co.culture

Experiencing cultural activities or culture as an experience which is something open to all people, to all ways of life and also open in the sense of being accessible by everyone is still not self-evident. Although more and more cultural initiatives and institutions (and for sure those in the network of Connected Action for the Commons) are focusing on open, participatory principles, cultural activities like theater, cinema, exhibitions are still experienced often by a very academic audience. Barriers like money, education and cultural background are very powerful in establishing different cultural experiences. For decades, the urban space therefore has been one of the focus areas of participatory, open cultural activities, ranging from guerrilla open air cinema, neighborhood walks, street libraries to urban gardening and new designs of public spaces. Culture, as a cultural activity in this sense, is a vehicle to enable common experiences, shared by a wide range of people. Every cultural experience that was experienced as open to all, addressing different audiences not only through openness of access but also through the topics addressed, fosters some sense of community shared storytelling. Co.Culture in the sense of a general, common awareness of the value of doing and experiencing things together is the second meaning of the term. This general awareness is even established stronger, if the audience is not only involved in a passive way as spectators of a theater play or an open air movie, but of they are also actively integrated in the making of the artistic work, in the sense of participatory culture. They don’t necessarily need to, but they will still be even more attached to a cultural activity if they are also part of organizing or deciding about it. The stories told about a street festival organized by a community of neighbors will stay in the collective mind for a much longer period then a festival organized by a professional company.

The project time of this focus area or principle is described here as ephemeral, events that appear and disappear. That does not mean that things have all to vanish or cannot reappear to count as culture, but it means that cultural activities like a street festival very often have a clear project time frame, like for example one week in summer. It could also be something very ephemeral like a flash mob or an urban performance which happens without any official announcements. Still, this kind of ephemeral cultural events are essential in establishing a sense of other possibilities, of other forms of reality. Experiencing well known public space in a completely new, temporal setting opens the perspective of the people who are using that space in their every day. It shows alternative ways of seeing the city and its potentials.

The challenges of Co.Culture are to involve a multiple, diverse audience, through foundational decisions like where something is happening, if entry is charged, how things will be communicated and when it is happening. But Co.Culture is also about content decisions, what movies will be shown, how they will be introduced, if the audience will have a chance to participate in a discussion afterwards or not. If these cultural events are organized and perceived as open and participative they are in the best case able to attract and find a committed audience who supports and collects experiences of common culture. Maybe even more, this could lead to the building of a community who is willing to take more responsibility and get involved in the process of organizing more of these events, which could lead to the next level in the process, the Co.Design.