Culture Lab Europe Development Grant Back

Culture Lab Europe Development Grant

The difficulty of the current situation has physically isolated many people all across Europe. Despite the crisis, citizens are coming to the realization that they are not alone and, as a result, are organizing their communities. These novel spaces of interaction, which are both digital and analog, are facilitating cooperation and solidarity generation. Becoming the center of creation, culture takes up the function of a language to describe reality, to express feelings and opinions of the participants.

Culture functions as a buttress for social ties and allows for the imagination of alternative ways of living and engaging with others in understanding, trust, and peace. What becomes important now is connecting these spaces. Culture Lab Europe (CLE) has been set up in recognition of the current momentum that allows for the building of an infrastructure for a cultural movement that can reclaim European democracy. Functioning as a platform to strengthen the aforementioned movement, CLE works towards the consolidation of the European Public Space.

Culture Lab Europe provides a safe and inspirational working environment based on principles of free and open culture. Through facilitated group work, peer to peer learning, inspirational talks and innovative methodologies, participants are triggered to think outside the box, collaborate and scale their work up to a European level. End of June 2020, fifty cultural activists and change-makers explored the ways of collaboration on initiatives to strengthen European Public Space. In the week of June 22-28, several digital live events have taken place.

Recognizing the importance of the continued support in order for the CLE initiatives to be further developed and strengthened, ECF created the CLE Development Grants. Cultural activists and mediators who participated in the June Idea Camp were invited to apply for a grant of up to 12.500 euro for the period between December 2020 and July 2021. The four CLE grantees were chosen in mid-November. All five initiatives that have received the Development Grant are involved with the creation of spaces for solidarity and public debate and are motivated to collaborate on the European level.

Meet the CLE Development Grantees!

Permaculture Solidarity – Group of Urban Commons

Permaculture Solidarity initiative developed by the CLE Group of Urban Commons aspires to re-imagine a space where local needs can be transformed into shared international tools. Partners of the initiative are a group of activists, educators, artists, designers, urbanists and citizens from different areas, which are located in and on the edges of Europe. The initiative which operates across for locations (South of Spain, Athens, Chisinau and Istanbul) will work towards the creation of a network and knowledge on the topic of education related to art, activism and urban transformations. The current crisis has put an increasing amount of pressure on solidarity structures to entirely re-organise the ways in which they operate. Permaculture Solidarity’s aim is to give exposure and space for solidarity initiatives to grow by cross-pollinating their methodologies, toolkits and experiences. Moving beyond the urgency of the moment, the initiative’s effort is to offer strategies of resilience and to share knowledge from the fields of solidarity structures across Europe.

Development of an online platform that will function as a knowledge bank and a network of practitioners is the central aim of the initiative. Meeting online throughout the length of the grant, partners will write articles, do research through mapping of the various collectives in their localities, conduct video interviews with selected collectives, as well as design the digital interface for the platform of online experience sharing strategies. All of the activities of the initiative serve a goal of giving space and exposure to smaller local initiatives, as well as sharing of practical solutions and establishing a communication and exchange framework for the local actors across four locations. The platform and video interviews are set to be made public in June 2021.

Ecology of Care – Care Day

Ecology of Care (EoC) is an intimate practice-based research started in June 2020 as a part of Culture Lab Europe. Up until now, the EoC group developed a collective methodology that will serve as a ground for further exploration on current social urgencies such as solidarity, ecology and sustainability, labour and exhaustion, along with over-digitalization. The idea that lies at the core of the initiative is the slowing down of time in order to articulate a common space and find alternative spaces through individual practice and experimentation around solidarity.

The second stage of the research supported by the Development Grant is set to be developed between December 2020 and June 2021 taking the name of “Care Day”. What will it look like? Every Friday the participants will undergo a small-scale experiment in the form of a ‘slowing down’ practice. This will entail spending the most possible time engaging in active inactivity – an open-ended framework that allows for a closer encounter with natural environments and extended free time which enables self-introspection, as well as various creative processes.

Some of the individual practices enabled by the Care Day include:

  • Reduction of the activity load to a minimum.
  • Immersion in nature.
  • Disconnecting from technology.
  • Engagement in activities that were previously time-constrained, but now have space and time to flourish.
  • Discovering intimate personal ways to change reality.

At the end of each Care Day, the participants will gather online in order to share and discuss their experiences and thoughts. Part of the practice will be to record the conversations and to post 30-60-minute unedited excerpts, along with analog approach documents (handwritten stories and visuals), onto the CLE’s blog platform. Guest speakers will also be occasionally invited to share their opinions on and experiences of slowing down.

