Taking part to one of the podiums of Rückkopplungen has been extremely stimulating for me. As freelance cultural worker and member of the collective uqbar, in my practice I always try to confront the issues of the outreach of the cultural projects I am involved with. Ideally, culture should trigger ideas and a certain reflection on the present, as well as stimulate curiosity and creativity. Nice words? How to measure the outreach and the effects of the art and cultural projects? Can art produce an effect on social realities?
With uqbar, the association I run together with three colleagues, we try to develop and implement projects that reflect on social processes and current phenomena. uqbar’s main focus is contemporary art, the kind of contemporary art where art works have a social or political dimension, are process or research oriented, and ultimately have something to say about the world we live in. Ideas and projects for uqbar are developed in a continuous dialogue within the collective and with the artists and the partners involved. Thus, an important aspect of uqbar’s approach is to implement interdisciplinary projects that foster a critical standpoint and understanding and go beyond the field of visual art and address new forms of distribution and audience participation.
We are all involved in the activities of uqbar as freelancers, and the association exists thanks to the financial support we get from funding bodies after submitting often quite elaborate applications. We do not rely on any kind of structural funding. Our premises in Berlin-Wedding function as project space, with a regular exhibition activity that we hope attracts both an international and a local public.
In our projects we always try to put an emphasis on mediation and education, trying out a variety of formats that possibly attract different kinds of public and generate interaction and participation. We are a small structure therefore our attempts are effectively disconnected and discontinuous – as our funding is. With the interdisciplinary project Transient Spaces – The Tourist Syndrome, developed by Antje Weitzel and myself, we have been trying to raise attention of the topic of contemporary mobility, and in particular tourism and migration. Over the past two years, we have prompted artists to work on these issues, and involved artists, academics, researchers, architects, filmmakers, and of course the general public, in the various workshops, discussions, conferences and exhibitions. One of the most remarkable moments of the whole project in terms of mediation of knowledge, participation and exchange has been the summer camp held in Lithuania in summer 2009, to which circa fifty participants from all over the world took part. With its workshop, presentations and conferences, the summer camp has been quite central for the development of the structure and the topics that became central to the project, but what I want to stress here is that the summer camp effectively produced moments of sharing and peer-to-peer exchange, and a “community” among the participants, that still exists. This is extremely valuable to me, one of the true “long lasting effects” of the all process of Transient Spaces.
Another project I wish to mention here is Real-Time-Nomads developed by artist Maja Weyermann and currently exhibited at uqbar project space. For a year Maja has been researching, filming and interviewing shop owners of migrant background in different areas of Berlin, merging images of the actual shops with ambients imagined and “rendered” digitally by the artist according to the description of the places of origin of the interviewee. This project brought a totally new public to our project space and also Maja’s films are on display on monitors in the shops where the interviews have been taking place, multiplying the visibility of the exhibition. The whole project provides a beautiful, poetic and empathetic portrait of migrants in Berlin, in between memories of the past and present time, imagined and real places.
Back to the question formulated at the beginning of this text, on the “effects” of art, I regard these two projects as examples of implicit culture education, non-prescriptive, participative and “sincere”. In both case the positive output and feedback of the projects is linked to their being open-ended, innovative and empathic I guess.