Understanding local contexts
Through previous collaborations wpZimmer, Baltic Art Center, Studio ALTA and Lavanderia a Vapore recognised that while working on transnational projects with predefined value systems local situatedness gets neglected, leading towards possible misunderstandings or even conflicts during the implementation. On Mobilisation recognises historical, geographic, cultural, economic, political and other situational factors that influence the way we work and the way we experience the world around us. We find it extremely valuable to embrace the contextuality of each organisation, as well as intersectionality and multiplexity of people with whom we collaborate and/or whom we address. Our goal is to create conditions that enable us to build meaningful relationships and produce new and share existing knowledge(s), while acknowledging, understanding and sensing differences within each context without any judgement or hierarchy.
wpZimmer is an international arts workplace where development is central and artistic practice is the starting point. It offers time and space for in-depth and unconditioned research for both artists and art workers. wpZimmer is both an oasis and an open agora in which different (future) visions are hosted. The rich variety of meaning-making and encounter that artists develop is crucial to us in our more complex and increasingly polarising society.
The undercurrent of wpZimmer is the Learnscape. It carries the content operation and is in turn fed by it. The Learnscape is created by all practices that are short-term or long-term present at wpZimmer, through the input of the team, artists, guests, partners and passers-by. The Learnscape is a process of knowledge creation and knowledge sharing. In this environment of peer-learning, (collective) learning emerges from practical or situated knowledge. A learning deeply rooted in doing and experiencing artistic processes.
For more than 20 years wpZimmer has been located in the Seefhoek in Antwerp, a neighbourhood that is historically inhabited by the low income working class (harbour workers, small local services and shops) and different migrant communities. There are more than 60 different languages spoken in the neighbourhood, pointing to the rich diversity of the place. However, it is the only neighbourhood in the inner ring of the City of Antwerp that was not gentrified. But the process has begun. There is an ongoing negative PR campaign that emphases the presence of crime, drug abuse and prostitution. The culture of fear and hostility towards many ethnic minorities is being used to reduce the general resistance to violent urbanistic transformations that destroy the social and cultural fabric of the neighbourhood.
Within the On Mobilisation project, wpZimmer leads the On Mobilisation and Learning chapter that centres on alternative and informal ways of learning. It facilitates two artistic research projects by Ahilan Ratnamohan and by Danae Theodoridou, while collaborating with the associated partner Antwerp Research Institute for the Arts (ARIA) and with Out of Sight.
Baltic Art Center
Baltic Art Center is a small-scale organisation on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea founded in 2001. It is a project-based residency for contemporary art with an expertise in long-term (1-5 years) facilitation of site-specific artistic research projects. Although based in central Visby – a mediaeval UNESCO World Heritage site on Gotland – visiting national and international artists often use the entire island as their extended studio, to research complex geopolitical context and connect to different local communities and sites. BAC strives to be a flexible organisation that follows the artistic process and adjusts its modus operandi to suit specific productions. In 2021 BAC co-initiated Swedish artist-in-residency network (SWAN).
The island has had strategic military importance in the Baltic Sea for most of its history. During the 20th century the military was stationed on Gotland as part of Sweden’s defence system, until all permanent military units were shut down in 2005. The military infrastructure was abandoned or given to cultural organisations. With tensions in Northeastern Europe and Russia escalating in 2014-2015, the Swedish government remilitarized the island, and as of 2018 Gotland has re-raised the Gotland Regiment. The case for a peace movement on the island has also gained momentum, balancing the military build-up taking place with bottom-up peace-building activities. In 2019 Gotlands Fredscenter/Gotland Peace Centre was founded.
Within the On Mobilisation project, Baltic Art Center leads the On Languages of Mobilisation chapter and together with the artist Kalle Brolin and the associated partner Uppsala University Graduate School in Sustainability Studies (GRASS) looks at the military history of Gotland and how it has been shaping language.
Studio ALTA was founded in Prague in 2008 as a grass-roots initiative of contemporary artists, emerging from the local needs. It works beyond the traditional venues — in an abandoned stock house in the industrial area in Bubenská Street, in Invalidovna building (National and Cultural Heritage site) and now in Libeňský pivovar (Libeň’s Brewery) in Prague. The dilapidated magnificent buildings that Studio ALTA temporarily inhabits are immense, and cannot be actively used in their entirety as it would be too expensive and too demanding to maintain it. The ghosts of empty spaces from all the histories of this site collide with the existing communities from the neighbourhood, and with artists, curators and cultural workers that move in. Studio ALTA makes all the facilities accessible to public, professional artists, and civil initiatives, and invites them to become cohabitants and co-caretakers of the space and each other through cultural, artistic, social and community activities.
The artist Marika Smreková is invited to co-inhabit Studio ALTA during the On Mobilisation project. Through her artistic research she experiments and pushes limits of inclusivity, using Studio ALTA as a partner, case-study and lab, within the On Inclusive Mobilisation chapter of this project.
Lavanderia a Vapore
Lavanderia a Vapore is a dancehouse, a research center for contemporary artistic experimentation, and a laboratory for the collective imagination of potential socio-political scenarios, through the transformative power of dance and its capability to reverberate and reformulate the inquiries of our present times. Lavanderia a Vapore is a protected and permeable space-time, nested with relationships; an open to the multitudes area that, through specific projects and presentation moments, opens its doors wide to diversified voices, cross-sectoral collaborations, and territorial involvement: it experiments with choral forms, giving birth to new practices and visions rooted in the challenges of civil society. It aims to contribute to social transformation and paradigm shift through experience, emotions, and imagination.
Lavanderia a Vapore inhabits the now renovated former laundry of a psychiatric hospital Regio Manicomio. The boundary wall of the psychiatric hospital, the dividing line between the world of “lunatics” and the neighbouring town was demolished in 1979, the year after the hospital was closed down after over a century of activity, as a consequence of the enactment of the Italian Law on “Voluntary and mandatory health checks and treatments”. The history of the building subtly influences programmation and the way Lavanderia works with artists and audience, promoting and providing care and openness, supporting development and production, while subverting the history of the site.
Within the On Mobilisation project Lavanderia a Vapore invited artists Elisabetta Consonni and Daniele Ninarello who instigate processes of individual and social healing inspired by the history of Lavanderia within the On Mobilisation of Care chapter of this project.