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Zeitgeist

I Am Multitudes

Last year, something snapped in the Kenyan performance artist Ogutu Muraya, who was living in Amsterdam at the time. He decided to stop applying for European visas and return to Nairobi. His decision was motivated by a desire to ‘go beyond Europe’, to free his imagination, to transcend internal limits rather than merely trying to cross physical borders. In this text, he tells us how he intends to continue his artistic practice and maintain his presence – but strictly on his own terms.

Zeitgeist

In Digestion

Rébecca Chaillon is a performance artist, author, and director. Her article is a deeply personal account on the processes of racialisation and an artist’s pursuit to unpack, interrogate and confront them in the context of her art. In this powerful plea for artistic and personal emancipation, Chaillon deconstructs assumptions, mixes and overlaps identities, shares questions and personal victories intertwined with society’s reluctant transformations. Chaillon wrote this article as a contribution to a book initiated by Décoloniser les arts, a collective that acts against discrimination of minority and postcolonial populations in the French arts sector. The book, Décolonisons les arts, presents testimonials of fifteen artists as an invitation to denationalise, deracialise and de-Westernise the ideologies that still determine the arts world.

Zeitgeist

Museums: Essential or Non-essential?

In a crisis of survival in the aftershock of the novel Covid-19 pandemic, everything that we have taken for granted is questioned: is it considered ‘essential’ or ‘non-essential’? Museums are by no means a sacred institution any more than newspapers, educational systems, the music industry, the norms of governance and checks and balances in a democracy, the secular pillars of science, truth seeking and rational discourse, the preservation of the commons, public lands and spaces, good manners, common human decency and decorous behaviour, and so on. All these things hang in the balance right now along with our treasured museums. All of them turn out to be things we have to decide to fight for if we are to keep them, or that must be reinvented to find new relevancy and life.

Zeitgeist

From Staging to Enacting Politics: The Case of Alternative Theatres in Istanbul

In her empirical study of alternative theatres in Istanbul, Zeynep Uğur focuses on artistic micro-practices that reshape public life. Alternative theatres are making the narratives of minorities visible, they reorganize the relationship to space by creating new ways of working and being in society, and they become autonomous spaces where people can socialize differently. In authoritarian political contexts, autonomous physical places become sites of resistance against the closure of public space and against the political system

Zeitgeist

Hope Through the Fog

McGonagle argues that a similar solution like that to the Covid-19 virus, to the other virus – the virus of the small state agenda which has infected societal provision and expectations – lies in a cultural turn towards reciprocal social relations, which can be articulated in a total art process that is not limited to rhetorical modes of production and consumption. The stakes could not be higher for individuals and communities right now in this immediate crisis but questions about what principles will inform the future are also necessary and important, to see hope through the fog.

Interview

Various Faces of Solidarity — An interview with Nike Jonah

Nike Jonah is a research fellow with the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama at University College London and is also the lead for the Pop Culture and Social Change initiative at Counterpoint Arts. She engages in questions of strategic development in the cultural sector and across creative industries. In the context of RESHAPE, she was the facilitator of the solidarity economies trajectory, where questions of how art and cultural projects can be supported for their potential and not for where they are coming from have been raised. In this conversation, we address how the concept of solidarity funding was unpacked, and how the different projects and prototypes potentially manifesting it emerged.

Method

RESHAPE: An Experiment in Collaborative Change-making

Our societies are facing multiple pressures. Extreme polarisation, rising intolerance and growing nationalism seem to have invaded the political space. The climate catastrophe is looming over us, without agreement on how to prevent it, or even postpone it. Freedom of expression is under threat by authoritarian governments; political opinions and choices are being manipulated on a scale never seen before. Extreme commodification is invading even the most intimate aspects of our lives.

Interview

Creating the Department of Civil Imagination — An interview with Peter Jenkinson and Shelagh Wright

Shelagh Wright and Peter Jenkinson, both based in London, have been supporting creative and cultural work for progressive social and political goals throughout the world for many years. Their current projects include ODD, an action research ad/venture exploring positive deviance within socially-engaged cultural practice and creative activism. They are also involved with the pan-European Laboratories of Care programme and with investigating the contribution of cultural and creative activists to the new global Municipalist movement. In the context of RESHAPE, they have been the facilitators of the Art and Citizenship trajectory, asking the question: How can art radically reimagine new forms of citizenship and empower us to act? Here, active citizenship is a central connecting point, on which we expound in this conversation.