The initiative started on December 1st, 2020 and will continue up until June 26th, 2021, culminating in recording on the offline episode during the physical meeting of the participants on ArtfarmP2, on the Croatian Island of Hvar.

Make the Invisible Visible – Practices of Participation and Awareness

Making the Invisible Visible is a project in which professionals from small cultural organisations are engaged in sharing online participative experiences from their cultural activities through the means of a blog-style platform which will be developed from January to May 2021. This output will be used to exchange experiences and open communication fro European artists and cultural workers that have similar challenges with switching their main mode of practice from analog to digital, adapting new forms of work with their audiences.

The main aim of the project is the creation of new digital tools for and forms of performance as well as community art techniques, which will culminate in a digital Manual of best practices in the ongoing lockdown. Although this project primarily targets artists and cultural workers of small cultural institutions in Poland and the Netherlands, other artists and cultural workers across Europe can still access it.

Each month from December 2020 to June 2021 a topic/theme (e.g., awareness/performance presence online; using objects from everyday life on Zoom; working with communities with online digital tools, etc.) will be chosen and at least four presentation posts on the issue will be created. Moreover, once a month there will be an open online seminar to which representatives of other organizations and collectives will be invited in order to interact and exchange tools. The outputs in form of blog posts, short video films, podcasts, collages and other entries produced by the project will be posted on the platform openly available to other small artistic institutions to post their findings.

The platform created throughout the Make the Invisible Visible project aims at establishing a new informal cross-European association of active and effective small European performance communities co-working regularly on the topics of participation, social cohesion, and empowerment.

Movement Erasmus

Movement Erasmus aims to construct a blueprint for intersectional movement building. This is done through the establishment of a shared network of intersectional European physical and virtual spaces. Erasmus members with existing physical hubs and specializations connect via peer mentoring and shared resources for the purpose of (1) challenging and exploration of best practices, (2) experimenting with translation of movement culture across borders, and (3) opening up new space, skills, as well as communities in a variety of area. What comes as a result is promotion of positive change across European cultural ecosystem through the momentum of building movements. In order to expand the reach of similar development programs to marginalized people who want to access the culture sector, the initiative partners up with existing organizations and foundations.

The project will consist of a series of parallel streamed “how-to” workshops during which participants will exchange best practices, resulting in an opening of a space for exploration of the ways in which challenges in different localities can be confronted and translated. As mentioned earlier, one of the key goals of the project is the transformation of workshop outputs into an evolving blueprint for intersectional movement-building in Europe, which includes a platform for future cohorts to explore, join and expand Erasmus by mapping cultural ogranisations, opportunities, and resources.

Fellowship of Questions

The group “Fellowship of Questions” received the grant both as a part of the CLE and the Culture for Solidarity project co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union. With the starting question of how one could build awareness of our shared interests if we have nothing in common with one another, the project creates an online public space made solely for questions becoming an open-source tool that encourages critical thinking. Once the restrictions are lifted, this will lead to offline workshops and encounters.

The Fellowship of Questions is a pan-European partnership, created at the Culture Lab Europe. The Fellowship of Questions hopes to counter the self-reinforcing bubbles of certainty and beliefs by building a space that celebrates the power and liberation of asking a question when we have no idea of the answer. Their project will use the strengths of their organisations at the grassroots level, through workshops in 6 countries, with groups of people of different age, gender, sexual orientation, political views and understanding of the current situation. Can we question our enemies? Can we build on disagreement? They will test the concept of initiating discussions through questions in each of their countries – Holland, UK, Serbia, Romania, Germany and Portugal – and document the results

Right to Move, Right to Act, Right to do

The programme has been initiated to connect, share and learn with colleagues who work in art institutions across Europe for the purposes of expansion of the often-restricted definition of art institution and attempting to model ways forward. Offered as a series exchanges, the aim of the programme is to support an engaging, open, dynamic and collaborative exchange of ideas around the question of ‘what should institutions do now?’ given the circumstances of the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic.

A preliminary reading group series will be set up alongside participants of Culture Lab Europe Paper Monument’s 2018 anthology, As Radical, As Mother, As Salad, As Shelter: What Should Art Institutions do Now?, which surveyed 30 curators on the role and responsibilities of art institutions during a time of political and social upheaval in the United States. Collective engagement with the ideas presented to consider how the survey questions can continue challenging institutional thinking today as well as to discuss the key ideas put forward in participants’ own contexts are both objectives of the project. The overall aim is to formulate a series of questions and proposals as research for the purposes of constructing a position on what can actually be done in response to the political and social urgencies in participants’ localities.