What: Four Days of Conversations and Exchanges
Where: CIT Crawford College of Art and Design, Sullivans Quay, Cork city.
When: November 4 until 7, 2012
http://cityresearches.ie (follow link)

This research is an arts practice inquiry, which engages ordinary people about their culture. Together, we seek to advance a new prototype (approaches and tactics) for the public value and therefore public investment in local culture. A longer term ambition is to contribute to mobilising cultural approaches to mend the broken circuitry in the field of connectivity between people, and the political process.
Circle practitioners include: Fernando Marquespenteado (BRA), Fiona Woods(IE), Jeanne van Heeswijk(NL), John Mulloy(IE), Mary Jane Jacob(USA), Niall Crowley(IE), Niall O'Baoill(IE), Susanne Bosch(NI), and Vagabond Reviews(IE).

The EU Project Assessor noted in her assessment of the project application: “Here is a research based on the correct observation that there has been an institutional failure to create conversations between arts/culture and other momentums for social and political rights, and rightly place their efforts in the framework of developing a new consensus about the public value of culture.”

The local producers in Cork are: Jessica Carson (Mayfield Arts), Sinead Pierce and Aoife Potter-Cogan (Cork Community Art Link), along with assistance from Ed Kuczaj (CIT Crawford College of Art and Design). The project is produced by Ed Carroll (Blue Drum), Conor Shields (Community Arts Partnership) and Vita Geluniene (Kaunas Biennial). Jelena Veljkovic from Serbia is the project intern supported by the European Cultural Foundation. The project funders are the Family Support Agency, the EU Culture Programme Culture Policy Analysis Strand and Give EUR Hope.

Please read now some ideas posted in advance of Cork

Read: Michael Warner

1. What’s being attempted (...)
2. Some notes toward a provocation and a research question
3. Notes from Liverpool?
4. Short profile?

1. What’s being attempted in Cork is to gather from families ideas for a pedagogy of the cultural rights.
  • Time to meet and exchange using a show and tell format - each person has 5 minutes to present their idea for the research. This will include an 8 minute review of Kaunas 2011.
  • Cork-Walkabout led by Jessica and Sinead.
  • Discourse about the non-physical aspects of the inquiry i.e. lay knowledge/imagination, cultural rights, intangible cultural heritage, contemporary creative expression, etc.
  • Pop-up space to develop a pedagogy of cultural rights utilizing the devise of a court case

2. Some notes toward a provocation and a research question

We have such a modest amount of time (4 days 3 cities of gathering and 2 days 1 city to reflect) to find proximity to the experience, desire and imagination of ordinary people and to re-present this somehow to expert knowledge in the city.

So our focus is local knowledge and imagination. Our intention is to hear what insights and apprehensions ordinary people (families) have about culture. We have to deploy our practices, tactics and devices, which reflect a set of much longer term commitments and work elsewhere, developed on your own work bench. The purpose of our inquiry is to make imaginable what are culture rights. A perspective can take the human rights or equality framework e.g. UNESCO conventions on intangible cultural heritage and local cultural expression. Alternatively, they may be other perspectives that reach lower than national and international instruments. In this regard a provocation comes from Eve Tuck in her Letter to Communities (2009) and may be helpful.
Her ideas about desire draws from the works of Sondra Perl (1980), Ann Anlin Cheng (2001), Julia Kristeva (1980), Gloria Anzaldúa (1987), Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (1987), Joan Didion (2005), bell hooks (1990), Patricia Williams (1992), and Toni Morrison (1987), among others.] She advocates for local desire as an antidote to damage-centred research processes. She continues
An antidote stops and counteracts the effects of a poison, and the poison may be the use of frameworks that position individuals and communities as damaged and/or deficient. At a research level the portrayal of individuals and communities as either ‘victims or perpetrators’ “frame our communities as sites of disinvestment and dispossession; our communities become spaces in which under resourced (cultural), health and economic infrastructures are endemic” (italics my own). She continues that “in damaged-centered research, one of the major activities is to document pain or loss in an individual, community, or tribe (…)

Desire, yes, accounts for the loss and despair, but also the hope, the visions, the wisdom of lived lives and communities. Desire is involved with the not yet and, at times, the not anymore. In many desire-based texts there is a ghostly, remnant quality to desire, its existence not contained to the body but still derived of the body. Desire is about longing about a present that is enriched by both the past and the future. It is integral to our humanness (…)

Damage cannot be the only way or best way that we talk about ourselves. A framework that accounts for and forwards our sovereignty is vital. We can practice our sovereignty within a framework of desire but cannot within a damage framework. By this I mean that a framework of desire recognizes our sovereignty as a core element of our being and meaning making; a damage framework excludes this recognition.

Our project is focused on cultural rights so it may be helpful to frame a question linked to an existing UNESCO mechanism for Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003) and Diversity of Cultural Expression (2005):
Intangible cultural heritage and creative expression understood and experienced as private practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills as well as objects, artifacts and cultural spaces a community of persons recognise as part of their culture.

There is some value in proffering a question that may foreground our imaginary court room investigation
How to make culture more recognised (as a duty/responsibility) and realised as a question of entitlement, a commitment to express criticism and foster change?