Zeitgeist

Wages for and against Art Work: On Economy, Autonomy, and the Future of Artistic Labour

In her article, Katja Praznik deconstructs the idea of artistic work as an expression of individual creativity independent from the economy and its processes. She demonstrates that this persistent ideology of autonomy of the arts contributes to the precarious position of artists and the exploitative working relations in the arts sector. Instead, she suggests to look at artistic work as labour, embedded in economy and subject to the economic relations. Taking inspiration from the arguments for the recognition of invisible labour put forward by Marxist feminists, Praznik calls for a demystification of creativity and supports the imperative of artistic remuneration, as a necessary step towards a broader goal of redefining value and labour in our society.

Method

Changing the Game: The RESHAPE Transition

This text is a first attempt to join the dots between the proposals, to draft the initial contours of a framework for understanding them. To understand the proposals, it can be useful to first have a brief look at the origins and the promise of RESHAPE, and how the project itself was redesigned and reshaped during an intensive process within the RESHAPE community. Secondly, we begin a reflection on how these proposals might contribute to responding to the current needs within the arts field. In very different ways, these proposals respond to increasing pressures concerning how the arts are organized, governed, and supported (or not).

Zeitgeist

Reframing European Cultural Production: From Creative Industries towards Cultural Commons

Professor Pascal Gielen (Antwerp University) did research on the biotope around artistic careers, on the role of institutions, and how the transnational creative industries and the longing for a monotopic European identity put pressure on this biotope. Gielen formulates a number of suggestions on how a healthy artistic biotope may be maintained in the future, and how artists can offer us a more complex heterotopic understanding of Europe in a globalising world.

Zeitgeist

The Art Institution as a Hole in the Ground

According to the author, art institutions mirror today’s dominant powers. Sarah Vanhee wants a plurality of institutions connected to different, heterogeneous forms of living and being. A longing for a feminization, decolonization and queering of the art institutions. Looking for art institutions that do politics instead of presenting art programmes about politics, that take care of the people who work there and engage with them, support them on the basis of equal dialogue and lend themselves as tools.

Zeitgeist

Politicising Piracy - Making an Unconditional Demand

Pirate Care is a transnational project connecting activists, scholars, and practitioners working on the collective practices of care that are emerging in response to the current ‘crisis of care’: welfare cuts, rollback of reproductive rights, austerity, and criminalisation of migration and solidarity. These initiatives are experimenting with forms of self-organisation, alternative approaches to social reproduction, and the commoning of tools. They share a willingness to openly disobey laws and executive orders, whenever these stand in the way of safety and solidarity, and politicise that disobedience to contest the status quo. Pirate Care specifically aims to activate collective learning processes from the situated knowledge of these practices. To that end, a collective syllabus was initiated, the first part of which was written in November of 2019. The syllabus, an expanding work-in-progress, currently includes topics covering criminalisation of solidarity, sea rescue helping migrants survive, housing struggles, commoning care-work and child care, psychosocial autonomy, community safety from racialising policing, transfeminist hacking, hormone toxicity and bodily sovereignty, gender equality in tech milieus, and politicising digital piracy. The syllabus is available at syllabus.pirate.care. What follows is the introduction to the topic ‘Politicising Piracy’, looking at the practices of digital and pre-digital piracy in the realm of culture and knowledge, and political disobedience articulated in those practices.

Zeitgeist

Art and Culture after Covid-19

Everyone seems to agree that the Covid-19 pandemic has a huge impact on the economy, social relations, politics, and culture. We’re nowhere near through this crisis yet, and alternative futures are already being promoted, others wait to ‘get back to normal’, while most people are too busy coping with the emergency. In this ferment of events and contestation, it’s valuable to be reminded of the bigger picture. This essay by Professor Justin O’Connor (University of South Australia) places the current situation of cultural organisations and workers in a historical context, reminding us of their developing relationship with the political economy of recent decades. It is also challenging because it asks what compromises have been made by cultural actors in pursuit of recognition and at what costs.

Zeitgeist

Overproduction

This article was published in an issue (1/2020) of the Polish Magazine Dialog that deals with artistic labour. Overproduction results from the penetration of market mechanisms to all areas of our lives, fields of creativity, and institutions in which we work. It is an element of the system preying on our activity, because it is primarily this mobility – not content and sense – that generates profits. When we stop, get tired or stand aside – we become redundant to the system.

