Written by Caglar Tahiroglu, Pandora Peng (MA Art & Science) and Guan Tongyao (MA Narrative Environments) who were selected to participate in the programme

Three students from Central Saint Martins have been selected for a fully-funded intensive program called European Academy of Participation (EAP). They were accompanied by CSM tutor Georgia Jacob. This innovative program is a part of a CSM research project led by the Goethe Institute which brings together 10 organisations from all over Europe, from higher education, from the arts and culture. EAP aims to develop a curriculum and training resources on participatory skills and practices to meet the growing demand from the not-for-profit sector. A syllabus, a course and teacher training, blending distance learning with practice-based teaching are some of the outputs expected.

Participants had opportunity to address ethical and practical issues relating to participation, work with other dedicated artists and cultural practitioners from different European perspectives, and be able share their own knowledge and skills to their peers. The course took place in Castrum Perigrini , ‘the fortress of the pilgrim’, a WWII safe house in the city centre of Amsterdam which is a place of (artistic) research and encounter. It offers a protected environment for artists, thinkers, opinion leader and activists, to work in the context of the organisation and in exchange with its network and audience.

What is ethics of hosting? The parameters of housing, the demands of exchange, problematisation of the role of the host and the guest, in the current socio-political context?

Beforehand, the participants had a Moodle where they discussed the theme of ‘paradoxal hospitality’ and shared their lectures on ethics, art & politics, relational aesthetics and… international food recipes! Castrum Peregrini was our residency and ‘host’ for the week.

Day one was all about horizontal learning and started with ice-breaker activities and lectures, in preparation for Open Space Technology where some participants submitted work ideas which aided the formation of some new dynamic work groups. Through the week, participants also had the chance to contribute in different lectures ranging from Arts, Psychology, Sociology and Social Activism in-between reflective sessions. Ideas, motivation and deeper questions about meaning of our work sparked throughout the week, not forgetting that cooking and sitting down for dinner were key moments in the day for reflection, thus becoming a dedication of ours. These shared moments sprouted from everywhere: From techno vjing to Sinop Biennale in Turkey!

The film group worked around participative making based on collaboration and peer-learning.  Participant Caglar recalls: “The group was inspired by artist Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht’s (historical house owner) on her life and own hospitality. The strong presence of history is felt in Castrum Peregrini. We were particularly interested in Gisele’s collection of objects and hiding place during WW2. With Lars’s generous permission, we have taken residency in Gisele’s art studio where we worked for one week to produce participatory film. We have learned to understand each other through creativity and making. As a multicultural group it was interesting to see how each of us interpreted the tragic events of WW2 in the form of art practice, and how each transformed their feelings to film. We also debated on ethical questions surrounding art-making about sensitive historical & current events.

It was a pleasure to organise a screening for everyone at the end. Overall, this alternative space of learning with no defined hierarchies raised questions about the existing power structures and functions of art practice in the community.”

Pandora participated in the Lecture & Sourdough Group : “I’ve had a fantastic experience in EAP, ever since EAP provided me with an open space allowing me to develop my ideas with professional participants.

Through seeing other group’s presentations, I began to visualise the different working models between Artist’s and Curator’s. I found that some curator’s consider the audiences opinions far greater than that of the artist, and focus on the art market. This made me wonder who has the discourse to interpret artworks? These workshops encouraged me to recognise how important communication is for collaboration.”

Tongyao’s group explored different curational and educational models: “The openness and flexibility of this peer learning structure asked us, the participants, to throw out our own interests and formulate groups based on that, which is very different from the brief-orientated learning structure I am used to on my course.

This structure very much challenged individual proactivity throughout the whole process. By meeting ommunity Artists, Curators and people from a wide variety of backgrounds inspired the vibrant conversation and discussion within the groups, sharing a similar interest of participatory art practice. This experience has helped to develop my understanding of participation, understanding the structure, innovation and relationship between the artist/host and it’s participants.”

As seen in these different participatory experiences, each group participated and took residency in a unique way, showing the variety of ways to produce and learn through the logic of hospitality and collaboration. Some explored the field research, some shared the importance of theory through lectures and some collaborated through art making or engaging in critical and reflective sessions. The last day was dedicated to presenting our final pieces followed by a celebration of this educational experience! The participants felt very much at home under the hospitality of Castrum Peregrini, and we truly hope these collaborations will continue in the future.

A special thanks to Lars, Mahir, Judith, Clair, everyone at Castrum Peregrini and to all the amazing EAP Amsterdam participants.

www.academyofparticipation.org
www.castrumperegrini.org