3. Notes from Liverpool (March 2012)
Present: Conor Shields (Community Arts Partnership), Vita Geluniene (Kaunas Biennial), Jeanne van Heeswijk (artist), Ed Carroll (Blue Drum)

We are attaching notes from the first meeting of the organising partners in Liverpool. We chose Liverpool because Jeanne was working there and we were able to go see her Bakery Project in Anfield.

During the meeting we spoke about the purpose of the pop-up space that we spoke about in the project application:
  • Pop up inquiry space will be an innovative and flexible structure that travels from city to city and be a public space for testing ideas, engaging publics about their understanding of cultural rights and developing manifestations (methodologies/methods of engagement and knowledge production). Jeanne van Heeswijk will be commissioned to explore a proposal she made as part of her work in Bologna in 2010. Called in Dutch language, Noord Lokaal, an emergency pedagogical space used in a time of troubles, the site will host a rich roster of arts programming over a four-day period so as to engage with the knowledge of ordinary people about cultural rights.

We also wondered and were quite buzzed by the notion of ‘courtroom’ as a playful idea on which to hang our four-day inquiry process. More discussion about that in Cork.

4. Notes from Planning Meeting, Cork (pre June event 2012)
Present: Jessica (Mayfield Arts), Sinead (Cork Community Art Link), Ed (Cork Institute of Technology/Crawford), Ed Carroll.

We focused on logistics for the first Practice Circle event in June 16, 2012. The local hosts offered advise for 'landing' the Circle in Cork. We also spoke about accommodation, facilities and programming of the first meeting.
We considered how best to facilitate the research methodology and yet to be involved in it in some way. That methodology is still under development. Mayfield had very recent experience of engaging publics and their workshop leaders chose to form smaller groups and locate in different sites. We discussed a number of spaces to house the Circle during its autumn event: Old Fas Building on Sulllivan Quay (now an arts building for Cork Institute of Technology); the Occupy Cork space that is owned by City Council; etc.
Also, the local hosts had a question: will the Practice Circle be open to collaborating with small groups of local participants e.g. students, interested artists/activists?
multiple sites best advise is to locate the Practice Circle events in the Centre, possibly in multiple sites rather than in specific geographic communities.

5. Short profiles of platform/local organisers, PIE Group, Practice Circle and Sympathisers
*not available for 16 June in Cork
Conor Shields from Community Arts Partnership is a producer and director, a multi-instrumentalist and performing musician for over twenty five years. He has co-founded theatre companies, worked in broadcast journalism and film, development education and as an arts practitioner has facilitated workshops. Community Arts Partnership is our lead partner for Northern Ireland and is the newly formed merger between New Belfast Community Arts Initiative and Community Arts Forum. www.comartspartner.org

Ed Carroll from Blue Drum works with others in an imaginary space where culture, politics and community collide. He was part of the Civil Arts Inquiry team established by City Arts Centre, Dublin (2003-2007) and Executive Chair of Kaunas Biennial (2009). He has responsibility for the roll out of an EU Culture Research study exploring cultural rights. He lives between Kaunas and Dublin. Blue Drum is the coordinator of the research and lead partner for the Republic of Ireland.

Fernando Marquespenteadoinspiration has been floating around visual regimes within urban material cultures --- something like extensively deployed public imagery that inhibits and fatigues one’s primary instinct to produce meanings ---- together with his ongoing interest on male-to-male daily practices of violence, particularly through images and events where human life is taken without grace. His interest in these arenas grew, moved by an installed marriage which has been taken place between civil acrimony and public escapism within Brazilian society, a combination that always puzzled him, topped up with his estrangement and uneasiness around the event of (several) beheadings within the prison system throughout the country, due to gang rivalry scenarios fuelled by drugs. He tries respond to the plural drives of his practice and to strengthen his joggling-between-two-continents-existence and his fragile civil sanity.

Fiona Woods is a visual artist based in Clare, Ireland who attempts to generate modest spaces within which things can be individually or collectively questioned or produced. www.fionawoods.net / www.collectionofminds.net

Jeanne van Heeswijk has been working on socially committed art projects that take place in public spaces. She sees herself as a mediator, an intermediary between a situation, a space, a neighbourhood and the people connected to these.

John Mulloy worked for many years as a community artist. Increasing discomfort with the negative impact of state policy on marginalised groups led him to research a 2006 PhD at the the NCAD (Dublin) on community arts. He teaches History of Art, Critical Theory and Rural Art in Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.

Mary Jane Jacob* curatorial practice seeks to advance the parameters of artists’ public practices and examine assumptions about the audience for contemporary art.

Niall Crowley is an independent equality expert and we invited him because he is interested in exploring how to connect cultural rights to other social and economic rights. He worked in the community sector with the Travellers’ rights organisation Pavee Point for twelve years.

Niall O'Baoill is the cultural coordintor for Fatima Groups United an area that has realised a significant regeneration process in which art and culture was central.

