Communities of Learning, Bridging the Gap of Isolation
In the social environment diminished by the pandemic and economic crises, the new project “Communities of Learning, Bridging the Gap of Isolation” by What, How and for Whom/WHW reclaims the inclusive role of education and art while rethinking the future of cross-border European collaborations.
Through exhibitions, educational and discursive programs in online formats and in physical spaces, the project initiates recurring encounters between the international partners, their local communities and a high number of pan-European cultural workers.
What, How and for Whom/WHW is a non-profit organization for visual culture and curatorial collective (members: Ivet Ćurlin, Ana Dević, Nataša Ilić and Sabina Sabolović) formed in 1999 (legally established 2001) and based in Zagreb, Croatia. In March 2019 members of WHW Ivet Ćurlin, Nataša Ilić and Sabina Sabolović were appointed in 2019 as artistic directors of Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna. WHW as a collective continues working in Zagreb with collective activities coordinated by WHW member Ana Dević, joined by curators Ana Kovačić and Martina Kontošić. Members of WHW organizational team in Zagreb are designer and publicist Dejan Krišić, curators Ana Dević, Ana Kovačić and Martina Kontošić and Gordana Borić.
Since May 2003 WHW has directed the program of Gallery Nova – non-profit, city-owned gallery in Zagreb. WHW exhibitions and projects open up discussions on relevant social issues through art, theory and media, by supporting contemporary art production, organizing art projects and developing models for collaboration and exchange of knowledge among organizations from different cultural fields.
In 2018 WHW started the WHW Akademija a new international art study program in Zagreb, for emerging artists. It is an intervention in the field of art education, aiming to enable new forms of self-determination for the participants, based on co-learning.
The name of the program, like that of the collective, includes the acronym for the three crucial questions of economic organization, What, How, & for Whom. Based in Zagreb, Croatia, the program accepts 8–12 fellows per year. Its aim is to work with the participants in Zagreb over the course of seven months on new forms of self-determination based on modes of critical reflection, curiosity, and encounters among artists, artworks, arts professionals, scholars, and practitioners in various disciplines. The program consists of a series of intensives, experimental exercises, workshops, and seminars, as well as a range of exhibitions, performances, and discursive programs that are in large part open to the public.
We spoke with the members and curators of WHW on what made them think of the project “Communities of Learning, Bridging the Gap of Isolation” and their project’s contribution to Europe, post-corona and more.
The Project “Communities of Learning, Bridging the Gap of Isolation” was conceived during the first wave of the pandemic. In the period of immense disruption and social change that pandemic brought it felt urgent to ask about the future of engaged knowledge production. The main incentive for the project was related to the challenge of how during the period of decreased mobility we can collectively build forms of being together beyond confinement.
We thought that through building the platform that is based on education and culture and being sensitive to questions of care we can also contribute to building knowledge through sharing and mutual learning. We are interested in how systems of support such as care, comradeship, friendship, intimacy and resistance – that are essential elements of engaged practices can be reconfigured now. We see methodologies of micro-institutions, collectives and independent initiatives as a vital force, an impetus while trying to rethink educational practices in a wider context.
Contribution to Europe, post-corona
In the current context, the project will contribute to preserving already developed and newly established resources of engaged education established by smaller – size, independent organizations and galleries. These resources are among the most important loci of engaged cultural production.
In order to offer support exchange of ideas for local and international cultural workers, the project reclaims the inclusive role of education and art. Through exhibitions, educational and discursive programs in online formats and in physical spaces, the program initiates recurring encounters between the partners, their local communities with a reach out to the wider European context. Preserving the international character of cultural programming via “Communities of Learning, Bridging the Gap of Isolation” we hope that through the engagement process of learning it is also possible to generate vital principles of collaborations applicable also in post-corona time.
Growing from local to pan European
Conceptualized from the perspective of local artistic, educational and activist communities mostly situated in European semi-periphery gravely affected with pandemic and economic crisis, the project uses locality as a source of learning. While putting an emphasis on the capability of those practices that use agility and adaptation as resources to develop specific tools capable of intervening in public space, our idea is to enable a place for testing ideas. We believe that pandemic with its limitations can also be used as a productive time for rethinking the role of art and education, in a sense that we have recently witnessed that it also catalyzed numerous new models.
Making Europe an open and shared public space for everyone
Most of our programs will be accessible to the public. We are insisting on solidarity and forms of anti-capitalist approach to care and knowledge production as key elements needed for rebuilding post-pandemic Europe. To make the space of culture accessible, the program advocates free access to knowledge open to various communities. Geographically, the project connects different parts of Europe, in that way, the project will create a polyvalent online educational platform for generating and exchange of knowledge between the participants of various disciplines and independent institutional backgrounds.