Research on art for social transformation in Europe / Methods and practices


First International Workshop
02-03 October 2004
Cittadellarte - Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italy

See the report of the workshop below

“Methods - research projects on art-society relations†is a workshop for stimulating a
discussion of the complex international network active in the various sectors of society, which
uses creativity as a means for activating responsible change. The workshop is part of a series
of activities aimed toward developing the research at the basis of the exhibition “The Geographies
of Change†, by Filippo Fabbrica and Juan Esteban Sandoval, Cittadellarte, Biella, from the
11th of June to the 14th of November 2004.

Aims :

The workshop’s intention is to undertake
a survey of the methods and processes
developed through artistic projects aiming
toward social transformation. The
workshop makes a comparison between
artistic experiences with the theoretical
and practical objective of interaction
between people and social contexts.
Projects that start from specific social
problems and, through a network of
community and public and private sector
bodies and institutions, realise new sites
and platforms for reciprocal exchange
and dialogue.

Papers :

The papers should:

- Describe the social context in which the project is entered

- Describe the relational dynamics developed

- Describe the methods adopted

- Highlight the critical points emerging in the various phases of the projects, and particularly the solutions
adopted and the way in which these condition the process

- Describe the interaction between the subjects involved (community, public and private institutions or others)

- Use examples, concrete cases, visual documentation

The candidates for taking part in the convention must send the original, never published document
of no less that 4000 characters and a maximum of 7000 characters (3 - 5 standard pages),
preferably in English and accompanied by the Curriculum Vitae of the writer.
After the selection, any texts not in English will be translated and sent to the authors for approval.
Papers must be delivered in .pdf format no later than the 3rd of September 2004. The result of the
selections will be communicated on the 15th of September 2004. The selection will be made by the
workshop directors.


The structure of the workshop is that of a round table with 8 to 10 participants. Each speaker will present their paper that will then be discussed with a counterpart.
By the 20th of September each speaker will receive the paper for which they will play counterpart.
Discussion must be in English.
Travelling and board and lodgings for the speakers will be at the expense of Cittadellarte.


The papers presented and selected will be used for publication after the workshop.


Please send entries in .pdf format
no later than the 3rd of September to:

or to: Workshop METODI
Cittadellarte - Fondazione Pistoletto
Via Serralunga 27
13900 Biella Italy


Methods - research projects on art - society relations.
Cittadellarte - Fondazione Pistoletto, Biella, Italia.

On last October 2nd and 3rd the workshop entitled “Methods - research projects on art-society relations†was taking place at Cittadellarte - Fondazione Pistoletto, presenting the work of six artist groups and creating a situation of dialogue between them. The name of the workshop - Methods - pointed out straight from the beginning the main intention of the two-day discussions: the methodologies used in the various projects were what we wanted to know more about.

The participants of the round table had in common that they are all intervening in specific social situations and intend to cause a change via artistic actions. This goal requests of each of them an intense confrontation with a particular social reality and therefore most of the projects are based on a long-term presence of the artists on site: real changes need real time. The artist group c a l c, for example, has lived and worked in the north of Spain for the past twelve years, Bert Theiss and his team work in the Isola-area of Milan since the year 2001. The time passed together with a group of people also has an influence on the methods the projects work with: things do not stay the same over a long period of time and the methods have to respond to these transformations. A fixed methodology will not be able to serve in the long run and it might be more useful to speak in terms of a set of methods, ready to be adapted according to needs. “Methods as tools†might already be one of the conclusions of the workshop.

At first sight the projects presented in the workshop might have seemed to some of the listeners quite similar - as they are all long term projects working in specific social contexts. But very soon it became clear that there were big differences between them, which were on the one hand created by the contrasting realities they work in, on the other hand by the method or the approach adapted by the artist group. One point we were having a closer look at was in which way each project positioned itself on the axes society-artworld. While significans is working on the topic of immigration politics in the rather “classic†form of exhibitions in art spaces, other groups are working on the borderline of activism or social work: the “product†or “object†of the process is the dialogue itself, as in the case of the intervention of Stalker in the public housing complex “Corviale†in the southern periphery of Rome.

Another point that cristallized in the discussions was the different kind of involvement in the social realities and the way in which the artists groups came in contact with the people they want to work with. Some of the projects entered the social contexts directly, taking the way of immediate action. The protagonists of the IDA-project in the Isola-quarter of Milan for example did not wait for any town council permissions, they just squatted a place, the so-called “la stecca†-building, started to do exhibitions and to work together with independent citizens’ groups. Other collectives work more cautiously, and we discovered in this context the role of the mediator: The Bureau de Compétences et Désirs communicates between social groups and artists. Before commissioning an artist for an intervention in a specific contest, discussions and talks get initiated by the members of the Bureau. They define themselves as mediators and the role of beeing the transmitter in a process makes up an essential part of their work. Also Katja Lindquist was presenting a project which included a mediator or a third partner: the Airis program, for which she has been working as a researcher, created collaborations between artists and companies. Independently, both companies and artists were found to work within a project framework. So neither the companies nor the artists chose each other directly, which resulted in the case of the project of the dramatist Petra Lindquist in a strange and unbrigdeable distance.

Entering in a social context always means getting in touch with people, means communicating. So also the language used to adress people became an important topic of the workshops’ discussions. The relationship with individuals or a group of people will be different, depending on how you establish the contacacts. c a l c decided for the individual, the slow and sensitive route: when they first got the village of Las Aceà±as in the north of Spain, they first of all started rebuilding the house they were going to live in, their “mothership†. Then they slowly moved towards an intervention in the village itself, estabilishing individual contacts with the inhabitants and trying to get a feel for the situation. As the project IDA is situated in an all together diverse context, also the language used by the project is a totally different one: to communicate the future plans for the “la stecca†-building to the inhabitants of the area, mega-size banners are getting put up in the street. The team around Bert Theiss creates with this methodology a similarity with big building projects by private investors or town councils. Only that this time a utopia gets presented, the realization of the wishes of the people living in the area.

During the two days of discussions under the title of “Methods†topics of communication, language and of systems were getting touched. A stimulating exchange between groups working in very different realities was created and gave the possibility to position each singular project in a wider spectrum. And as the intense talks were going on until late at night, we saw this as a positive sign to go on with the research and to start planning “Methods II†.

Note: If you are interested to take part in “Methods II†in 2005, please write a email to with the object Methods II info request.

Modified on Thursday 15 September 2005