At the end of November, we convened at Krasnogruda for the closing sessions of the current programme. Members of the ‘bridge-building’ projects from Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia came together to share the results of their projects with each other, with members of the Borderland team, with our project mentors and guides, and with funders and partners.
For the first sessions, the four local initiatives presented their the results of their work over the past six months, realised in the framework of the Borderland School 2013-2014 programme. The organisers expressed their appreciation of the scope of the work that had been undertaken – very different projects which they were proud to have supported.
During the course of the day we heard the story of theatre, art and ecology workshops held in a small village near Brest; we heard of the presentation of public lectures in courtyards, community spaces and street corners in Chernivtsi; we heard of the animation of a old neighbourhood of Lviv, creating a summer festival; we heard of the project in Tbilisi using stories of food to explore issues of migration with the involvement of schoolchildren as authors of the visual stories.
Below is a shot extract of the presentation from Anna Khvyl and Zoriana Rybczynska about their Community Neighbourhood Festival.
The project teams had an opportunity to quiz each other about details of their programmes. Below is a short extract from the question and answer session with Natalia Yerynomenko about the ‘Dzestra Talks’ project in Chernivtsi.
Following on from this there was a panel discussion – Education in [Eastern] Partnership – Cooperative Development of Know-How, Network and Good Practices – led by Krzysztof Czyżewski, along with Miłosz Zieliński (participant of Summer School, and currently involved with Eastern Partnership project, Lublin), Madgalena Uzdowska-Lis ( Department of Foreign Co-peration,Ministry of Polish Culture), Levan Khetaguri (Ilia State University, Georgia), Chris Keulemans (artistic founder member of The Tolhuistuin).
The discussion began with sharing thoughts on cultural education, the value of encouraging creativity in people of all ages and to challenge the idea of ‘received culture’ (i.e. teaching people to appreciate art (to be an audience for art), rather than encouraging people to develop their own creative skills) and consider how we might learn from each other – a genuine cultural exchange.
As part of this Miłosz Zieliński presented a history of the development of the concept of the ‘Eastern Partership’, looking at a range of initiatives over the past decade. He felt that some early mistakes had been this idea of “treating the West like a good Uncle with a lot of money and ideas. So we ignored the East, lost the old contacts with the former USSR”. To establish contacts required relearning how things were further east, how organisations and institutions operated – often on quite different paths. Using Visual Arts became a good field of co-operation – both Poland and the east had a strong contemporary arts scene, visual art was a kind of common language and culture could cross the barriers and borders where politics could not. He outlined various initiatives making links between Lublin and Lviv over the past few years and looking ahead to future plans.
A session was undertaken on Cultural Impacts of Social Economy by Roland Zarzycki from Wroclaw. Roland was a participant in the first edition of the Summer School in 2012. Originally trained in social sciences, he had become involved in the development of the Wroclaw City of Culture bid. More recently he has been involved with setting up a new cultural space in the city, utilising a long abandoned building. (For more information, visit www.panato.org)
He presented the idea of social economy, first by an analysis of our current comic system which encourages hyper production, hyper consumption, hyper waste. He spoke of our experience of two polarised situations – the former Soviet bloc, where the state dominated and controlled the economy, and the capitalist system of the free market economy – neither of which people were, or are, happy and satisfied with (except for a small elite). He asked whether it is possible to consider a different way, to create a civic or social economy?
He defined the ideals of this as:
– social goals vs profit (thinking about the needs of society, and thinking about sustainability)
– democratic management (equality in terms of decision making – “of course, it is possible to have a boss but they have to be chosen in a democratic way”)
– shared responsibilty and shared ownership (“we share profit but part of the profit is put back into the business, but we also share the losses”)
He gave some examples:
Participatory budgets: involving people in the decision making process of setting a city budget, giving competencies to citizens i border that they can make informed decisions. This was pioneered at the municipal level in Porto Alegre, Brazil in the late 1980s, and since then reached more than 240 municipalities in Brazil.
Civic audits – “we often don’t know what the local government is spending our money on”; there are mechanisms for better transparency and accountability in setting budgets for services.
Crowdfunding: whereby you seek finding for a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically via the internet.
