Participation

The Wednesday morning workshop focused on the concept of participation in culture.

Jean Pierre quoted from a report from MIT, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture by Henry Jenkins. Though referring to media development, it says that participatory culture should enable people to develop their skills, their knowledge, their ethical framework and their self-confidence – something which is empowering.

This report aims to shift the conversation about the “digital divide” from questions about access to technology to questions about access to opportunities for involvement in participatory culture and how to provide all young people with the chance to develop the cultural competencies and social skills needed. Fostering these skills, the authors argue, requires a systemic approach to media education; schools, after school programs, and parents all have distinctive roles to play.

Schools can create a context that facilitates participation but as Jean Perre had pointed out previously, he believes that the education system stifles creativity. (There’s an American article which looks at this here:  http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/18133-when-schools-become-dead-zones-of-the-imagination-a-critical-pedagogy-manifesto)

However, participatory cultures offers a different model. It identifies three principles:

1. Culture which has low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement. So that means you can take part.

2. There is strong support for sharing one’s creation. Informal mentorship allows the more experienced will help novices to have access. All the members – not clients – are convinced that their contribution matters and are convinced that it is important that they say something, that it will be heard, and that it will have an impact.

3. There is a connection between between people because the logic is shifting from an individual logic to a community logic. People care about other people’s participation.

Participatory cultures reward participation. Not everyone must participate, but everyone must believe that if they participate it will be valued.

http://vimeo.com/72548717

IMG_0014

Ania felt that participation was a close relation to accessibility, but not quite the same. With participatory the people should express what they need and we should be open to that. She asked the group to describe the people who took part in their actions, activities, who came to their events and  cultural institutions. How do we define, describe, categorise? Audience? Clients? She went on to share several examples.

IMG_0030

Note: Brendan gave an example of a project over four years with Jubilee Arts. ‘The People’s Portrait’ was a series of projects made with local groups in response to a damning article in the colour supplement  national newspaper, called ‘Ghetto Britain: Black Country Blues’ which portrayed the area as one of the worst places to live in the UK, with a photographer flown in for 48 hours to capture the essence of the place. The project ‘Sandwell in Black & White’ asked people who lived in Sandwell to photograph their home place, to make and share their own images. Over the period of a year a camera was given to a cross section of random individuals. One person per week was asked to photograph whatever they chose, reflecting their neighbourhoods, their lives, their daily concerns.  It was no scientific sample but a range reflecting the ethnic mix, age and occupational diversity. The majority of the people asked to participate were strangers to the organisers, met at the bus stop or in a shop. Among them were a hairdresser, a fireman, a member of a Mothers & Toddlers group, a video store owner, young people, pensioners, a football groundskeeper, employed and unemployed. Sixty four people took part in total. Those who took part had the final choice of what image was printed for the show, and had the opportunity to meet other participants through editorial meetings. The result couldn’t be more different from the images that come from outsiders, or presented in the media.

Target Groups

This session with Chris and Willemijn focused on target groups – not to be confused with audiences. Chris gave examples from his projects in Amsterdam with De Tolhuistuin, working with particular dj’s and local contacts (his target group) in order to attract a particular audience to events at the centre.

The target group is the the people you want to work with. The audience is simply the people who come and look, the audience has a more passive role.

So, for Ani’s project in Tsalenjikha the target group was the people she wanted to present on the the talk show; for Georgi the target group was the refugees whose stories he wanted to tell through theatrical performances.

IMG_9937

Forming into their groups, participants spent an hour working through this topic in relation to specific projects, before presenting back to the whole group and for critique and questions.

IMG_5225

IMG_5398

IMG_9982

In the evening, the group travelled to Sejny for a performance of Sejny Klezmer Orchestra, and for after concert sessions at the Jazz Cafe.

IMG_5129

IMG_6097

Evening photos: Ivliane Chitidze

Tuesday Sessions

The first session of the day began with some reflections on the session with Timothy Snyder and Marci Shore. Krzysztof spoke of the difficulties in translating ‘Bloodlands’ to Polish – how it required 3 translators, 4 editorial boards. ‘We didn’t have enough language. Our language is much more vague. He was very clear and transparent. Our Slavic languages we don’t have enough clear language to deal with the history.’

Sergiy: We saw that finding new facts is not an easy thing to accept. If you have two different views, how can I persuade you with my facts? The act of persuasion is not in the discussion, in that room, but maybe it takes days, months after. Some people believe we must persuade the other immediately.

Aleksandra: For me, Timothy Snyder made an important statement: there is only one history.

Krzysztof: Timothy spoke of upsetting people with the research and that the actual historical truth is difficult to hear. You cannot please people all the time. If you dig up history people may see you as a troublemaker. By being polite you can avoid the bad memories, to have peace, but in the long term people will respect you if you are truthful and authentic and real.

