The Story of CORNERS
Chapter 3: Research & Development
Artist Miloš Tomić filming the Puglia Xpedition crew
Approaching the vast territory of Europe, especially given our interest in its outer regions and corners, required a research period – time that would allow us to discover what makes these remote places special, and the topics that connect them.
Ixone Ormaetxe’s photo from Northern Ireland Xpedition
With this research, we were interested in questions like: What do people in San Sebastián share with people from Prizren? How would people in Mostar or Gdańsk greet a stranger? What kind of cultural events are popular in Belfast or in Taranto? What kind of citizen's initiatives are active in Lublin or Shkoder? How do people from Telavi or Umeå see their futures?
A soldier guiding us through the first edition of Biennnale of Contemporary Art held in Tito’s secret military bunker in Konjic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Balkan Xpedition
Our research was carried out through 8 Xpeditions. Xpeditions were two-week-long journeys where artists and researchers met, travelled together and explored the remote regions of different countries, meeting new people and organizations. We learned about the local culture and life, searching for the unique stories that surround people and places, and challenging stereotypes. Based on these experiences, our artists conceived ideas for new collaborative art projects.
Places CORNERS visited during 8 Xpeditions
"I've experienced the value of having time, encouraged to take my time and space to come up with an idea and develop it - without hurry. I've felt often that what I was doing was not expected to be just something material but a work of quality connected with places and people.
I had the possibility to work moving between different places and the possibility to feel them and feel the lines in between them. A line that takes with itself differences but especially similarities and a common mood that I've felt deeply.
I can tell to have a true professional idea of what it is to work site related, socially engaged, collaborative - meaning really connected to places and community."
Artist Isabella Mongeli about her experience of working within the framework of CORNERS
Xpeditions functioned as a very intense artist-in-residence programme, but one that was constantly moving and travelling. Just like an artist-in-residence programme, it pulled us all out from our routines, but this time it immersed us in someone else's. It displaced us from our usual social connections. It made us focus all our attention on places we visited and our comrade co-travellers. This intense research format not only brought to attention topics that were later dealt with in Corners artworks, but it also allowed artists to establish future collaboration.
Artists at the collective shaving at the barber shop in Prizren, Kosovo, filmed by Fredrik Oskarsson
"I don't really believe in artistic careers. But my work as a scholar and reluctant artist was greatly enriched by CORNERS project. Specifically, I developed interest in travelling as performance, thinking through travelling, writing about travelling and the theatricality of travelling. I also strengthened my interest in artistic practises which turn mundane actions upside-down, and provide a new framework for thinking about everydayness. This helped greatly with writing about and thinking through those projects which are difficult to critically assess, because they do not provide the conventional "distance" between the critic/scholar/writer and the artist."
Researcher Una Bauer about the influence of CORNERS on her career
CORNERS artists and researchers communicated their impressions, observations and experiences from Xpeditions in the form of DocuArt. Be it a text, photography, sound, performance or documentation, DocuArt offers specific, intimate, personal views of the areas we visited, a situation of collective research and reflections on the stories we heard.
Kajsa Sandström: Performance with mirror in Kaliningrad
During the Xpeditions, as a way of testing their collaboration and the ideas inspired by places they visited, artists and researchers prepared collective actions and interventions in public spaces, called Piazza (Square), Stanica (Station) or Bazar (Market). The artists were addressing hot topics from the local context, and their specific artistic perspectives. These actions often aimed to include the audience and to animate them, and took place where people commonly meet: squares, markets, train and bus stations.
After shaping an initial idea about their collaborative artwork, each group of artists that joined together as co-authors met again at BaseCamps. BaseCamps allowed artists to work together in a focused way to further developing their piece. They tested their concepts and started to work with audiences.
Sergiy Petlyuk catching the internet connection at the BaseCamp in Ukraine
"Looking back at my CORNERS adventure, I see the project and my experiences in it as having had a quite profound effect on my approach to creative practice. Working in CORNERS helped me to recognise how all working structures have forms of collaboration at their heart.
CORNERS’ focus on socially engaged practice has re-iterated for me the significance of working with people on the ground without prior assumptions about commonality or motive, and to approach such situations tactically, honestly, with transparency about what all participants are looking to achieve and what the long-term effects of these achievements will be.
CORNERS has made me reflect on the differences between means and end, process and outcome. Through experimentation in working together, CORNERS has shown me the importance of beginning with clearly defined collective goals, to have realistic expectations of what art can achieve (and for whom) and to see the operational importance of constant evaluation and improvement in an honest and critical fashion."
Artist Simon Farid talking about his experience of working within CORNERS
In the next chapter…
...find out more about the international and transdisciplinary collaborations between artists, the artworks that emerged from these and the way the artworks were presented in many places across Europe.
Preparations for the Windows performance in Gdansk