The AIM Network

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The AIM Network Artists’ Initiatives Meetings



The AIM Network Artists’ Initiatives Meetings

7 What makes artist-run spaces different? (And why it’s important to have different art spaces) gavin murphy 29 Mapping the network pau waelder 39 A network for exchange of knowledge and experience aim 79 A conversation between Anna Tomaszewska, Andreas Ribbung, Signe Vad, Lina Rukevicˇiu¯ te˙ and Nico Feragnoli anna tomaszewska 13 Current members of the 1 artists’ initiatives meetings network

What makes artist-run spaces different? (And why it’s important to have different art spaces) gavin murphy

I What makes artist-run spaces different? The artist-run model and ethos is one which perpetuates alternative (and often non-hierarchical) modes of organisation, a non-commercial approach to producing art and culture, it supports and develops experimental or unrepresented forms of practice and discourse. It proposes a model of social and cultural interaction that could be seen to eschew the roles of producer and consumer. Artist-run spaces play a vital role in supporting artists’ practices at the early stages of their careers, and often have a key stake (albeit a precarious one) in the revitalisation of derelict urban areas. Alternative and artist-run culture as we know it today can be said to have its roots in 1960s and 70s counterculture. This culture, that gave rise to a wave of spaces in the 60s and 70s, was anti-establishment in its rejection of dominant structures. These structures either ignored cutting-edge contemporary art – new-media art, female artists, experimental and performance art – or were commercial and driven primarily by sales. Crucially, rather than just acting as a movement of individuals, the proponents of this culture of self-determination and collectivisation opted to locate themselves as groups in spaces: spaces for production, thought, exhibition, and debate. These spaces lay outside prescribed commercial or cultural zones – both ideologically and often literally – situating themselves in run-down inner-city areas which were, like the


art forms they represented, largely ignored by commercial, cultural, and political interests of the time. The common denominator among all of these groups and spaces is that they arose out of a deficit – i.e. there was something missing in the cultural landscape. Artists were dissatisfied with (or unable to access) the established venues, forums, or modes of presentation, and convened to create a new kind of space that addressed their needs. The artists who started these spaces, negotiated their leases, fixed up the premises, and fought against all odds to keep them going, created whole swathes of culture in the process, establishing careers, supporting emerging and experimental art forms, broadening and enlightening their

Transmission, Glasgow, exterior in the 80s.


audiences, and helping to create new forms of culture. In the cases of spaces such Ikon in Birmingham, Temple Bar Gallery + Studios in Dublin, Triangle France in Marseille, and Secession in Vienna, they also created legacies which today allow people to experience contemporary art in what are now visible public institutions. Despite this history, however, artist-run spaces might still be described as a largely undervalued ‘cog’ within the field of contemporary art practice. Often going under the radar, run on a voluntary basis, and by-andlarge of a transient or precarious nature, their importance and value to the wider viability of critically-engaged contemporary art is overlooked. Equally, the role of these

Transmission, Glasgow, with rebuilt storefront.


spaces in sustaining the practices of artists, often in the crucial formative stages, goes largely un-remarked. The energy invested in maintaining these initiatives is often used up quickly in the face of a lack of resources, and the finite ability to maintain activities through an economy of sharing and predominantly free labour. As such, the continued though constantly changing presence of an artistrun field of practice, and its value, is by its very nature difficult to quantify and record. This has been redressed to a degree over recent years, and the subject of artist-led practice is now being seen as worthy of further study and debate. Recent published examples include Decentre – Concerning Artist-run Culture (yyzbooks, 2008); Alternative Histories: New York Art Spaces, 1960–2010 (exit art and mit press, 2012); Artist-Run Spaces – Nonprofit Collective Organizations in the 1960s and 1970s (jrp | ringier, les presses du reel & zona archives, 2012); Self-Organised (open editions, 2013) and the Institutions by Artists conference in Vancouver and subsequent publication (fillip editions, 2012), all of which have added greatly to current discourse. Additionally, artist-run events have also proliferated, such as Artist Run (festival), Copenhagen, and Supermarket – Stockholm Independent Art Fair, and Sluice Art Fair in London, which bring together international pockets of artist-run practice, and rather than focus­ sing on sales, afford artist-run and independent spaces from different countries a locus to meet and connect.


