Create to Connect is a European project that was joined by the Bunker Institute in 2013 and which expired in September 2018. The project aims to create strong and long-lasting links between artists, cultural professionals, researchers and audiences across 13 European cultural and research organizations. In the same year, a slightly expanded consortium applied to the Create to Connect -> Create to Impact (CtC -> CtI, September 2018–August 2022) project, a somewhat logical continuation of the first project, where Bunker Institute – with its well‑established knowledge accumulated through decades of experience and survival strategies on the margins of European cultural policy – could take the helm. It is worth noting, however, that the budget available to the project is certainly exceptional in the circumstances typical to the Slovenian non-governmental sector. The main goal is to find new ways to engage viewers and create new public spaces in dialogue with them. To this end, the consortium network slightly recalibrated its operation from attracting audiences – which was the focus of the first project – towards the issue of influence, where the partners seek to identify potential meanings and value of cultural production in a broader sense of change, innovation, empowerment, and emancipation.
Research of social impact (which is the main preoccupation of the CtC -> CtI project) is something very broad and intangible, requiring constant adaptation to the particularities of a specific social environment in which each partner organisation is immersed.
Iva Kosmos, researcher, ZRC SAZU
In this regard, Bunker Institute sought cooperation of The Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (ZRC SAZU) in order to focus on the interaction between cultural production and social systems, politics, ideology, memory, and history. Iva Kosmos, a researcher with ZRC SAZU, explains that exploring social impact is something very broad and intangible, requiring constant adaptation to the particularities of a specific social environment in which each partner organisation is immersed. Working with different organizations is a kind of anthropological-ethnographic work that will eventually make its way into publication.
In the first phase, she seeks to identify what partner organizations want to work with in the first place, in what way, and what relations they are creating with the local environment. Organizations, on the other hand, want to know if their created narrative has reached the audience at all, if the audience read it in the way it was communicated, absorbed the message, rejected it, etc. In addition to large organizations, the research conducted by Iva Kosmos involves smaller once, which operate more locally, have a limited audience, and maintain a strong interactive relationship with their surroundings. For example, the Romanian AltArt in Cluj-Napoca keeps a very modest archive of the large number of interactive events and work done with the local community – among others, rebuilding an abandoned park that had been completely out of use following the transition; trying to establish a self‑governing body as a kind of platform for experimenting with different ways of social organizing, etc.
From the Steve Paxton exhibition; photo: Pia Brezavšček
At Culturgest in Lisbon, there are large crowds, they have a large production machinery, and a curious relationship between a bank and art production. Culturgest is a cultural institution operating in a bank building and financed by the bank; the bank supports its diverse programme concepts, from exhibitions, discursive and music programmes, to performative and contemporary dance productions under the artistic direction of Mark Deputter. While such mutual parasitism in such a combination is unknown to our region, we do have models of financing by (private) capital (Soros, Erste, etc.) which could be called cahoots an alliance of lower intensity. During our visit, there was also a retrospective exhibition on display about the pioneer of dance improvisation, Steve Paxton. In an unobtrusive and sensible way, the exhibition logic followed the lifelong work of the improviser, the awareness‑raising of the body, and the relational lines interweaved between the bodies. The exhibition guided the visitors by taking into account the positioning of the body in the room. We were either placed on a large pillow to watch the beautifully made interview with Paxton, we were reading his work, a manifest of contact improvisation, on the pillows in the corner, while the headphones hanging from the ceiling went through the cult “Material for the Spine” which appeared as exercise instructions.
Labrović, whose artistic practice is based on performances and interventions and who is somehow observing the situation in a socially critical way, will physically move institutions through actions and happenings in public spaces. He will move some of the European institutions in Brussels, and partner organizations will not be safe from him either.
Siniša Labrović, a Croatian multimedia artist, and Jaka Železnikar, a poet and online art pioneer, participate in the project in a very special way, at the intersection between public relations and their own artistic practice. Labrović, whose artistic practice is based on performances and interventions and who is somehow observing the situation in a socially critical way, will physically move institutions through actions and happenings in public spaces. He will move some of the European institutions in Brussels, and partner organizations will not be safe from him either, thus tying them into a self‑reflective loop, but at the same time giving them a certain presence within the public space. In a short interview, Jaka Železnikar said that their collaboration was certainly unique, because it is not typical for project to have artists embedded in this way. For him, communication will predominantly include online appearances, where he will collaborate directly with some of the associated partners who will need IT skills, or engage in communication between the partners through authors’ websites or various interventions. The internet often seems very uniform, and Železnikar aims to make it less generic, which would, of course, also contribute to the partners’ own promotion.
Non‑professional actors are entering the stage, each with their own telephone, as if they don’t notice each other at all, staring at them and immersing themselves into the intimate corners of their own physicality – the camera catches a piece of skin, a toe, an eye, an oral cavity, until they descend, last but not least, into the bowel of intimacy.
About the performance Family Romance or The Augmented Reality by Ana Borralho and João Galante
As part of the project, we also attended the mid-April premiere of Ana Borralho and João Galante’s Family Romance or Augmented Reality at Culturgest. We also had a chance to see the work of the artistic duo at the last year’s Mladi levi Festival, in collaboration with a group of local teens for the performance Trigger of happiness. They also collaborated with non‑professional actors for Family Romance. They called into question the relationship between physical presence on stage and the issue of new technologies in order to show the symptomatology of total individualization and certain alienation through new media. The actors are entering the stage, each with their own telephone, as if they don’t notice each other at all, staring at them and immersing themselves into the intimate corners of their own physicality – the camera catches a piece of skin, a toe, an eye, an oral cavity, until they descend, last but not least, into the bowel of intimacy. The exhibitionist situation produced by the imagery projected onto the back wall of theatre leaves the audience relatively unimpressed. There is nothing sexual about the huge amount of images of all these body parts, the snippets of bodies are losing their particularities, becoming nothing more than a generic product of body dissection, as in pornography or medicine. The stage situation escalates in a sort of orgiastic get-together, with the actors maintaining the amount of image production, communicating with Apple’s Siri, and later also engaging in communication with the audience. However, the liveliness of the stage situation can no longer address us, despite the literal bending and intertwining of the bodies in front of our eyes. In a way, the performance thus records the state of things very lucidly: the new millennium is underlined by new technologies that are entering and transforming all aspects of one’s life, such as how to enter into relations and how to love, while critically observing the loss of the idea of a collective social body.
This article was published on 15th July 2019 at the portal Neodvisni – territory of contemporary performing arts:
Alja Lobnik is a postgraduate student, co-editor of the online platform Neodvisni (Independent) and the performing arts journal Maska (The Mask)