On the occasion of the launch of NEGOTIATION, the public program of the Center for Social Vision, we held a panel discussion with colleagues whose practices not only embody an effective definition of the social but also demonstrate a clear awareness about the policies they apply and their results. In the discussion, we talk about what guides the activity of these organizations, what challenges they face, and what institutional and public support is needed in the future.
The panel featured: Tsveta Doycheva, founder of HOD Movement Laboratory; Neda Sokolovska and Rada Ezekieva, Documentary Theatre Studio VOX POPULI; Geo Kalev, co-founder of Mini Art Fest & Social Circus; Vladiya Mihaylova, chief curator of the newly founded RCCA Toplocentrala; Dima Stefanova, founder of the educational platform for art and design Know-How Show-How; and Yanina Taneva, co-founder of Ideas Factory and Baba Residence. The discussion was moderated by Viktoria Draganova, initiator of the Center for Social Vision and Swimming Pool.
In the video, you can watch the presentations in full-length; here, you can find few crucial points made in the talks, as well as excerpts from the discussion that followed (not featured in the video).
EXCERPTS FROM THE TALKS
Geo Kalev / Mini Art Fest & Social Circus
"The social circus is an innovative form of working with children, mixing psychodramatic techniques with art and play. The result is a space that we consider ours and protected. How do we achieve this? By removing barriers - of language, of gender differences, of our identity, of our past. Our goal over the last five years has been to create a technology of communication. What does it mean to encourage people who have no hope? It means to make them feel like winners too, like all of us, and in that way they too will want to participate in our society, to join in the social."
Yanina Taneva / Ideas Factory and Baba Residence
"Bulgarian villages are the number one place in terms of social isolation, lack of access to cultural content. 80% of the budget is here in Sofia, but 80% of the need is there. I think the national priority should be access to culture, which should be much more flexible, and regionalisation in terms of cultural institutes. This decentralisation should be the main thing in the new cultural strategy. We need to get out of our comfort zone and really stretch ourselves, because our fellow citizens are living in a cultural desert. I see the social as somewhat reactive, that is, being able to listen with humility, to understand the needs of a place, of a neighbourhood, without imposing your own vision in advance."
Dima Stefanova / Know-How Show-How
"What we've tried to incorporate into the Know-How Show-How programs from the very beginning is to work with the resources that are available and pay attention to what we have around us and what we can use. Right now we are a new team (Filip Boyadjiev and Ivelina Gadzheva) and our goal is to connect to that potential and connect it to the potential available in the environment."
Neda Sokolovska / Documentary Theatre Studio VOX POPULI
"At a certain point I realized that I didn't want to be between four walls anymore, that it was time for theatre to start getting out of the theatre space, out of this dusty space that has no oxygen, where the relationship between the actor and the spectator is frontal and the spectator is always lower and the actor is somewhere up on stage, and remote. So we started to look for a way to have a direct connection, to go out to people, to go back to them in some way, to give them back the stories that they have given us. In this way, we want to reach that audience that we would otherwise find very difficult to bring into the theatre room ... Also, we would like to start using the methodology that we already have and the practice that we have accumulated to preserve memory. This is a very nice example of how theatre can integrate with the community and take from it, but also give to it. We will continue in this direction in the future and work less and less on stage because I personally don't see much point in this convention.
Tsveta Doycheva / HOD Movement Laboratory
"The four people who are currently leading their classes at HOD are like-minded because they are looking at movement in very non-classical formats and exploring the body, trying to find what the interconnections are in the body and how we can improve this movement that we have on a daily basis. Apart from that, there is a project called Incubator that is currently in the pipeline, which is going to give movement opportunities to so-called former dancers, "former" artists. Why "former" - because here in Bulgaria there is an unfavourable designation of people who have practiced something before, but are currently in the shadows, whether because of physical or ideological or some kind of obstacle they can't continue to do it, but have the desire to continue. Another parallel line is for the place to have a a slot for minorities or for groups that can't pay rent or use space elsewhere."
Vladiya Mihaylova / Toplocentrala
"For me, what has always been extremely important is a socialization, a giving back of the institution to the people. There's an institutional inertia, unwritten internal rules and constraints that are to blame here, that if we don't break down, I don't think we'll ever get to a cultural strategy that includes regions, villages or whatever. Institutions need to be given back to the people, to the artists, to the people who can create in them, and then to the people of society. The Warmhouse is the first publicly funded cultural institute that has a very different origin story: it comes from the initiative of the independent scene. I believe that Warmthcentral has the capacity and the resources to show that things can happen differently and change many things in the cultural field, from how a theatre space or an arts space functions, to how a cultural institute addresses audiences, to how it works with communities, who it admits, how dynamic it is, what resources it provides, to what we ultimately need to live for in a less fragmented society. And I believe that education and culture have the resources to help bridge these huge gaps."