More often, the artist-run presence becomes visible in the wider (art) world only in cases where large institutions and museums have sought to collaborate with artist-run spaces, or include them in survey-type exhibitions in order to present a ‘whole picture’ of a period or art scene. The exhibition Life/Live at the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1996, curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Laurence Bosse, included spaces such as Glasgow’s Transmission and London’s City Racing. For the 2002 Gwangju Biennale in Korea, curated by Wan-Kjung Sung, Charles Esche and Hou Hanru, the inclusion of artist-run spaces “championed

Ikon Gallery, circa 1965. Photo: David Prentice.


artist-led activity as a counterpoint to pervasive Empire, the local influencing the global”. 1 While Charles Esche’s Baltic Babel – in which eight cities were represented through their artist-led initiatives – is described as “the most explicit understanding yet of the role of artist-led initiatives in local communities and their political potential”.2 Other instances have afforded further currency to spaces, in so far as presenting current work, if in some cases not paying them at all. Tate Modern’s “highly unconventional celebration”3 of its first decade No Soul for Sale – A Festival of Independents is perhaps the most

Temple Bar Gallery + Studios, Dublin, Ireland. Established in 1983. Street view, early 1980s. Formerly Maureen’s Shirt Factory.


high profile and large scale of these (with over 70 groups contributing), yet was deeply problematic in not paying any of the contributors, and according to Stine Herbert in Self-Organised “received harsh criticism for its barely concealed exploitative undertones”.4 She goes on to point out, however, the fact “that most of the participants so readily accepted these terms demonstrated […] an important lesson about how the institutional art world sustains itself.”5 While it seems clear that institutions gain from drawing from the artist-run well – and equally what attracts the spaces to participate (institutional support, bigger budgets, exposure) – these crossovers have done little to alter the precariousness of the position of the artist-run. Often seen as dispensable, perhaps because of a perceived notion that they are inherently short-lived as a defining feature (supported by the likelihood that another artist-run alternative will surely pop up to carry on the work), or because of their voluntary nature, the value of their labour remains difficult to quantify.

1.  Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt, ‘Harnessing the Means of Production’, in New Institutionalism. Ed. Jonas Ekeberg. Oslo, Office for Contemporary Art Norway, 2003. 2.  Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt, Ibid. 3.  Stine Herbert in Self-Organised, Eds. Stine Herbert & Anne Szefer Karlsen, Open Editions, 2013, p. 13 4.  Stine Herbert, Ibid., p. 14 5.  Stine Herbert, Ibid., p. 13


II ‘Artist organisations choose the form of the organisation’. – banners hung over the stage at the ‘artists organisations international’ congress, berlin, 2015 Why is it important to have different art spaces? In his essay ‘On De-Organisation’, Barnaby Drabble points to the structural diversity of the artist-run: “the diversity of [descriptive] terms alone reminds us just how broad a spectrum of activities the term self-organised has come to be applied to”. This in turn describes the flexibility of form by which these spaces mould, incorporate, or invent their organising structures. Differentiation is key to this; artist-run spaces choose their own form in answer to their own needs, and the needs of the culture as they see it at a particular time. The question of time, duration, and its relationship to organisational structure and precarity is also at the crux of the problematic issue of artist-run sustainability. The recent report that resulted from the Footfall Research project, conducted by 126 Artist Run Gallery, states:

It was proposed during the discussion that precarity may be ‘situational’, in that precarity may be needed for artist led spaces to come about. However, it was


qualified that artists do not need to be poor […] With short-term artist led spaces being the ‘default stance’, it was agreed that a broader conceptual base for thinking about sustainability is urgently required.5

