himself in the language that is fully available to him: the language of movement.

 

This excerpt is from a paper based on the action research carried out by an international group of researchers and artists across Europe in 2018 as part of the Culture for Solidarity project. You can now access the final version of this participatory-action-research in both English and Polish. Soon we will also publish the Spanish version. 

Read the final English document in PDF

Read the Polish version in PDF

Information on the project - English website

Information on the project - Polish website

Culture for Solidarity - Tours de danse activity

4th March 2020No Comments

Dancing with the neighbours

“A joyful sweetness is in the air, I feel it the moment I arrive at the airport in Marseille. It is early July 2018. The captain addresses the passengers: »Smile! We have just arrived in the land of crickets«. And then we hear an imitation of the sound of a cricket coming through the speakers. Everyone laughs together. Marseille. My city, my home, my so many other things. A sleepless night. A twenty-hour journey and ...here I am.”

These are the opening words of Tania Alice's essay Solidarity dramaturgies. It is the outcome of the Tours de danse activity that she carried out together with an artist, Aziz Boumediene, aimed at participation of residents of the Bel Horizon block of flats in Marseille. Once again, the pilot puts up a show to make people laugh that lets the Brazilian artist feel the unity with passengers, she knows she is home. The explosion of cheerfulness for a moment sets a platform of emotional flow, but not only that: it generates a special kind of understanding between people gathered in one place by pure chance. The laughter and solidarity intertwine here in a close relation.

Alice’s activity took place from 4 to 15 July 2018 and was video recorded by Daniela Lanzuisi. It entailed inviting Bel Horizon residents to dance together. Day after day the artist danced individually or in small groups successively with the neighbours, in their flats or outside in the halls of the block. Adults, children, families, friends living in the same stairwell: different set, different temperature of their co-existence. Sometimes they seem clearly embarrassed when dancing, slightly camera shy, other times you can see them totally relaxed, they enjoy the opportunity to show their body, movement and presence on stage.

In the sequences shot in the first days of the activity we can see how Tania Alice together with Aziz Boumedien and the caretaker of the building, Mr. Fortes, use a red tape to line the structure of the building on the window by the entry to the staircase. Nineteen rows represent nineteen floors, each flat is a separate window. The collage looks a bit like an advent calendar, which is an association Alice uses on purpose. In each field pictures will be placed: whenever one of the residents decides to have a dance, his or her portrait will be put in the appropriate cell of the net. Advent is a period of counting down the days according to the Christian liturgy: “a cheerful anticipation.”

Anticipation is what Alice has been experiencing from the moment she landed in Marseille. As she reports on her first morning, before the whole undertaking even begins, when she hears the city call, and each step feels like creating space, Tania Alice expresses a specific kind of tension that she experiences. It is a kind of excitement that makes you move from the usual everyday energy towards an intensified, concentrated dynamics of the performance art. The artist describes the moment she has the first look at the architecture of the building. “A tower! […] I feel moved, as if I was about to have my first kiss. Making a performance is like being constantly two seconds away from your first kiss, and from all the next ones that follow. Is performance a dramaturgy of the first kiss?” This comparison points not only to the specific state of the performer starting her action. This state involves trembling muscles, a decision to get involved, a leap into the unknown, excitement. In the description it is also a clue that lets us understand what the relations she is about to trigger during her project will be about: about being ready, feeling of getting closer, catching moments of understanding, tension on the verge of intimacy and adventure. This fleetingness and intensity of relations is a characteristic that yet again reveals the nature of solidarity as a performance. It is created in consolidation, in common adventure, in moments of unusual contact, when unexpectedly a channel of understanding opens.

 

This excerpt is from a paper based on the action research carried out by an international group of researchers and artists across Europe in 2018 as part of the Culture for Solidarity project. You can now access the final version of this participatory-action-research in both English and Polish. Soon we will also publish the Spanish version. 

Read the final English document in PDF

Read the Polish version in PDF

Information on the project - English website

Information on the project - Polish website

Culture for Solidarity - Tours de danse activity