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  • Photo: Lība Bērziņa

A series of creative workshops on the experiences of an inclusive contemporary cultural environment and art mediation communicating difficult pasts

On 15 and 16 December from 2–5 pm EEST we invite you to a series of creative workshops on the experiences of an inclusive contemporary cultural environment and art mediation communicating difficult pasts.


The workshops will take place on Facebook:

 https://www.facebook.com/LMC.LV


How can art contribute to a more inclusive society by taking into account the needs and interests of a wide range of audiences, such as children, young people, seniors, or people from socially excluded groups? How can we share our experiences and learn from and with those audiences? How can we engage in dialogue through art and collaborate with people from communities we do not encounter on a daily basis? And how can alternative strategies in art mediation help to communicate questions related to complicated pasts and work on critical memory? The participants of the seminar—exhibition curators, museum educators, and artists—will share their experiences of how mediation and new forms of audience collaboration can not only help to create a socially responsible and inclusive environment, but also reflect on and address issues that are related to the uneasy relations between past and present, their entangled nature in the twentieth century, and the consequences that difficult pasts have had for contemporary realities in Europe.


The first creative workshop in this series is about an inclusive contemporary cultural environment in Latvia. It will take place on 15 December, with participants sharing their experiences about the accessibility of contemporary art for people with disabilities in Latvia.


The second workshop asks how can art mediation engage vulnerable audiences and help to communicate difficult pasts. It will take place on 16 December and will discuss case studies that have found new ways and creative methods to work with various audiences and to approach topics related to difficult pasts.


The series of seminars is organized within the framework of the project “From Complicated Past Towards Shared Futures,” which is a collaboration between the Latvian Center for Contemporary Art in Riga, the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius, OFF-Biennale in Budapest, Museum Sztuki in Lodz, and Malmö Art Museum. The project seeks to explore and communicate the entanglements of past and present, and is searching for new approaches to the ways that art and culture can raise awareness of these issues for the wider public and even influence current realities.



PROGRAMME:

Ieva Astahovska and Māra Žeikare, curators of the Latvian Center for Contemporary Art, Riga

Communicating Difficult Pasts and Agents of Change: Mediating Minorities


Agnieszka Wojciechowska-Sej, educator of the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź

How Can Art Mediation Help to Communicate Difficult Pasts?


Eglė Nedzinskaitė, curator of educational programs at the National Gallery of Art, Vilnius

Welcoming More People to the Museum.


Virág Lődi, head of the mediation working group, Nikolett Erőss, curator, OFF-Biennale Budapest, and Szilvia Szénási, Uccu Roma Informal Educational Foundation

Collectively Carried Out.

A journey of a painting from an orphanage to a museum experiences of children's activities and community programmes.


Mimmi Sjö, curator for mediation and education at Malmö Art Museum

History through Art—a pedagogigal program for high school students in Malmö.


Jenny Kagan, an artist

“Big Action” at the 11th Kaunas Biennial “There and Not There: (Im)possibility of a monument”.


Katarzyna Bojarska, assistant professor in the Department of Cultural Studies at the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Warsaw

RePAST—Revisiting the Past, Anticipating the Future.


Anna Priedola, artist

Data Recipes for Short-Term Memories.


Jenny Kagan, artist

Big Action.


The workshop is supported by the Creative Europe program of the European Union and the target program “KultūrELPA” of the State Culture Capital Foundation, Latvia.



ABSTRACTS


"Communicating Difficult Pasts" & "Agents of Change: Mediating Minorities."

Ieva Astahovska and Māra Žeikare, Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art (LCCA)


This presentation will introduce two recent LCCA projects which aim to find new ways of approaching issues related to difficult pasts and to recognize art mediation as a powerful tool to make our societies more open and inclusive. “Communicating Difficult Pasts” (2018–21) is a transdisciplinary project that aims to understand how violent pasts have transformed in the Baltic States and acquired new forms. It has evolved from the necessity to better understand the contemporary legacies of the Second World War and the Soviet era as well as the silences about them, while considering the perspectives of minority communities and situating these periods in a transnational geopolitical context. The project has brought together artists, curators, and humanities scholars from various disciplines to strengthen collaboration, share knowledge, and create new interactions between people and organizations. With its many synergies, Communicating Difficult Pasts has not only offered new approaches and added to the collective knowledge of Baltic history, it has also increased awareness of the need for its sensitive mediation and curation. The second project, “Agents of Change: Mediating Minorities” (2020–22), is wider in scope and unites five cultural and civic organizations from Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Sweden. Together they seek to test new models of interaction between minorities, cultural institutions, and civic organizations to contribute and shape policies supporting cultural diversity, inclusion, and societal integration.