If an artist-run space is to sustain itself, more often than not the voluntary roles that brought it into being need to be phased out, as voluntary labour in the long term is unsustainable in most models. If voluntary labour is removed, funding or other revenue streams are required to replace it, and to a large degree, if funding is applied, a new level of bureaucracy and a standardisation of

Bhotsun Art, Lhasa, Tibet. Established in 2010. The activities are not sanctioned by authorities, which means they can’t make public invitations. Art by Tashi and Phurbu.


organisational structure is generally insisted upon. Therein lies the catch-22 of duration and the artist-run. In most cases, for an artist-run space to be sustainable, it needs to homogenise its structure and appoint a director, curator, administrator, and technical staff. Artists may retain some oversight or advisory role, or may be jettisoned entirely: to succeed in the duration stakes, artist-run spaces often have to cease being artist-run. By current metrics, a successful artist-run space is one that ‘grows up’ to become an institution. As noted in Institutions by Artists, “the ‘failure of the self-determi­nation paradigm’ became apparent once artists […] no longer seemed to have control over the institutions they created”, an eventuality predicted by artist AA Bronson in his 1983 essay ‘The Humiliation of the Bureaucrat: Artist-Run Centres as Museums by Artists’.6 The question of institutionalisation is approached by Jeff Khonsary and Kristina Lee Podesva, in their introduction to Institutions by Artists citing Andrea Fraser’s ‘From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique’ (2005):7 “it’s not about being against the institution:

5.  Joanne Laws, FOOTFALL: Articulating the Value of Artist Led Organizations in Ireland, 126 Artist-Run Gallery, Galway, 2015, p. 58 6.  Jeff Khonsary and Kristina Lee Podesva, Institutions by Artists: Volume One, Fillip Editions, 2012, p. 15–16 7.  Andrea Fraser, Artforum, New York: September 2005. Vol. 44, Issue 1, p. 278


We are the institution. It’s a question of what kind of institution we are, what kind of values we institutionalise, what forms of practice we reward, and what kind of rewards we aspire to.” This position poses important questions for the future of the artist-led. In Barnaby Drabble’s essay ‘Assembled Thoughts on Artist-Led Culture in Zurich’, he cites a 2006 article by critic and curator Burkhard Meltzer, “in which he argued that Zurich’s artist-run spaces were no longer fulfilling their critical [subcultural] role but instead simply emulating commercial and institutional spaces, albeit in a ‘micro’ format.”8 This potential “shift in thinking about the institution of art… wresting DIENSTGEBÄUDE Art Space, Zurich, Switzerland. Established in 2008. Exhibition view of annual group show ‘Catch of the Year 2016, 100 Artists/ 100 Works’. Photo: Andreas Marti/DIENSTGEBÄUDE.


it from the gallery and museum”,9 becomes problematic, however in light of the tendency to turn ‘successful’ artist-run spaces towards established structures, thus aping the institution in miniature. A further problem occurs. To define artist-run practice as ‘institutional’ brings with it modes of evaluation that are plainly unsuitable for smaller arts organisations. Anne Szefer Karlsen is correct in saying that the “field of self-organisation is […] more complex than the conventional separatist approach entails. It has moved beyond a process of simply dissolving boundaries between institutional and non-institutional platforms to create new possibilities.” However, purposefully taking alternative positions to recognisable institutional forms can still provide a necessary and useful distinction for what artist-run practice is (and isn’t). An enforced perspective in which artist-run spaces are required to emulate other ‘defined’ institutions in order to ensure sustainability is a real problem – though not necessarily of artists’ own making – and one that has yet to be adequately addressed. The issue of representation, recognition, and the visibility of artist-run spaces and their contributory value, is tied into the question of what artist-run spaces add to

