The Story of CORNERS
Chapter One: Values
Why did we start CORNERS
Although contemporary art in Europe has a global focus, there is a strong need and demand to work in communities and deal with the topics and problems in each different location.
The challenge was to connect transnational art with locally generated and owned initiatives. We began with the question, ‘how do we establish an environment across Europe that enables and encourages artists and cultural organizations to collaborate and engage local communities in their work, sharing knowledge and enthusiasm at a micro level?’
We anticipated that cultural action by professional artists, sensitized by travel and research, could open certain windows to local discourse. We imagined that the nomadic artist could have a role as both observer and provocateur who, by traveling through local contexts around Europe, could share knowledge and stories. We wanted to expand the field of the artist to include direct participatory encounters with the audience. We wanted to develop a structure, ‘a new production model’, creating templates for artwork that could be reproduced and reinvented in new places without losing the original purpose or having to start from the beginning in each new place.
What is CORNERS all about?
CORNERS is about finding new “spaces for art” and bringing art to public space, gathering places, marketplaces, school auditoriums.
We explore communities and develop exemplary actions which can further inspire the people we meet in each new place. We are not creating a “touring circuit”. It is not about anonymous and short term experiences. Instead we focus on deep cultural encounter, longer term residencies and co-creation.
We established CORNERS as a platform for artists and audiences, designed and driven by cultural organisations at the edges of Europe. The idea of CORNERS was to create opportunities for artists and researchers to produce multidisciplinary collaborative projects, as well as establishing a platform for organisations to collaborate and facilitate the co-production of artistic works. CORNERS focused upon communities outside of the recognised cultural centres to enable exchange across geographical, political and economic divisions.
How CORNERS happened
A number of cultural institutions from edges of Europe build a partnership designed to last, and based on shared responsibility. CORNERS was initiated in 2010 by six cultural institutions: Intercult (Stockholm), Exodos (Ljubljana), POGON (Zagreb), Drugo more (Rijeka), City Culture Institute (Gdansk), and Umeå 2014 – European Capital of Culture. The project was then further developed together with several institutions, new core partners and associates: Donostia / San Sebastian 2016 – European Capital of Culture, Arts Council of Northern Ireland (Belfast), ISIS Arts (Newcastle), REX (Belgrade), DokuFest (Prizren) and Teatro Pubblico Pugliese (Bari).
Aside from being dispersed around the continent, these cultural organizations are different in size and form: from small independent and larger cultural organisations and foundations, to public bodies and two European Capitals of Culture. CORNERS brought us together with a mission to facilitate the production of art, the collaboration of artists and the dissemination of art across the edges of Europe. Throughout the life of CORNERS, many local organisations joined as partners in the process of research, production and presentation of CORNERS artworks.
The kind of work we wanted to make
Collaborative artistic projects:
CORNERS Projects involve two or more artists from different countries, working in different media (Hrvoslava Brkušić, multimedia artist from Croatia, Deirdre Cartmill, writer from Northern Ireland and Beatriz Churruca, performance/dance artist from Basque Country who worked together on the artwork Bridging the Silence, visual and sound installation dealing with the victims of war, sexual and family violence and trauma.
CORNERS projects involve multiple art forms and have strong cross-cultural dimensions. Playground by artists Miha Horvat (SI), Riccardo Spagnulo (IT), Gianfranco Mirizzi (HR), Simon Farid (UK) is a growing collection of games where artists collect the games people play around Europe, they bring them to new territories and together with local people they invent new ones.
As opposed to site-specific, CORNERS artworks are site-related, where work is not designed for one place only, but can be performed and shown in many different places and contexts. The work gets related to certain sites by co-creating each version with local audiences. Windows by artists Valeria Simone (Italy), Michael Hanna (Northern Ireland), Asier Zabaleta (Basque Country) is a participatory outdoor theatre piece, where residents and visitors answer a series of questions on topics ranging from local to existential issues. Artists meet the communities, and in each place, they collectively formulate questions that are most relevant for their environment, working together to build the narrative for the play.
Artworks that communicate beyond language:
CORNERS projects can be presented and understood without language barriers. (Atlas of Tremors by artists Phil Hession (Northern Ireland), Ivana Ivković (Croatia), Christian Cherene (Spain / Northern Ireland) and Ivan Marušić Klif (Croatia). Together they are collecting folk songs from communities connected to weaving and the production of textiles. They then re-interpret these songs with the help of digital sound processing. The work travels to different sites mapping Europe through songs. Sounds and images are collected in exchange with local singers, leading to an ongoing cartography of encounters.
Works designed to be presented in public or unusual places:
CORNERS projects are presented where art is usually not expected, exhibited or performed. Safari Here by artists Isabella Mongelli (Italy), Maria Anastassiou (United Kingdom) and Miloš Tomić (Serbia) is a guided tour through neighbourhoods in European cities, created with the local residents. Using tools and aesthetics appropriated from the Tourist Industry, it is aiming to display lesser known histories and present micro-locations, to re-interpret and re-present the fabric of everyday life of a place.
In the next chapter...
…we'll bring out some hard-core facts: how many artists and cultural workers were involved in CORNERS, how many places we visited, how many people we met along the way and much more.