Zeitgeist

Feminist Practices, Radical Politics

Feminism seems to be gaining momentum in many countries, but most organisations and groups are still working on the basis of patriarchal standards. The ‘feminisation of politics’ includes different elements, which all aim to change the way activism and politics (in a broad sense) are done. A feminist way of organising includes considerations such as gender balance, building power through cooperation, collective leadership, democratic decision-making, care (for peers, for dependent beings and for oneself), intersectional understanding of issues, and non-violence.

Zeitgeist

Feminisation, Democracy, Labour: Towards a Socialised Cultural Institution

This essay is the programme document of a research project Porozumienie (Agreement) at the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw, about the participatory transformation of the public theatre ‘Powszechny Theatre’ in Warsaw into a feminist cultural institution. A year of research and interviews with employees resulted in texts and practical steps, such as the establishment of an arts and programme board. The authors of the project were Agata Adamiecka-Sitek, Marta Keil, and Igor Stokfiszewski.

Zeitgeist

ETMAC: The Extra-territorial Ministry of Arab Culture

At a time when Arab countries are bleeding away their creative capital with the departure, emigration, or exiling of pioneering intellectuals and artists, one wonders about the future of their practices and legacies. HaRaKa’s performance theorist and artist Adham Hafez and anthropologist and urbanist Adam Kucharski pose the following question: can the institution of the ministry of culture be rehabilitated to serve this new diffuse community of art producers and serve as a locus of cultural production outside of the traditional boundaries of the nation? Can the institution evolve to meet the needs of an artistic and cultural community that is, at least temporarily, extra-territorial? And can it help to rebuild shattered national institutions on artists’ terms? ETMAC is built as an imaginary ministry that supports contemporary artistic creation of displaced and refugee Arab artists; a fictitious entity that runs programmes, advises institutions on issues of cultural policy and financial planning, publishes articles, and presents lecture-performances in multiple cities. ETMAC is a unique interdisciplinary project, set between the worlds of institutional making, performance theory, and strategic financial planning.

Interview

The Home, the Suitcase, and the Social Fabric — An interview with Pedro Costa

Pedro Costa is professor at the Department of Political Economy at the ISCTE – Instituto Universitário de Lisboa and director of DINAMIA’CET-iscte (Research Center on Socioeconomic Change and Territory). An economist with a research specialization in urban and regional planning, Costa works on areas of territorial development and cultural economics. In the context of RESHAPE, he was the facilitator of the trajectory Value of Art in the Social Fabric, where the question of how to better understand the impact, tangible and intangible, of artists and their work on the local context was raised. In this conversation, we explore some of the processes and outputs of this trajectory.

Interview

On Fair Governance and Evaluation — An interview with Katarina Pavić

Katarina Pavić is a cultural worker and activist, who worked in the independent cultural scene in Croatia and the wider region of former Yugoslavia since 2005. Her work has combined advocacy and research at the intersection of civil society development, activism, and cultural critique. She has been the facilitator of the fair governance models trajectory of RESHAPE, which describes it as a ‘reflection-oriented process, where its focus – governance of artistic and cultural institutions and collectives – functions simultaneously as a form of critique and an open invitation to imagine and practice a different way of being-in-common’. In this conversation, she spoke from London where she pursued her MA in culture industry and to which she has just moved back.

Zeitgeist

Agencies of Art: A Report on the Situation of Small and Medium-sized Art Centres in Denmark, Norway and Sweden

How can one fathom the implications and values of smaller arts institutions within the greater art ecosystem? One key aspect is their ground-breaking approach to relations between art and society, education, and the formation of public spheres. Another is their important role in local communities whilst maintaining a constant dialogue within the international arts context. But how can we create dialogue around the values that are being built – beyond visitation numbers and media coverage? What cooperative processes can be adopted so that artists and culture, small and large institutions, municipalities, regions, states, and federal politics all cooperate to encourage art’s potential? The authors believe that small or midsize art centres play an important role with their capacity to adapt and transform according to what artists are doing, while also providing stability and continuity. Since this crucial stability and continuity is challenged by current political decisions, this report ‘Agencies of Art’ is a timely tool for reflecting on the possible agency of art and its institutions. ‘Agencies of Art’ is based on a questionnaire and interviews. For the Reshape publication, two chapters of the report ‘Agencies of Art’ were selected: ‘Future perspectives’ and ‘Alternative future perspectives’.

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