Art and Peacebuilding
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Summer School: Divided Societies – Exploring the Dialogical Potential of Art

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artasfoundation issued an open call to artists, activists and cultural practitioners working in the field of socially engaged arts to explore the opportunities and risks of artistic interventions in contexts of profoundly different worldviews. 

In doing so, artasfoundation emphasised that artists who had come from war- affected countries and were now living in Switzerland were particularly asked to apply.

After two preparatory days online and getting to know each other from a distance, the 7-day Summer School took place in Zurich from late August to early September 2023. Its home base was the cultural community space “Schopf” in Albisrieden. Here, the group of 13 artists and curators, with different socially engaged approaches, different experiences in terms of polarised societies, perspectives and geographic origins, went deep diving into an intense week of exchange, sharing with and listening to one another. Each participant presented their own artistic project as well as autobiographic and political contexts (from Afghanistan, Austria, Ethiopia, Kosovo, different regions in Russia and Switzerland), including class and gender.

In addition, various guest contributions and workshops helped to frame the topic theoretically. Taking opposing views within Eastern European societies and within social groups in Switzerland as starting points, the participants asked their guests Denise Traber, Maria Sidorkina and Jörg Scheller one of their principal questions, “What does social polarisation mean?”. Another key element of the programme was the group’s immersion in the Albisrieden neighbourhood, where an exchange with a community members took place to find possible starting points for artistic projects

There were also several practical examples of applications for working with groups: Mirja Fiorentino’s playful kick off to the week at the creative space OFFCUT; the “warm ups” by different Summer School participants throughout the seven days; collaborative cooking with the new friends from the camps for asylum seekers with denied status at Hegnerhof; visiting K-Set archive; Andrea Sommer’s participatory dinner with “scores” to encourage interactions with the participants of the CAS; and Dan Boyden, who introduced techniques from theatre for bringing a group together while at the same time starting the reflection process on the Summer School. 

Listening without judging as well as simply doing something jointly was key for a week of togetherness, respect, and trust; exchanging experiences while creating new ones together; learning from one another and finding new inspirations.

Place and Year 
Zurich, 2023

Participants
Baqer Ahmadi, Meskerem Alaro, Anna and Vitalii Cherepanovy, Bettina Holzhausen, Elena Ishechenko, Olivia Jaques, Lera Lerner, Matilda Materni, Kushtrim Memeti, Daniils Posazhennikov, Shahida Shaygan, Mara Züst

Guests
Dan Boyden, Helena Dilu (Männerhaus Reblaube), Mirja Fiorentino (OFFCUT), our friends from Hegnerhof as from Kochen und Kaffee gegen die Isolation, K-SET, Jörg Scheller & Dagmar Reichert, Maria Sidorkina, Anna Siradakis, Andrea Sommer and Denise Traber. 

Project Management 
Olivia Jaques (artasfoundation)
Dagmar Reichert (artasfoundation)
Mara Züst (artasfoundation)

Partner Organisations
Verein Hochneun
Pflanzplatz Dunkelhölzli

Financial Contribution
City of Zurich