For many years, the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art has been developing a variety of educational programs and projects that promote the values of an inclusive society. The main projects involving different audiences include the art mediation program for people of different ages, promotion of the accessibility of cultural activities for people with special needs, a curated program for newcomers to encourage easier integration into Latvian society, and art therapy classes for young people with depression and seniors with dementia and memory impairment.


Welcoming More People to the Museum

Eglė Nedzinskaitė, curator of educational programs at the National Gallery of Art, Vilnius


In her presentation, Eglė Nedzinskaitė will introduce two recent projects at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius. Both projects aim to open up possibilities for people with various disabilities to experience art according to their needs and to legitimize them as just another group of gallery visitors. The first project is an exhibition created with visually impaired people. Titled BLIND DATE, it is the result of collaboration between long-term partners NGA and the Lithuanian Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired that was triggered by young contemporary artists and composers. The exhibition was not created FOR the visually impaired; rather, the community had a decisive voice in every step of the process. BLIND DATE has since become part of the gallery’s permanent collection and can be experienced by all visitors. The second project, MEETING AT THE MUSEUM, is a program for people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s, usually visiting from day-care centres. It consists of intimate talks about the artworks, as well as workshops and tea sessions. While the program is not large, it is a tool that can lead visitors to leave the illness bubble and return to cultural life.

In addition to its direct exhibition activities, the National Gallery of Art also keeps an archive of twentieth and twenty-first-century Lithuanian and foreign art. It consists of a library, a mediateque, various archival sources, and other materials, all of which are available not only to gallery visitors, but also to professionals: researchers, artists, art managers, and gallerists. Through various education programs, the NGA is reaching vulnerable audiences, like people with disabilities, children, teenagers from difficult social backgrounds, and people living in nursing homes. All these projects are developed together with NGOs, the communities themselves, and/or artists who wish to share their creative practices. Usually these are long-term collaborations, which bring the most valuable results.


How Can Art Mediation Help to Communicate Difficult Pasts?

Agnieszka Wojciechowska-Sej, educator of the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź


Art mediation and education means being sensitive to the local aspect of our actions, an openness to the involvement of the inhabitants. That’s why I have chosen two projects to display: the first is a cooperation with the Szczekociny community focused on the city’s Jewish past, and the second is the “Coco and Vinci” project with proteges of the Correctional Centre for Youngsters in Łódź, which ran from 2015 to 2016.

“Jews in Szczekociny” is a long-term project curated by educators from the MSŁ and local leaders, activists, students, and teachers. The starting point was the condition of the Jewish community in Szczekociny in the interwar period and their coexistence with Polish citizens. The next step was to map and catch the situation after WWII. The return of the difficult topic at the beginning of the twenty-first century brought an obligation to sensitivity, and at the same time allowed us to use artistic, metaphorical methods. The events of the annual Dialog Culture Festival (Festiwalu Dialogu Kultur) were geared toward local society and the descendants of Jews from Szczekociny, joining art, history, and traditions.

The “Coco and Vinci” project was the museum’s answer to the needs of students from the Correctional Centre for Youngsters, which is situated in the neighbourhood of the museum. A routine project, obligatory in Polish formal education, started a year-long cooperation between museum educators and girls from underprivileged environments. Girls aged fifteen to eighteen used to live and study in the centre. Leonardo da Vinci and Coco Chanel were the only artists they had recognized, which is why they named the project “Coco and Vinci.” During the project, the girls’ difficult pasts were the main narration. Chanel, da Vinci, and contemporary art gave us new ways and creative methods to work with young, excluded audiences.