EXCERPTS FROM THE DISCUSSION
Viktoria Draganova All the topics raised so far are also questions that we have been thinking and discussing for a long time here, at the Center for Social Vision – about institutions and instituting, about creating spaces in which we work and live, about communication and conversation, about listening, about creating communities. I also notice that transformation is another focal point: All of us are constantly transforming, taking on new dimensions of the work. Also, we talked about listening to the past and the need to create an archive. I would like to open the discussion with a single question: what else do we need?
Rumena Kalcheva In a word, I will just say – we need like-minded people with whom to be in constant contact.
Filip Boyadjiev We need to be together, and the discussion that just happened is such a giant charge for me – to see a lot of people from different fields of art who think in a very similar way, and the opportunity to exchange and hear was unique for me, and we need to think about what we can do to change the environment. Or, perhaps we are already doing enough – that could also be interesting point of view.
Ivan Bonev One of the main reasons that I got involved in this initiative (The Center for Social Vision, Ed.) was the need to fill a gap in our education system. One of the things that I think we need are better documentation and dissemination of these methodologies that we have developed in the context of our practice.
Filip Boyadjiev Is it possible to return the institutions to the people and is it necessary, or is it time for new, independent forms to replace these heavy institutional structures?
Vladiya Mihaylova I think it is possible. Institutional structures are heavy mostly because of the people. Bulgaria's institutions contain, encapsulate, and enclose a huge amount of infrastructural and financial resources – and not just enclosed, but unused, so to speak. Moreover, the institution provides a tribune of conversation that is quite independent of the independent sector; that has been my motivation for staying inside the institution. The people inside are not necessarily bad, they're just people who are driven by this institutional habitus and this inertia... I think we need to get over the logic of 'these are in the institutions, these are outside the institutions'. The institutions are ours; we just have to ask more of them, and all the time.
Viktoria Draganova Who has what responsibility and what possibility to act? This is where the question comes in for me, both as an organization and as an individual; that everyone should take the responsibility to act where they can. What do we need – and what can we do, how do we act something, how do we demand it?
Dima Stefanova Here comes the question of personal responsibility and how an individual makes the change – and how important the people who sit in those positions are, whether they are institutions or NGOs. I think both sectors are equally important for the environment to enrich each other, to see things that we cannot see from our perspective and position alone; and I think we are indispensable to each other just to enrich the environment and to be able to complement each other. I don't see any kind of confrontation, I’d rather like to have dialogue and cooperation, that's it.
Viktoria Draganova We need public programs where art steps outside the white cube, outside the institution... With the emergence of programs like "Otkrito" (Open) and "Navun" (Outside), this debate about how art that appears outdoors communicates with the community began. Are the processes set by the artist alone, or do they emerge in discussion later – and it turned out that the huge issue is how the municipality manages, directs, and how willing it is to do so. Because most of the time everything is left to the artist to figure out how to held the discussion. But, it needs to be a much broader base here that is fed by the artist, the municipality, the institutions, and all sorts of peripheral organizations so that this dialogue can take place. It's not just about presenting something but generating it in the right environment.
Yanina Taneva This is the big trend of the last 20 years – the democratization of culture.
Vladiya Mihailova We need to articulate different needs in a way that can be communicated publicly without them being in confrontation with other needs... It is very haphazard the way cultural policy is currently made and this is due to repeated strategic mistakes.
Neda Sokolovska I feel very hopeful about what's going on in our independent micro-world. I think we're increasingly starting to shape communities that are going in a very good direction, and the fact that there are already institutions that are starting to look at ways to reform is very important. I mean, institutions are increasingly starting to look for ways to dialogue with communities, but also with freelance artists, with independent initiatives – and that's the way it should be... But the truth is that things are going well, and it also seems there is a realization that we can do a lot more things together than we can separately... Because this mutual aid and this collaboration between different individuals, groups, and organizations in these sectors are very important things. For me, when that network becomes entangled and very stable, it can achieve a lot, it can push, it can build, and then it can be used for whatever you want. That network, that's where things come from – so those kinds of meetings, those kinds of discussions, those kinds of initiatives, those kinds of people, that's what we need, I think.
Tsveta Doycheva This gathering and talking, talking, talking are also sharing practices – which are missing. I think a lot of people who want to do things lack knowledge that they can acquire. It's not that it's not happening, but it could be happening at a more accelerated pace because it's shortening the path of people who follow our path. The sharing of practices and the talking is fulfilling the great potential that I think is not being wasted, and it's enabling those, who previously thought that things were more difficult and not easily accomplished, to see that they could move somewhere.
Ivelina Gadzheva I just want to add something about institutions... We are talking here about systems, about institutions, about the municipality, however, all these are people – and we are actually working people with people; we are on one side, but on the other side are not some objects, these are people, too... Let's not forget that these are not just objects, but the same as what we are sharing now.