The streets are a place of protest and sometimes of concern. In Paris, despite the small number of protesters, taking to the streets is a legitimate expression of the people’s democratic rights. In Barcelona, protests from both sides fill the streets on the question of Catalonian independence. But across the Pyrenees, Benjamin Vandewalle’s latest participatory performance in public space brings us back to art history.
Sat in Pristina International Airport waiting for my flight to Vienna, and on to London, I’m wondering what this week has been all about: why do I feel so damned tired, and why do I have a photograph of a boy-mannequin, wearing a crocheted waistcoat, posed in front of a badger pelt on my phone?
In Hull, recently voted the “least romantic city in England”, Freedom Festival celebrated the 210th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. It strikes an appropriate political tone, in the wake of recent racist incidents and discourse in Charlottesville, Virginia. Thought-provoking debates and shows combined with lighter entertainment, which were also steeped in the city’s history.
In summer, the air in the border city of Graz (which takes its name from “grad” or “gradec”, meaning “town” in Slavic languages) ripples with the sounds of Croat, Slovak and Slovenian. A generation ago, the city was at the border of “the other Europe”. Today, the La Strada festival is peacefully celebrating its 20th anniversary. But other borders still need to come down in people’s minds.
Players pool their money but they cannot use it if they cannot agree how to spend it. Other sums are exhibited in full view in the public space... In a world where European policy sometimes seems to come down to questions about budgets, the British studio Kaleider offers an interesting small-scale take on money.
With the unexpected elections of Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron, Brexit ... Political news seems more and more difficult to read. What do artists offer? More participation and a redefinition of the collective that may imply a change of scale. At the very least, a new paradigm.
In contrast to the productivity-based, consumerist model which dominated the 20th century, more contributory systems are now emerging. It is within this context that certain artistic creations are presenting another economic approach, in order to more equitably share the richness of our imaginations.
Jay Wahl is the artistic director of the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. Vladimir Us is a curator with the Oberliht Group in Moldova. Both organisations are members of the IN SITU platform. They examine the concept of popular art and compare their approaches to working in public space.
In the face of increasing authoritarian trends, demagogy, discredited elites, and public indifference, public opinion and political leaders are oscillating between popular and populism. Join us as we delve into the modern challenges of democracy.