Silicon Theatre* (Aukse Petruliene and Darius Petrulis) is an independent arts and education group which is based in Kaunas, Lithuania. It specialises in work in public contexts. www.aukse.lt

Susanne Bosch is an artist, open space facilitator; she works predominantly in public and on long-term questions, which tackle creative arguments around the ideas of democracy. www.susannebosch.de

Nomeda & Gediminas Urbonas have established an international reputation for socially interactive and interdisciplinary practice exploring the conflicts and contradictions posed by the economic, social, and political conditions in the transforming societies. They co-founded Urbonas Studio – the interdisciplinary research program that advocates for the reclamation of public culture in the face of overwhelming privatization. Often beginning with archival research, they develop complex participatory works investigating architecture, the urban environment, and cultural and technological heritage. Urbonas combine traditional and new media in their artistic works, and works often with collective artistic activities such as seminars, TV shows, Internet chat rooms and democratic protests in the intersection between art, technology and social criticism. www.nugu.lt/dossierhttp://disobedience.mit.edu/

Vita Geluniene from Kaunas Biennial is an artist and educator living in Kaunas, Lithuania. She was Director of Kaunas Biennial (2005-2007) and initiated its Art and Publics Programme. She is currently Head of Textiles at Vilnius Art Academy, Kaunas Art Institute.

Other Sympathisers

artway of thinking, a cultural association base in Venice, is an art and research collective established in 1993 by Federica Thiene and Stefania Mantovani. Its name indicates the direction of research – to look at reality in terms of creativity in the forms of free expression, language, and constituencies. They challenge assumptions of “community-based public art” by observing and listening to the environment and communities in which it operates. Artway engages collective creative processes that combine different points of view on a common goal.

Cork Community Art Link : William Frode de la Foret Artistic Director and Sinead Pierce Co-ordinator. CCAL is a participatory community arts organisation operating in Cork City for over 18 years.

Cork Institute of Technology’s Ed Kuczaj is open to links. He is responsible for Art Therapy & Continuing Visual Education at Crawford College of Art & Design.
Engine Room Europe* is an EU Culture project of Trans Europe Halles. Sandy Fitzgerald is a project leader who has over thirty years experience as a manager, artist, and activist in the cultural sector.
Institute for Art Education* (Carmen Mörsch and Fouad Asfour) are involved in a project called Another Roadmap to the UNESCO Roadmap for Art Education. Both are concerned with issues of participatory art practices, and the development of new media materials for art education.
Jessica Carson is the coordinator of Mayfield Arts and Nora Furlong is the Youth Arts coordinator. Mayfield Arts, Newbury house is a unique dedicated arts space based in the heart of Mayfield at Newbury House Family Centre. Its mission is to connect, learn, act and reflect with the different communities that we are part of. We will create spaces where authentic relationships can develop, where people can learn, express themselves and grow in an atmosphere of trust and creativity. We will support people of all ages and backgrounds to fulfill their cultural rights and participate in realising their visions for change. We aim to offer opportunities to members of our community to (i) learn about themselves, (ii) express their creativity and perspectives and (iii) explore their role as creative local and global citizens. www.mayfieldarts.org
Vagabond Reviews, from Dublin, Ireland, led a dry run of the project in Kaunas in November 2011. It was established by Ailbhe Murphy and Ciaran Smyth in 2007, Vagabond Reviews is an interdisciplinary platform for socially engaged art practice and critical inquiry.

What: Public Hearing Draft Text
Location: TBC in Cork City
When: 4-7 November, 2012
**http://cityresearches.ie** (follow link)

A call to community groups in Cork in search of a new base upon which to re-establish Irish sovereignty and solidarity. Please join with us in mappingout how culture and art contribute to the resilience of Cork’s communities in the face of struggles and traumas.
Gaston Bachelard once remarked how the feel of the tiniest latch of the house of childhood remains in a hand years after. So too, by extension, many objects that are homemade and homespun reflect our individual and community identity: a cloth worn by a loved one; a song or dance, an object from windowsill or fire place, a photograph, etc.
We are sending out a request to community groups in Cork to give us time to watch, read, hear and discuss the value of local cultural expression and art. How does culture and art reflect your family, people and place? Show or tell us about Cork’s culture and art – your spirit, identity and sense of belonging? What do you mark out as important? Who decides what’s important, what’s recognised and what’s gets nurtured. What has been passed-on to you and what will you pass on to your children?
Let’s imagine something like an antiques road-show with a difference. Over the course of four days we want to listen, to have conversations and exchanges in which we can make an account of the cultural value that official Ireland does not recognise. Artefacts and textures take on forms of unrecognised and intangible cultural expressions; a glance to the past and, more importantly, to making sense of the present. We want to illustrate what cultural rights means as envisioned in the UN Convention on intangible cultural heritage (2005) and creative expression (2007).
City Re-searches City (Re)Searches is a four day public listening in Cork City led by an international group of 10 community arts/activists who are interested in re-thinking the process involved in cultural rights that
  • preserve the culture and rituals of families and communities;
  • account for the cultural resources of the community;
  • access art and creative technologies and cultural knowledge;
  • participate in the means of expression, including in the media.

City (Re)Searches: Experiences of Publicness was part funded by the Creative Europe cultural policy research strand from June 2012 until May 2014.