About the period 2020-2024, and how to invite and work with creative visitors to make sense of the place where KRA is located. The text is the outcome of a reflection, and is under discussion with Friends of the Kra, a local to international support group.
“Experiments set the agenda for the future and are unique expressions of an uncompromising present. Art, science, and society participate in it altogether and are inspiring each other to the level that the whole environment gets changed into something creatively unique and different than before, once in a while for the better of everyone and everything” (Hromlegn Kainn, 1986)
A GENERAL FRAMEWORK WITH SPECIFIC FOCUS POINTS
Since 2010 the countryside with the hamlet of Hranice connected to the surrounding villages (Maleč, Libice, …) and the small rural city of Chotěboř, has changed tremendously: the environment, the weather, the people, the animals, commercial and social places, relations and relationships … Some alternative new initiatives were starting up in the neighbourhood: bio farming (Zastráń), education (the alternative kindergarden and school in Chotěboř), a co-working and meeting place (Zastavka194 in Chotěboř), an alternative political regrouping (the green + pirate party), and a new bioshop/café around the corner in Maleč. This all happened within a couple of years, only due to an apparantly new enthousiasm and vibe running through a community. These places seem to promote a new life style in the area, relating more interesting cultural, social and educational, creative activities for inhabitants in the small city and villages around, from very young to old. There is a dynamical sense of innovation in the air, and most of all there is an honest interest in each other’s activities and ideas. Thinking of ecology and small rural cities, the surrounding villages and the open areas around, and a current trend in integration of surroundings despite the marginalisation issues, is coming from a dominant larger city perspective. Murray Bookchin’s libertarian municipalism, or a non-hierarchical democracy which evolved into experiments in direct democracy today, combined with the will and purpose to achieve a rational and ecological society can function as a sound ideological basis for the future. Certainly there are new socio-cultural-economical – perhaps unpredictable – developments possible in this area, but only if the natural and specifically rural-ecological assets are taken seriously within ideas, plans, with cross-sectional and multidisciplinary realisations. And so the arts and its various now defunct production systems need to change accordingly.
Where in the past rural and remote residencies were playing a key role in exchanging cultural artefacts between local and international, urban and rural, in the form of concerts, events, workshops and presentations/discussions, currently this has been taken over by a number of local and alternative meeting places, schools, bio farms and shops, … Therefore the role of KRA as an artistic organization cannot but be other than one of openness, collaboration and relatedness. Though the former style art colonies and residency places seem to adhere rather more to historical contemporary art, bio art, sound art but from a conventional and predicable perspective. The majority receives artists who are there either for career development, starting small and remote, or retreat, developing new works from a studio or comparable. As such former-era residencies provide a pitstop for student artists or recently graduated ones, invite international artists on tour within the region and country, and organize exhibitions and performances which are very similar to the ones found in the cities. In the end the outcomes are rather predictable works, feeding only the art market. Notwithstanding exceptions. KRA wants to go a step beyond this.
Ecology from the perspective of the countryside is rather different than when living in a city. There is a different pollution, different mobility, different food circulation, different work condition, different social and cultural life. There are different notions of time, ways of spending time, methods for organizing activities (The Lad’a Principle: depending on the season, its crops, the weather, the needs of animals, work is organized in smaller independent chunks and does not have to be finished until the season is over, so take all necessary time to work and not work). There are different things to be seen, like an ant hill under a fallen tree, or water plants in the fish pond. There are no city lights so the sky reveals uncountable stars and planets. There is a different sound. You hear people working in pila & sklad, driving tractors and combines, cutting trees and roadsides, biking and walking. You hear it as timely events, different from the constant noise of city traffic blending all and everything around. There are as many different animals as there are children shouting. In the evenings and mornings you enjoy the mysterious concerts joined by all the birds that live there. Currently at night, the cricket tsjirps are taking over from the frog croaks. It’s the land and its use. It is the land and the way it is happening.
