The Discussion Groups permit an exchange of opinions about central, and often controversial questions related to the conference topics. Each discussion group will consist of about 25 participants, seated in a circle, and will be started by an input of two or three persons, possibly with very different approaches to the topic in question. These experts will define the exact focus for the conversation and initiate discussion, each with an approx. 10 minute statement or narration, which they can illustrate with examples from their own work through photos or film. In the subsequent discussion of approx. 1 to 1 ½ hrs, the participants will be invited to contribute and present their experience with the issues raised. The initiating experts will be assisted by a further person who will moderate the discussion. The discussion groups can be selected by participants upon registration via this website.
B3 Art in the Face of Fundamentalism/Extremism
Friday, 28.2.2020, 14.00 – 16.00, Room 5.K11
In this session, two sides of the relationship between art and fundamentalism/ extremism might be discussed: In many contexts, artists are threatened by political/religious fundamentalists or right-wing extremists. Women and refugees are often the preferred targets for such violence. Furthermore, works of art are censored or attacked by fundamentalists or political extremists. On the other hand, and probably not unrelated to this, artistic activity can be a source of self-esteem and meaning for people who live under unfavourable and unjust conditions, deprived of options for education and employment, lacking means of securing a livelihood, or a meaningful moral cause. Thus, the question must be raised whether engagement in artistic expression can counter the appeal of fundamentalist and extremist ideologies.
B4 Artists as Refugees, Artists in Exile: Consequences of Displacement
Friday, 28.2.2020, 14.00 – 16.00, Viaduktraum
This session seeks to bring together the perspectives of artists who had to flee their country and those of people from different organisations in the host countries. What are the personal consequences of displacement for artists? How are they able to continue their artistic work in the country of refuge? How can organisations in host countries provide such opportunities for them? What challenges are involved in this? How can the trauma of displacement be turned into new opportunities for exchange between artists from different cultures?
A new Federal Centre for Asylum Seekers will open just before the conference in the building next to the conference venue, the Zurich University of the Arts.
Lubna Abou Kheir (artist)
Mara Züst (Zurich University of the Arts)
C2 Art and Civil Society
Saturday, 29.2.2020, 10.00 – 12.00, Room: 6.K04
In unstable times and under authoritarian structures, where freedom of speech is denied and abused, can art preserve a humanistic debate in the public sphere? It is one of art’s strengths to express what cannot be said otherwise – humorously, poetically, or in other indirect forms, it allows people to make public what needs to be told. Works of art also stimulate discussion, allowing for opinions to be exchanged on delicate or divisive subjects, helping people towards mutual understanding rather than answers. Such a discussion – one might assume – would be an ideal exercise for political discourse in the social sphere, in the debate of an engaged civil society. But does it really work like that? How do art initiatives contribute to active public discussion – and what are the dangers and costs? From participatory art projects to the ‘relational aesthetics’ of some contemporary artists, there is a wide range of models and practice. In the spirit of developing ‘mutual understanding rather than answers’, this discussion will begin with concrete examples and explore whether and how art can play a role in strengthening civil society through the participants’ experiences and perspectives
Lamia Abi Azar (Zoukak theatre)
Mohamad Hamdan (Zoukak theatre)
Francois Matarasso (community artist, writer and researcher)
C4 Foreign Support of Artists Working under Authoritarian Regimes
Saturday, 29.2.2020, 10.00 – 12.00, Room: 5.K10
Is international support desirable for artists who live in difficult political contexts and address social or political issues in their work? Would such support allow authorities to discredit them and reduce the effectiveness of their work? What kinds of outside support would they appreciate?
And what possibilities do foreign organisations have? Are foreign embassies able/willing to protect artists engaged in social issues? Do such artists come under the category of “human rights defenders”? Is accommodation possible with otherwise strict visa restrictions? Is there an interest in close cooperation between state organisations and existing NGOs dedicated to supporting persecuted artists?
Géraldine Zeuner (SDC/Swiss FDFA)