The mission of the Muzeum Sztuki consists in providing an appropriate environment for contemporary audiences to interact with the heritage of past and present generations of artists, which can inspire them to develop the ability to independently see, understand, and experience the world around them. The museum pursues its mission by collecting, preserving, and studying works of art, by organizing artistic events, by supporting and advancing research and education, and through the promotion of art at all levels. With an awareness of the close link between the history of the museum and the history of the avant-garde, we focus our activities on the promotion of progressive artistic practices and collaboration with their authors.

The main education focus is the dialogue between art and the audience. The education perspective is still a wide horizon of cooperation and empathy for the audiences’ needs. We try not to teach art, but to organize on open situation for being together in the neighborhood of art and culture.


Collectively Carried Out.

A journey of a painting from an orphanage to a museum experiences of children’s activities and community programs.

Virág Lődi, head of the mediation working group, Nikolett Erőss, curator, OFF-Biennale Budapest, and Szilvia Szénási, Uccu Roma Informal Educational Foundation


Within the framework of the third edition of the OFF-Biennale (2021), the project RomaMoMA has presented some untold and unheard histories of the Roma in form of performative actions and workshops, as well as an exhibition. Among them, the first public presentation of the legendary pannea of Tamás Péli became a particularly important project milestone. Originally painted on the wall of the dining room of the orphanage in Tiszadob (1983), the painting is an outstanding landmark of contemporary Roma culture, an act of collective creation, and a transmission of a creation myth. The huge painting was installed in a way that formed a stage for discussions and children’s activities. The exhibition’s aim was more than to simply render the painting visible; rather, the goal was to introduce the painting into a collective public space—generated by discussions and interpretations. During the exhibition, a number of joint projects with Roma and non-Roma participants were carried out, both in terms of the target audience and the topics focused on, challenging the museum’s educational and communication practices.

OFF-Biennale Budapest is the largest independent contemporary art event in Hungary. It was launched in 2014 as a grassroots statement project that testifies to the independence, resilience, and capability of the local art scene. Started and sustained by a handful of art professionals, the one-off event has since turned into an independent platform where art engages with pressing issues, and the underlying dialogues and collaborations of artists, curators, researchers, and various civic groups can be nurtured and promoted on a local as well as international level. OFF has never applied for Hungarian public funding and steered clear of state-run art institutions—a policy that, while it counters the project’s principles of cooperation, sharing, and serving the common good, is still deemed necessary in order to preserve freedom of expression and professional integrity. A prefigurative political practice, OFF has been performing as an art institution that operates democratically and sustainably, and thus, according to principles we wish would become the norm in Hungary’s cultural scene.

Uccu Roma Informal Educational Foundation’s main goal is to create and strengthen a cultural dialogue between Roma and non-Roma, as well as to decrease discrimination and eliminate stereotypes toward the Roma communities among students between the ages of ten and twenty years. The Foundation’s goals are to provide informal education opportunities for young people and to change their attitude toward Roma, by offering them a platform for dialogue. The other main pillar of the Foundation is the leadership and empowerment of young Roma in Hungary. The foundation’s main activity is delivering tolerance education sessions in public schools led by our young Roma volunteers. The impacts of our educational activities (strengthening debate culture, critical thinking, more tolerant attitudes and behavior, and a more open and tolerant way of thinking) have been researched and found to be effective by schoolteachers and students. We offer these well-established informal education modules mostly in primary and secondary schools but are open to invitations to all kinds of events with a similar theme.


RePAST: Revisiting the Past, Anticipating the Future.

Katarzyna Bojarska, Assistant Professor in the Department of Cultural Studies at the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Warsaw


How do artistic interventions create space for communication and transmission, allow for the working through and negotiation of public memory, create forms of memory activism and dissidence, or depart from hegemonic forms of commemoration to perform memory in public space? Katarzyna Bojarska will lead a brief discussion on how art mediates troubled pasts and offers future forms of collectivity, multi-directionality, and solidarities of memory based on research carried out in Poland, Germany, Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Greece, Cyprus, and Spain.


History through Art – a pedagogigal program for high school students in Malmö.