Facing today’s problems which are both of a local and global nature simultanuously, new residencies could look into new ways of dealing with this typical environment, the society of people living there, and how they want to live in the future. No one wants to live next to an endless corn or rapeseed field. No one wants to move the kids’ camp because the week before the adjoining meadow had been sprayed with chemicals. Less of a retreat, residencies can suggest new materials, new forms and patterns, structures and new content for a different art. An art for a nearby future, starting now. Realizing that this is also a global issue, the importance of an international network, physical and virtual, cannot be underestimated. Recently we got involved in a brand new initiative called PAN Forum, with initial partners from France, UK, Spain, Estonia, and Germany: PAF, Les Semelles, La Torche, Bidston Observatory, Massia, Fritz, Bravos Foundry, and KRA. These are all organizations starting from scratch and trying to develop original approaches. Now that the fashion, the ecological hype, in the conventional contemporary arts is over and gone, maybe something substantial under the radar will be developed? Let’s suggest suggest something but always be aware that other suggestions and ideas coming from common thinking will be more useful ever.
As hinted at before, while residing in the countryside, the following areas can provide a deeper understanding, exploration and development: ecology, biodiversity, climate change, land use. We can add the important new role of clean technologies for communication and energy provision. Both are essential for networking on a local level, and developing a stronger cultural environment and sustainable future. It is clear that this has to happen in an open way, bringing back multicultural and multilinguistic flavours like it was pre-20th century. It is clear that the current state of large-scale agriculture supported by a global chemical industry has to be countered by small-scale structures with dense local networks. The rural shift affects therefore: (infra)structural development (division of work and income, mobility, education, sports, …), local political embedding of the structural changes, transformations of lifestyle and the production of new forms of cultural participation. Certainly the tendency of out-migration and ageing has to be taken into account, but special types of settlements and activities (DIY, artisanal, bio, heritage, natural areas, responsible tourism) can make the countryside attractive and accessible again in post-fossil times. Consequently the countryside provides important clues for changing society, ecology, culture and can play an essential role in solving climate change and economical divisions. What has it got to do with art?
Artists as creative visitors in the countryside can be looking into ongoing problems and test different perspectives on these topics, mainly with thinking outside of the box. The ones that are not doing that are anyway: already dead (but not yet in the ground). What is at stake is the breaking of the katatonic culture of maintaining overproduction, with the resulting homogenization of the agricultural, intellectual, cultural and aesthetical. Especially artistic and other creative involvements can help to transform our automatic mode of thinking about the way we live now. We are in dire need of collaborations without consensus to find new forms of continuity and heterogeneity.
By linking sustainable practices from the past with possible futures we seek an engagement of the arts in a common goal to change the apparatuses of production, of knowledge. Today via politics we experience the end of the alternative, the end of the experimental, the end of authenticity. Presumably a neoruralism can reverse this trend, by promoting ecological development through local education, social and cultural programs. In this case artistic involvement will rarely result in an individual artwork. So yes it is still art but of a different kind. Working with a different content, new natural and communication tools all together, involving a wider range of people, and participating in what a new critical generation in a little village, a small rural town, or a forgotten hamlet needs today. In an authentic way!
More specifically within the KRA context, a visiting artist works in an environment and concentrates on a specific situation, shared with other local inhabitants of a permanent or temporary nature. So the artist is not working alone in a studio anymore but is taking up a communicative role, in order to create together with others. Others are in this case the initiatives in the villages and nearby small rural cities mentioned above. So the plan is to “create in context” and use appropriate ad hoc methods for it. Apart from developing ideas together with an interested local audience from the small network KRA is part of, also every other phase of the creative activity can be done in collaboration with others. This can be done in workshops, with small work sessions, including learning and making things, giving presentations and engaging in discussions. Of course there can be performances and exhibitions, if the opportunity is there, but it can also just result in an in-depth documentation and material collection, useful for others now or later. Of course within the given themes and topics KRA is proposing and which are part of its specific character.
