Artist-led or independent spaces engaging directly through programming, protest or boycott of the state was a key element of the trip. Aurora and OFF-Biennale were the most progressive in this approach and other members of the delegation have written about our meetings with them here already, see their posts here: Olivia, Greg, Laura, John, and Anna. I’ll throw my notes here.
Aurora, a social enterprise which is home to a number of NGOs but also is an events space and bar underpinned the importance of place for sharing alternative viewpoints and welcoming marginalised voices. This stance was mirrored in their attitude to the gentrification of the local area and they embraced transience as part of the organisation’s urban identity: moving out would allow them to continue to serve their community.
Our meeting with Hajnalka saw her outline how OFF-Biennale boycotted and disrupted the state’s stake in the arts in order to enhance the culture of democracy through grassroots activity. Voicing her frustration at the impact of protest, boycott and criticism, she also explained how this had driven her to take action. Using the term ‘civic courage’, the discussion outlined the importance of risk-taking and assuming responsibility to demonstrate alternative ideas to a national and international audience. Touching on the financial sustainability, international funding and voluntary activity, I found myself doodling about the fine line between independence and compromise. Voluntary activity can ensure independence but how can this be sustainable in resources, both financial and human?