Mimmi Sjö, curator for mediation and education at Malmö Art Museum


History through Art is an innovative project for high school students whose starting point is an investigation into how to activate, make relevant, and renegotiate history through looking at art. History education today focuses more on the uses of history than repeating the same chronicles as the generations before, and as a museum we have to be relevant and transparent when mediating history through our collections and exhibitions. Unlike aesthetic subjects, history is mandatory in the high school curriculum in Malmö, and thus by using art to visualize and understand history, all high school students can still take part in culture within the framework of the syllabus.

History through Art is a collaborative project between Malmö Art Museum and Stockholm University of the Arts and Professor Ylva Hofvander Trulsson, who is responsible for the process being documented, evaluated, analyzed, and reported in scientific articles. In relation to the exhibition The Latvian Collection at Malmö Art Museum, the method and framework developed within the History through Art project will be used to produce a special pedagogical program for the exhibition in 2022. The main focus will be on how to mediate history in relevant ways and on our responsibility as a museum institution to be relevant and renegotiate previous narratives.

The exhibition is based on the Latvian collection at Malmö Konstmuseum. The collection was acquired just before World War II, with more works added after the war in 1947. In 1958, it was taken down from permanent display during the Cold War, and was later shown in 2019 in the exhibition Migration. The exhibition will look at museums’ and artists’ roles in the processes of constructing national and regional identities and will also discuss how artists and museums help imagine possible alternative narratives that look beyond the nation state and open up to different voices in contemporary Baltic-Nordic and Eastern European societies. The exhibition will be curated by Inga Lāce and Lotte Løvholm.

Malmö Art Museum is creating new perspectives on the significance of history and aims to reach out to today’s society and think about future generations. It is a place for learning, experiences, and social activity. Art mediation is at the forefront of the museum as a knowledge-building and inclusive process when asking how can a museum relate to both history and objects, but also be in tune with present times and its audience? How can we work with an art historical heritage from a contemporary democratic perspective?

Founded in 1841, Malmö Konstmuseum is one of the leading art museums in Scandinavia. The museum houses several important collections, including major holdings of Nordic modern and contemporary art. The museum is in the midst of a major transformation and is working toward opening to a wider and larger audience and to ensuring that a new museum building can be built and opened in the near future.


Data Recipes for Short-Term Memories

Anna Priedola


During her latest art project, “Dairy Diaries,” Anna Priedola has explored dementia and memory loss in older age using materials that are just as ephemeral and do not keep long—dairy products and freshly cut vegetables—inviting seniors and their relatives to join the cooking workshops, to taste the statistics about cognitive health, and to create their own data recipes for long-lasting mental agility.

Food brings people together and sparks conversation, but cooking workshops also create challenges in the art context, especially when working with various audiences (dementia patients / seniors that are in the risk age group / relatives of dementia patients). These issues will be discussed in the artist’s presentation, as will the methods used and the creative outcomes of the workshops (not previously published).

Dairy Diaries is created together with the LCCA mediators and will be on view in an exhibition at the Pauls Stradiņš Medicine History Museum in 2022. Audiovisual diaries and data visualizations introduce and depict the daily life and perception of seniors with dementia, their socio-political realities, and their human relationships. This work is part of the project “Agents of Change,” which aims to promote understanding about contemporary art as a creative process that engages society and is based on conversation—attuning to the needs of local society and raising topics of significance to it.


Big Action

Jenny Kagan, artist


This presentation will introduce a project made for Kaunas Biennial in 2017. The brief was to consider and create new monuments. The Big Action was a selection which took place in the Kaunas ghetto in 1941 during which almost 10,000 people were murdered on one day. There was no marker on the site and no record of the event. Jenny Kagan’s response to the brief was a community intervention in the form of 26,652 custom printed carrier bags, created in collaboration with the students from the local high school. The project sought to create an active monument, with the intent to engage the residents in cross generational conversation, about a story which had taken place on the ground beneath their feet, but of which many knew nothing.

Jenny continues to work in Kaunas and will present her interactive installation, Out of Darkness, as part of Kaunas 2022 European Capital of Culture programme. It tells the story of her parents’ survival in hiding during the holocaust and includes her grandfather’s murder - by Lithuanians - at Lietukis Garage. She will talk about the challenge of bringing these impossibly difficult stories ‘home’ to Kaunas. How do you ask audiences to hear these stories? What is the role of the storyteller, or artist? To what degree should we, and can we mediate the response?


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