The sharing economy: such as car pools, flat swopping, slow life movement, skill-sharing/swops
In the final part of the workshop he invited participants to work in small groups to propose a product or service which could be offered to strengthen their project. Roland suggested that groups do things gradually, trying to do too many things at one time – better to do things in increments.
Over the next two days the groups had a number of Animator’s laboratory sessions with Chris Keulemans and Willemijn Lamp. As Chris explained in his introduction, “This is our closing weekend. Everyone knows each other, trusts each other. We’ve done the project, we’ve had successes. Now let’s look at the darker side – let’s look at what problems you encountered, what mistakes we can learn from together…” Participants were asked to present two or three problems to each other, to discuss them and to share reflections on how they had resolved the problems, and to share ideas on each others perspectives on the problem.
– starting points and local research, how to approach people and their reactions – “When you approach them they think you’re from the church or from a marketing company…”; “Immediately they suspect you… why are you talking to me? Too nice, too sweet, too nice to be true…”; “How do you break the wall of suspicion?”
– developing and sustaining local contacts, managing local volunteers
– the value of having a physical public presence in an area (such as an office)
– effective delegation of tasks, establishing clear understanding of roles and responsibilities, managing expectations (of both the community and your co-workers); how to achieve consensus on tasks and shared responsibilities.
– how you would build a team differently, learning from this project experience?
– the issue of conflicting aims, when one partner wants a high quality product and the other is more concerned with involving people and less concerned with overall quality; team tensions can give conflicting messages to volunteers; the issue of creative tension, when it can be an effective dynamic and when it can lead to more conflict.
– the ease of involving children rather than adults, as adults have little leisure time (how can this be developed – ideas of junior curators or young curators? and young people are often more open, carrying less prejudices); however, in some cases (certainly in term time), young people may also have limited time, and communication with children can be problematic.
– the working from a negative motivation; “We had problems organising in the cit where we lived, so we did it somewhere else, but we do not have roots i this place, it is not our house…”
– misunderstandings of the project aims with the participants; the need to clearly and simply explain, for framing the project effectively.
– what works well as a starting point for engagement – the attraction of using a camera for children, or for printing your own t-shirt.
An Adventure with Children: Bożena Szroeder explained the development of Sejny Chronicles, a five year cycle of working with children exploring the history of the local area – it began as a ceramic project, creating the houses of the town, became a performance based on interviews, local stories and songs. (It still continuees as a performance). She showed a series of short film animations (which began with the third edition of Chronicles) which included ‘Legends from Grandparents’, ‘Songs from Jewish, Roma, Ukrainian and Russian’, ‘Personal Stories of Everyday Life’.
The Application of Visual Arts: Wieslaw Szuminski was one of the early members of Borderland, indeed one of the natives to the area. He shared examples of his visual arts practice, working with young people, explaining how the visual arts was often the base that led to other activities, providing materials for a performance, a film, or a book. The examples he shared were:
Bosnian Triptych: a cultural exchange with young people from England, Poland and Bosnia, a residency in Mostar with a range of creative practitioners. Young people created large illustrated pages of a book, in response to their findings in the locality.
Dowspuda: here they worked in the ruins of the palace built by Ludwika Michała Paca in 1820, with workers from as far failed as Scotland and Ireland. Exploring the heritage of this place, they created large bas-reliefs with techniques which would have been used at that time to decorate such noble houses. They utilised Celtic iconography for the project.
Ceramic Guide Book: this project created an usual guide to landmarks and interesting places in Sejny, selected and made by young people. It was intended to mark the area with a series of ceramic pieces. The objects have only been exhibited and not yet been installed, as they were refused permission for the accompanying information board. The controversy was that the project wished to put the text information in both Polish and Lithuanian and the local authorities did not agree.
An exhibition of paintings: in Krasnogruda park before renovations, made with people from Russia, Lithuania and Poland.
Locomotive: making a series of illustrations with lino-cut techniques with junior school children to accompany the text of a very well known poem by Julius Tuwim on the centenary of his birth.
Music of the Place: Michal Moniuszko first worked with Borderland when he was 15 years old. He now organises music projects, along with many other activities. He told the group about how he became involved with a performance of a version of the Szymona Ansky’s famous play The Dybbuk, that drew heavily upon the rich history of Jewish tradition that was so much part of daily life in Sejny prior to World War Two. A central part of this play is a wedding, and a klezmer band, so in researching this kind of music, the Borderlanders began to create their own Klezmer band – which is now known as Sejny Theatre’s Klezmer Orchestra. This in turn led to the Musician’s Raft project bringing together musicians from New York, whose families were migrants at the end of the 19th century and whose traditions came from this particular region, with local musicians.