Here, artistic research is a too big word to be used. Not only it is nowadays too fixed and pragmatically inscribed in existing academic and artistic institutions, it also holds a flavour of the old-fashioned 20th century view of the development of the art-work and the genius of the artist. There should be less attention given to the individual, to concepts framed in projects. Rather let’s talk about new ideas that make us see the world we live in differently. First, let’s consider the local inhabitants as the residents and the artists as the nomadic visitors. Then let’s start making things that make sense. Let’s look for what is needed, what we would like, site-specific and site-sensitive! Let the KRA residency be a framework for looking for the right purpose and means, for creatively thinking about a future culture. A framework for collaboration and connectedness, … and fun!
A SPECIFIC PROGRAM PROPOSAL
(TO BE DYNAMICALLY CHANGED)
LAND-USE (water and soil management)
- overview of historical maps of the environment
- mark, walk old and disappearing roads
- what was being grown and how were the fields maintained
- locate natural watershed structures for soil and water conservation
- compare with the current situation, document and comment
- reconstruct parts of it, make land-use stories
- winter evenings with geologists, anthropologists, historians, landscape artists of any kind
COMMUNICATION (radio z, in collaboration with COW Zastavka 194)
- build cheap home servers and connect them for data collection and exchange
- data = original music and sounds from the area, visuals, calender activities…
- add a plugin FM radio: everyone can play on this open radio with playlists and live transmissions
- make a box where people can plug in their phones, tablets, guitars, microphones, DIY music and visuals
NEW MUSIC (LOVMI or low voltage music ideas, in collaboration with COW Zastavka 194)
- a continuous workshop programme (FL2D, or from lunch to dinner, on Thursdays)
- bring your 3-5 volt small computer boards (rpi’s, arduinos, teensies, etc…) solar cells, and sensors
- learn about electronics and make some circuitry that interacts with others and the world around
- program some sound and make music with it, together
- perform on events around, outside, off-grid, with the ad hoc band ‘Digital Death & Afterlife’
FANFARA HRANICE (previous editions 2012 & 2018, new 2020)
- music has to be free, in open air and move!
- anything goes as long as you don’t shelter
- how does an experimental marching band sound and look like’
- currently preparing a 3rd edition in collaboration with Gdansk/PL a.o.
AGRICULTURE (KBC-w kravín bio beer or wine club)
- grow all necessary ingredients for making beer, whatever time it takes
- make the malt and fermented products ourselves
- meet every month, invite experts and brewers
- one day drink a bio beer with the neighbours and Friends of the KRA
- document how and where shared infrastructure was (kinos, cafés, Virág’s playgrounds, …)
- where are the historical shared places, the modern ones
- how are the public and private ones, and how do they look like
- what was and is work, leisure, cultivation, destruction
- how do we make bio hranolky?
- we want to build an outdoor lab with the metal container that was left in the garden
- and use the wood from the old barn that is falling down
- a place to observe the area and work at new outdoor eko instruments and objects
- a place to sleep or observe the stars and planets at night
- a connected observation spot for sonification and visualisation
- make citizen projects, for instance “dry areas become drier wet areas become wetter”; so: let’s measure it!
And many more things we can invent like building a solar cargo bike together, but in reality we invite: writers, cartographers, bio-engineers, ornitologists, geologists, musicians, chemicists, soil and cloud workers, water ecologists, archeologists, etnographers, singers and dancers, philosophers, tinkerers, inventors, futurists, readers, cooks and brewers, beekeepers, cheesemakers, gardeners, … and any other artists!
Finally, a possible scenario for a residential methodology could be:
AN ACTIVITY PROPOSAL SHEET FOR KRA (2020-2024)
TO BE DISCUSSED,
ADAPTED TO REALITY, EXTENDED
Residencies can be done in chunks of 3 months, or 3 weeks, or something in between…
A = COLLECT IDEAS
- do nothing
- check out the environment
- think about what could be done, go home and reflect, write it out or draw it, sing it
B = COLLECT MATERIALS
- come back and make some meetings with the network
- ask others to come in, start working on things
- try out some things, talk about some other ideas, try them out, document and comment on them
C = BUILD THINGS
- construct something better together
- make things work different together
- have a roundup, presentation or performance, make a movie or throw a party
To be continued…