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International Award for Participatory Art awarded to Etcetera C.R.I.S.I.

The project began with an “errorist” event in the center of Bologna. Officials of the European Central Bank (fake) gave back five-euro banknotes (real) to passersby. It concluded with a mise en scene of a permanent assembly in Piazza Verdi, historic and symbolic setting of the student protests in the 1970s, and today at the center of the debate about the degradation of the city’s university area.

Etcetera, Assemblea Infinita, Bologna, 2013.
Etcetera, Assemblea Infinita, Bologna, 2013.

This is the project realized by the Etcetera collective for the second edition of the International Award for Participatory Art. It was developed in four “chapters” during spring and summer 2013, starting from the economic crisis, and arriving at the crisis in models of participation and representation.

The award, promoted by the Legislative Assembly of the Emilia Romagna Region, in collaboration with LaRete Art Projects and La Pillola, curated by Julia Draganović and Claudia Löffelholz, was founded to support the realization of participatory art projects for Bologna, inviting international artists who have distinguished themselves on the international scene with their involvement of the public in the process of art production.

Each edition sees three finalists selected from a group of shortlisted artists by an international jury—in this case Emilio Fantin and Jon Rubin, as well as Etcetera—who are invited for a residency in the city in order to create an audience and site specific project, from which a winner is selected.

Etcetera, the collective founded in 1997 in Buenos Aires, made up of visual artists and poets—and on this occasion represented by Loreto Garin Guzmán and Federico Zukerfeld—won the 2013 edition with C.R.I.S.I., Commune of Research for Inclusive Social Imagination.

Each “chapter” of the project—”la Remissione,” “Hip Hop Philosophy,” “Terremoto Sociale” (Social Earthquake) and “Assemblea Infinita” (Infinite Assembly)—is related to a different side of the crisis—economic, social, generational, metaphorical, political—alternating between subjective and objective effects, between the city center and the suburbs.

What remains for those who could not attend is more than documentation: each “chapter” is accompanied by a publication—realized with the contribution of local and international contributors—and by a video.

The first chapter “La Remissione,” which consisted of the distribution of the five-euro banknotes, is accompanied by a contribution from Franco “Bifo” Berardi.

Aimed at young people from “Bolognina,” one of the most active and resistant suburbs of Bologna, “Hip Hip Philosophy,” has been developed with the involvement of four collective initiatives: Coordinamento Migranti and their hip hop lab, On The Move, the independent media-activist collective Teleimmagini, and the MC Manuel Kyodo Simoncini. The result of this collective education and creativity process is an album composed by the young MC of On the Move.

The third chapter, “Terremoto Sociale,” moved from Bologna to Ferrara, one of the cities affected by the 2012 earthquake, in collaboration with Radio Strike collective. In this case the earthquake became a metaphor for social change.

Etcetera introduced the fourth chapter “Assemblea Infinita” with this statement: “The Assembly has become the representation of an Assembly…So if we make the representation of an Assembly, could it become a true Assembly?”

The experiment involved the student collective HOBO and the non-profit organization OLTRE and happened in two sessions: the “errorist” laboratory NO WORK – NO SHOP—based on three days of permanent assembly, improvisation and rehearsal—and the performance in the public space of Piazza Verdi. The artists defined it a “SOCIAL READY MADE,” in which “the ‘participants’ are real, but they ‘act’ their own social characters.” In this way, they represented the stereotypes of the Assembly through an exercise of repetition of its roles and its ideals, culminating in a literal black hole.

The publication related to this “chapter” reflects upon our capability to imagine a common future and on the theme of social conflict, including its explosion in Turkey and Brazil. It offers contributions by the philosopher and art theorist Gerald Rauning, the student collective HOBO, the curator Galit Eilat and Turkish collective Oda Projesi, interviewed by the artists.

C.R.I.S.I. involved neighborhood activists, cultural associations, student organizations, and artist collectives together with independent journalists, philosophers and social workers. The artists define them as “allies” and explain that their strategy for public engagement is not based on the “open call” but instead on building new connections between existing participatory networks, encouraging them to take new positions. Etcetera bequeath to the Award some “tips and tricks” based on the conclusions taken from the project and focused on a reflection on the concept of participation and their role as artists: “C.R.I.S.I. refers to recognizing the existence of social groups that are at the margins […]. We proposed to think of and imagine these social groups as fundamental guides for future social changes in times of crisis. […]. For that reason, we speak here about ‘inclusive social imagination’ and not about ‘participation.’ We consider that today ‘participation’ is a deceptive concept which could be used to manipulate social needs and collective desires.”

The tale of C.R.I.S.I. continues on