Borderland Atlantis: Ksenija Konopek, who is co-ordinating this and several other programmes, explained the concept of the project. This is a two-year programme of cross-border cooperation between partners from Poland, Lithuania and Russia which aims to create common cultural routes between Sejny and Krasnogruda, Kėdainiai and Kaliningrad. Working with young people and local institutions the project explores the places and objects that are important culturally.
The project has been developing exhibition and print materials in Polish, Lithuanian, Russian and English, celebrating the histories of the area along with the designation of places and objects that are important culturally. The project also has brought together the young people in the three locations to work with specific experts, creating work in response to the topic. In June a book of the project will be published. The website provides a good chronicle of the work as it has happened. Just a few weeks before the groups and undertaken a residency in Kaliningrad, organised with the Kaliningradski association of writers.
Then the group saw a performance of the latest edition of ‘Sejny Chronicles’ in the White Synagogue, only the second performance with this fifth generation of children. Finally the group convened to Sejny Jazz Cafe for dinner accompanied by a performance of Marchya River Brass Band, a junior band playing New Orleans Jazz led by Marian Szaryński.
Weronika and Agnieszka wished to convey the positive impressions of the whole Borderland team. They hoped that some potential possibilities for co-operate would open up in the future. They shared their reflections on the project and said that it was an important for them to experience to work they undertook in situ, both on the level of cultural animators and as a very strong positive experience.
They wished to use this time to reflect on how to improve and advance the programme of the Borderland School. they were firstly interested to hear their reflections on the educational approach and secondly, the practice, the thing that you experience while actually doing the project.
Two questions to address:
1. What was most valuable in your Borderland experience?
2. The dream Borderland School. Imagine we have unlimited possibilities. What would it look like?
A Selection of Responses:
Agnieska will produce a fuller report of these, but in the meantime here are some thoughts:
– The gradual approach – from participation in school to idea to application to realisation.
– The opportunity to learn about other contexts
– Sharing project management experience
– To meet people behind the projects
– Inspiring but realisable project examples
– Selection process based on proposed projects, rather than just individual contacts
– The addition of local workshops to further develop the process
– Experts were grounded, more practical, less theoretical
– The mix of people, both experts and participants
– The consistency of co-ordination, ensuring the criteria were met and welcome personal engagement and support of the co-ordinators
– Documentation through the blog and Facebook
– The location – Krasnogruda as a place and the various projects coming from this place
– Look at the possibility of further exchanges, to see environment of work across different projects
– More analysis and help with application forms/language
– Bigger budget for equipment for projects
– More one-to-one mentoring time
– Look at support for longer-term projects
– Involvement of summer school alumni in future summer school planning or delivery
– Trainers who are better networked to European/international funding programmes
– Less reporting bureaucracy to allow complete focus on delivery of the projects
These reflections will help inform the team in planning a future programme for the summer school.
5 o’clock Tea and Biscuits Roundtable: experience/lessons learned exchange and perspectives for the future in discussion with Krzysztof Czyzewski.
Krzysztof: “Thinking of your presentations and what I can share with you, I remember what Chris said on the first day, about how what we are doing seems very natural and normal to us, but for the community it is something which is lost, because of the way culture is constructed.” He wanted to share some snippets of a documentary style film from 1993 by Tony Gatlif, who is from an Algerian gypsy background and this informs the content of his films. We then watched some extracts ‘Latcho Drom’, which follows the journey of Romani peoples from North-West India to Spain, consisting primarily of music and dance. Krzysztof wanted to talk about something this film captures – the presence of art in life.
The question for us: How to place the art between the artist and the community? It is not to disregard the traditions that went before, but how to develop Our challenge is not to repeat the work of Grotowski, for example, but to develop and create something new. Not resigning our ambitions and intuitions, but immersing ourselves in something deeper. What allows us to do this work? There’s the time dimension, the importance of space and how you use it. He spoke about Borderland future plans and what connections there may be, inviting participants to look for opportunities to engage with the projects emanating from here.