We are now reaching the end of the year-long programme supported by the British Council International Collaboration Fund, which has proved to be an exciting new international initiative. Key partners include Counterpoints Arts and Ettijahat-Independent Culture with associated partners Arts University Plymouth and the Mozilla Festival, All partners are part of the Beyond the Now collective.
Building on Ettijahat – Independent Culture’s ‘Arts and Uncertainty’ toolkit produced within the Create Syria initiative, this cross-border learning, residencies and public commissioning programme has provided space and support for ten artists via in-person, digital, and hybrid online/offline events. Participation in this programme included the following:
– Tailored online training and artistic guidance from local and international experts for all participants;
– Financial support of up to €4,000 for five artistic proposals, participants are encouraged to collaborate in pairs to experiment and pilot their proposed initiatives;
– Artist residencies at Arts University Plymouth in the UK for two participants;
– Digital skill training and networking opportunities with the Mozilla Festival for all participants;
– Participation in public dialogue events in Beirut, Brussels and London, in partnership with local and international platforms for all participants.
Background & Rationale
Beyond the Now: Socially Engaged Art in a (Dis)Connected World builds upon the work of Create Syria, a programme designed by Ettijahat – Independent Culture and the British Council in 2016, specifically the toolkit Arts and Uncertainty developed by researcher, Rana Yazaji (featured in Beyond the Now’s Season 2 programme) . This toolkit has formed the basis and key catalyst for this edition’s learning curriculum. Enabling artists to explore the methodologies and challenges of doing socially engaged work, such as the realities shaping global divisions and connections; the possibilities and limitations of emerging technologies; the growth of social and economic disparities in the wake of the global pandemic; the impact of wars and increasing totalitarianism; and the disparities surrounding freedom of movement and assumed rights of mobility affecting individual artists and communities of place.
Beyond the Now: Socially Engaged Art in a (Dis)Connected World is a partnership between Ettijahat – Independent Culture with Arts University Plymouth, Mozilla Festival and Counterpoints Arts (with other Beyond the Now partners*). It is an international research, development and cultural exchange focused on the role(s) of socially engaged art in an age of displacement. This partnership represents the fourth edition of the programme Create Syria: A Space to Explore Arts and Social Change, and includes a programme of mentorships, residencies, public dialogues, commissions, and other peer-to-peer learning for Syrian and Arab artists working across all art forms in the Levant, Egypt, Europe and the UK.
Main activities and outcomes for 2022-2023:
Empower ten individual artists to research and develop pilot commissions; to participate in a dynamic learning exchange; to access digital skills and know-how; to take part in a place-based residency – with the aim of creating works that can have positive impact within communities, contributing to greater inclusivity and cohesiveness in a period of increasing global uncertainty; to inspire and facilitate networking and collaboration between community-based organisations working in the arts in the Levant, Egypt, Europe, and the UK – through offering inclusive international peer-learning and ideas exchange in relation to the topic of social change; to improve accessibility and community participation in arts initiatives, specifically socially engaged projects of high artistic quality; to showcase the diversity of contemporary creativity across borders to audiences, through exposure to narratives produced between the Levant, Egypt, Europe and the UK.
Beyond the Now: Socially Engaged Art in a (Dis)Connected World has strengthened relationships between artists and communities, helped artists to network with peers of different nationalities, ages and backgrounds, and link the communities of displaced Syrians with those still in Syria. It has also allowed for more creative opportunities to respond to the challenges of reshaped geographies and redefined notions of exile.
Component 1 – Learning Exchange
Enabled artists to build relationships with peers from intersectional movements and to consider the role of the digital in connecting with global perspectives.
Component 2 – Idea Development
Provided greater visibility and awareness about the positive roles that arts-based interventions can play in supporting community development.
Component 3 – International Cooperation
Encouraged networking and the sharing of models, approaches, and best practices between artists and community groups that conduct artistic activities and apply arts-focused methodologies in pursuit of wider change.
Component 4 – Public Conversations
Created spaces for dialogue and to cultivate new cooperation possibilities between artists, practitioners, and communities.