Last year I spent some time looking at the work of Tandem, a partnership between the European Cultural Foundation and MitOst that connects cultural actors within and close to the European space. Tandem marked its fifth anniversary last autumn, and they asked me to reflect on what they’d done and what might change. The essay below is the result of that review, and it looks at how, practically and theoretically, participatory cultural action can contribute to civil society.
It was a great opportunity to meet artists and activists working in very different, often very difficult situations. At the moment, three of the programmes are active in Turkey, Ukraine and the southern mediterranean countries – all places where art, civil society and democracy are under threat. The courage and resilience of the people I talked to was impressive, but so was their sheer optimism and love of life. We may live in dark times, but there are so many people making light, including those I write about in this essay .