When talking about the ways of creating new forms of solidarity, and also actions that already took place in reality of the European public sphere, it is very important to put the lights on individual stories and practices that lead to the development of collective intelligence and sharing peer-to-peer knowledge. This blog will serve as a platform for introducing and sharing the perspectives and personal experiences of Queering practices group participants: Fabiola Reyna, Roberto Perez, and Edvinas Grinkevicius. ''The stories'', as I like to call it, were documented in conversations between the participants and the facilitator of the group Igor Stokfiszewski, who motivated the talk by asking questions about the ideas of Europe, culture, solidarity, and the public sphere.
FABIOLA' S STORY
Fabiola was born in Peru, Latin America, and is currently living in Barcelona, Spain. The perception about Europe during her life in Peru was shaped around the ideas created in films and music she consumed. Those ideas usually brought the image of Europe as a classy, developing, fashionable space, with a lot of cultural contents. But there is also another perspective on European culture based on colonization context. She noticed the presence of European influence in Peru, but not always as something positive. Colonization in Latin America has left a lot of scars that communities continued to deal with. The phrase that Latin America is ''the backyard of US'' can also be applied to Europe. Everything that she knows in her country is crossed with colonialism, in the everyday life experiences she can, to this day, recognize how her culture is seen from others' perspectives not always in a good way. That is, in a fact the evidence of never-ending colonialism. The construction built around the identity of Latin American people, as exotic makes the real communities invisible. The possible solution for fighting against the past of European colonization, as Fabiola says, can be laying in the disappearing of the immigration system. Immigration processes are the reason why it is difficult to develop culturally in Europe, especially if you are coming from Latin America. As one of the founders of the film festival in Peru which puts the lights on a woman in the film, Fabiola pointed out that making films can be used as a tool to make common space and values in European public sphere, but we all need to ask ourselves who are the people who create these films. The idea of Latin American people in films is a privileged person's view, but although that is often the case, it is important to acknowledge that not only economically wealthy people can create films, but also marginalized communities can, and need to tell their stories.
Roberto was born in Spain, and currently is living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He moved because he wanted to be exposed to other cultures and different ways of living. Comparing Spain and the Netherlands there is a presence of a different set of values. Having the experience of Queer body growing up in Spain where the communities are mostly driven by catholic and traditional values splits with the experience of living in the Netherlands where the approach of tolerance is like a norm. The difference continues in the most basic ways of not being afraid that ''my body would be a target for violence'', as Roberto pointed out. But the problem of discrimination also exists in the Netherlands as the presence of discrimination and homophobia is used against migrants, etc. There is a general idea that Dutch people are tolerant, but when there is a survey of the public opinion you can see the real side of the situation. Compared to Spain, you have two options, or to assimilate to the traditional culture and values, or to live in a bubble of tolerance. Roberto pointed out that revising the idea of inclusion in National policies and the European public sphere needs to be done. Inclusion is overly focused on employment and productivity, and it is mostly connected to access. There is the opinion that everything not included in the labor market is not important to society, which is not true. Inclusion through the lens of representation that is happening in the cultural sphere can be tricky because by including marginalized bodies you are also activating, and capitalizing them. For example, museums are training people to do queer programs, but nobody is queer – it is the attempt to capitalize on diversity. Roberto underlined the importance of bringing back the critique, not as a way to start a rhetorical battle, but as a tool for nurturing and building ourselves.
Edvinas was born in Kaunas, Lithuania. After he finished his studies in Vilnius (seven years ago) he came back to Kaunas where he was trying to find organizations and initiatives to join. After some time he met politically radical people, and through them, he understood the importance of participating and acting in political movements. This encounter motivated Edivas to rediscover his connection with the city, and it also created a welcoming space for him. He recalls the feeling of lacking spaces for his queer identity. Together with the group of people he met during his work he understood the sense of relaxing spaces, and the need to create spaces people are missing. Edvinas pointed out that we, as the citizens, usually forget our right to the city and public spaces. He is currently working in Art house in Kaunas where he used all of his knowledge and will to create needing spaces for people. They, as a working collective created everything from a blank page, motivating new people to get together. As he was the one to propose a new framework for developing in the future, he needed to explain himself what are the reasons for not working like usual culture institutions – and the answer is in a way they operate things (closed and elitist). Being aware of that brings reflecting space for future work because it is positioned as a reminder of openness. Edvinas is currently working on the project ''Unlearning Eastern Europe'' which started as an experiment. While in the making, the interest was focused on achieving benefits for communities. Working on this project also included a different set of questions about art, the way we perceive art, and the role of the artist in the art production. The working model he is trying to implement can also benefit the artist in a way of creating networks, but it can also serve as a concrete starting point for developing future projects based on the same model. When talking about the European public sphere, Edvinas pointed out that we should be aware that we are not equal, we can be equal but we live in different social, geopolitical, and economical areas, so we are not. European Union and Europe have certain important values, but people from Eastern Europe can learn from their own experiences. There is a constant presence of the question of representation and the way Eastern European countries are represented. Edvinas told the example of possible solutions for creating common space through initiatives. The idea of just putting tables and chairs on the street and squares can create common spaces for people. By not knowing the right for a commonplace, people are forgetting that they are the ones who create a city, and that needs to change.
Author: Tina Perić
Cultural studies student, a lover of performing arts, words, and sea
European Cultural Foundation