8m² – The Smallest Unit of Permanence
In this series, we ask i-Portunus Houses participants to tell us their stories and experiences. At the end of each story, we invite you to reflect with us on important themes about mobility in the arts and civil society.
This exchange-week was dedicated to encounter, exchange and research across borders and generations on the theme of mutual support within various forms of collective organization. 8 Square Meters – the smallest unit of permanence – is a program that critically engages with social justice, solidarity and sustainable practices through art, with the aim of exploring models of collective organization by (young) artists. We were very pleased to welcome the 90’x Collective to join us in the 8 Square Meters project. Through our project infrastructure, a collaboration between artists and researchers Joël Verwimp, Lindsey Drury, based in Berlin, Astrid collective from Ghent, 90x’ collective from Tbilisi, croxhapox Georgia and croxhapox, we’ve organized a cross-generational non-hierarchical research focusing on artist infrastructures, the politics of land ownership and national borders, methodologies of artist collectives and artistic/community commons, and new methods of documentary and inter-medial narrative art, presented through our SURVIVAL HANDBOOK. (to be continued in a subsequent phase).
From the first moment, there was a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The exchange came at a good time, since each of the collective organizations is currently going through some kind of crisis. Moreover, the exchange took place at the same time as the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It made our questioning of support structures all the more apt and relevant.
We start each day by having breakfast together. For the first day, we invited Philippine Hoegen to open the week with performative assignments based on her workbook ANOTHER VERSION: Thinking Through Performing. On day 2, we got to know each other’s practices and came to understand each other’s unique qualities. A new topic was broached, namely that of aesthetics and activism, and how art can make space for social engagement, following the squatting of a public building in which Astrid was involved since last summer. The property, owned by the city in its public function of social housing, will be sold to the highest bidder, which will inevitably lead to gentrification and the cleaning up of the city centre. Since then, the building has been squatted by activists. Can artists contribute to the public debate on sustainable living? On day 3, we were invited to give a lecture in LUCA_School Of Arts Ghent, in which we presented the specific art practices of both artists’ collectives, the importance of collective organizing for the arts and how we came together through networks of befriended artists across borders and generations. We ended the day with a funeral dinner according to Georgian customs in which first the oldest of the community addresses the community and then everyone in turn gives a short speech to commemorate something or someone. A strong moment. On day 4, we took a walk through a nature reserve around Ghent and were able to visit the grandparents of one of the artists; there, we discussed possibilities for future cooperation projects. To what extent do art and civil actions come together, and what does it mean today in these troubling times? Day 5 focused on the question of organizing support structures such as croxhapox and Apa-B. What does it mean to be an artist-run organization, and how can you sustainably engage the artist community in what could ideally take the form of a cooperative? The board of croxhapox enters into dialogue with the collectives to think about future directions and to tune them to the needs of the artists themselves. What structures are needed today, not only to support artists but also to strengthen the support structures themselves. Afterwards, we visited a new initiative by and for young visual artists. On day 6 we participated in Giorgi’s military workshop. It was held in the public space on a large open square. A special police unit stopped to ask what we were doing. Again we ended the day by cooking and eating together.
Our budget was very limited. Each of us contributed to the cost to his or her own ability, mainly for the food. Since we cooked together every day, we were able to keep the costs down. The fee for Philippine is covered by croxhapox. All activities cost basically nothing: we used the public space to work and could meet in the guesthouse itself. The space belongs to one of Astrid’s members, who recently lost his mother and since then has opened the house via airbnb for guests. This made it possible to work in a homelike atmosphere, which certainly contributed to the group dynamics and the amiable atmosphere. This way, the project could truly revolve around the question When is a house?
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This exchange-week was dedicated to encounter, exchange and research across borders and generations on the theme of mutual support within various forms of collective organization. 8 Square Meters – the smallest unit of permanence – is a program that critically engages with social justice, solidarity and sustainable practices through art, with the aim of exploring models of collective organization by (young) artists.