He spoke of the reception to the publishing of a book about the 1941 massacre of Jews by Poles at Jedwabne. He noted that ‘in our national mythology we were always victims, never perpetrators…’ He did not believe the culture of forgetting worked, or that a subject should be avoided, that culture should not simply be an entertainment but should be provocative and questioning. Timothy Snyder had spoken about how historians in the 19th century had created common historical narratives in the process of nation building, and there was some discussion about how a community needs a story, a myth, a narrative and how cultural animators may work within this context. Sejny Chronicles was given as one example. The Tenement Museum in New York was given as an example of how cultural institutions can create a common story.

ales

Ales asked: ‘Why do we need a common story?’ There was discussion about how stories can exclude some people and provide the basis of hatred to others. Nationalism and fascism used powerful and persuasive language in this manner. He felt that ‘they are strong because our national story is false, and somehow they seem more authentic’.

http://vimeo.com/72599849

tuesk2

Sergiy commented on the value of projects which centred around the family table as both a place to talk and to gather stories, and the importance of food and drinking culture as a place for stories.

For the second part of the session, participants were asked to work in groups and consider how to the design of the local workshops in Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia in the autumn. Who would they involve, how might they take shape – how do we build the story and the environment in which they take place? What would be the ideal combination of elements.

http://vimeo.com/72550438

These ideas were presented back to the whole group – these ideas will assist the planning group in the realisation of the workshops in September, October, November.

IMG_9977

IMG_9968

IMG_9962

Notes: Brendan shared an example of a project he had undertaken with Alijca Rogalska on St. George’s Day In England. It was called ‘Me & My Flag’, a small intervention at a St. George’s Day Parade, which posed the question ‘So what does it mean to be English?’  You can find information here: http://www.brendanjackson.co.uk/archive/me-my-flag/.

Here’s a link to a group of curators in Birmingham, UK, who often use food and drinking as part of their work: http://www.companis.co.uk/

You might find this interesting also: Untitled (Broniów Song) (2011) was a collaboration between Alicja Rogalska and Polish folk-group Broniowianki making a ‘contemporary’ folk song looking at unemployment in rural Poland after entering the EU. It  can be viewed here http://vimeo.com/33123835. This was part of a series of artistic actions with the  local community from Szydłowiec and its region. More info here: http://www.ciecie.org/ciecie-2011/ciecie-opis-projektu/?lang=en

Cultural management/Fundraising

Jean Pierre introduced the session with his thoughts on the skills and competences needed for fundraising. He spoke about the need for indicators to see if you were achieving your goals. He felt that qualitative indicators were more important – what did you do and what impact did you have. Indicators are useful in persuading your funders.

The amount of money you had was often the measure used. Are we earning enough? Is the balance sheet good? These things are important of course, but they are not the only indicators. If you had a strong financial director on your team the financial imperative would be strong. You need a balance. You needed to understand the political, social, economic situation and the sectors you were working in.

jean pierre

As for your leadership skills you needed the capacity to convince, to be passionate about what you do. ‘If you are stressed, if you are doubtful about what you do, you won’t convince anyone.’

When you enter into the field of co-operation you find yourself in a new environment, with a different system of values and ways of working. ‘Porosity is important for co-operation.’ Jean Pierre pointed out that ‘language is how you define you relationship to the galaxy’. But also when you learn a different language you think differently – it helps you be flexible and change your logic, not be fixed. He thought that to be destabilised is good – it helps you rethink what you do.

http://vimeo.com/72585727

He handed over to Ania who outlined the work of the session – to undertake a role play to a possible sponsor/donor (to be played in character by her and JP). Working in groups, participants would prepare their pitch. What could you offer? What were you looking for? You would have 10 minutes to make your presentation to the potential donor and then have 10 minutes for questions and comments.

In their preparation they had to decide 1/ WHO is the donor/NGO/Institution (and then share this in advance so Ania/JP could prepare). 2/  WHAT? Specify the actions you would undertake. 3/ Why? Explain the benefits for the donor? Tell them about your project achievements.

jean pierre2

jeanpierre3

IMG_5661

IMG_5665

IMG_5728

DSC_0058

In the evening participants travelled to the White Synagogue in Sejny to see a performance of ‘Sejny Chronicles’ and to hear an explanation of the concepts behind this ongoing theatrical collaboration.

Can history help us build bridges?

Timothy Snyder and Marci Shore, American Professors and Historians from Yale University were in conversation with Krzysztof in the basement of Krasnogruda.  Timothy’s book ‘Bloodlands – Europe between Hitler and Stalin’ had been translated into Georgian, Ukrainian, Polish and will be soon available in Belarus. Marci’s book ‘Caviar and Ashes: A Warsaw Generation’s Life and Death in Marxism 1918-1968′ studied Central European intellectuals involvement in Communism.

Krzysztof asked if history can help us today with building bridges and  past in dealing with memories that prevent us from rebuilding or connecting…

DSC_0004

Timothy: ‘The only way history can help is by being itself, not by being something else… History is not what I think about the past, or what you think about the past, or what your government thinks about the past politicians think. History is certainly not what you read in school about the past… that’s about the furthest thing away from history…’

It was a fascinating debate covering the emergence of history as a discipline in terms of 19th century nation building, that role of historians as bridge builders, distortions of history and the need for historians to be disturbing and fearless.

Here’s the audio of the discussion/presentation in four sections for those of you who want to listen (again). Just click on the left hand side of the bar.

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

DSC_0015