8.  Barnaby Drabble, ‘Assembled Thoughts on Artist-Led Culture in Zurich, Part two: We are the Artists!’ in Institutions by Artists: Volume One, p. 212 9.  Jeff Khonsary and Kristina Lee Podesva, Op. Cit., p. 13


our culture. In Self-Organised, Anne Szefer Karlsen points to the growing number of books and seminars showing an active engagement with the historicisation of the artist-run field by the very same people involved in it, suggesting, “[a]n absence of competing accounts has allowed the practitioners to write themselves into history – ironically, often employing the same strategies as their institutional cousins.”10 One might ask the question, ‘if not us, then who?’, an example being Gabriele Detterer & Maurizio Nannucci’s Artist-Run Spaces, which has its genesis in Zona/Zona Archives, Florence – of which Nannucci was co-founder – and gathers together extensive research on The Living Art Museum (Nýló), founded in 1978 by 27 artists, is Iceland’s longest-running, non-profit, artist-run initiative. Photo: Courtesy of the Living Art Museum Archive.


international pioneering examples which are vital to a broader understanding of contemporary art practice and its indebtedness to alternative, artist-run spaces. According to Sarah Thelwall writing for Common Practice’s Size Matters: Notes towards a Better Understanding of the Value, Operation and Potential of Small Visual Arts Organisations, “small organisations act as an unofficial support mechanism” to the wider field of contemporary art and its institutions, while “research exposes the inapplicability of current metrics to measuring this ‘deferred value’, which means that smaller organisations will appear less successful, since the majority of the value that they create is not visible”.11 The follow-up conference to Size Matters, entitled Value, Measure, Sustainability: Ideas towards the future of the small-scale visual arts sector, equally found issues with some of the language that defines and typecasts the role of organisations at ‘different levels’. The study found problematic the perception that “small arts organisations form a natural and fitting part of a continuum of development [that] implies a linear progression up the rungs of a ladder”. It also admitted that in the case of the Size Matters research, which looked primarily at small arts

10.  Self-Organised, Op. Cit., p. 12 11.  Sarah Thelwall, Size Matters: Notes towards a Better Understanding of the Value, Operation and Potential of Small Visual Arts Organisations. Commissioned and published by Common Practice, London, July 2011, p. 6–7


organisations such as the members of Common Practice,12 this ladder metaphor left the role of artists and artist-run organisations to “function as the proverbial ‘bottom rungs’”.13 In order to allow a fuller understanding of the characteristics and roles of artist-run spaces, we need to embark on a self-reflexive, critically questioning process, discussing and analysing what position artist-run spaces occupy within the field of contemporary art today. Should they stand in opposition to museums and commercial galleries, or in parallel to other art-world structures? How is value ascribed to these often transitory practices, and is this value recognised within the field? How are these spaces organised, and can artist-run spaces develop and be sustained in the longer term without Konstakuten, Stockholm, Sweden. Established in 1995 and active until 2006. Goshka Macuga, ‘Cave’, installation, 2000. In 1999 Konstakuten arranged ‘FESARS – First European Seminar for Artist Run Spaces’ in Stockholm.


becoming institutionalised? How important, intrinsic, or problematic is the voluntary nature of much artist-run practice? What do artist-run spaces add to the ecology of the civil society? What are the main practical issues or problems faced by artist-run spaces? Does precarity have to be a defining feature? Can recognition of the alternative and specific type of value that artist-run spaces provide allow for a specific approach to the funding and support of these organisations? What can we say about future (or hoped for) trajectories? It is important to remember that artist-run spaces are at their core, as Gabriele Detterer reminds us in Artist-Run Spaces, “mutually supportive organisations” that mitigate an artist’s isolation in social and economic terms,14 and in the words of Jason E. Bowman, “challenge exclusion [and] circumnavigate the market-driven art-world”.15 In essence,

12.  Common Practice members are Afterall, Chisenhale Gallery, Electra, Gasworks, LUX, Matt’s Gallery, Mute Publishing, The Showroom, Studio Voltaire. See: 13.  Value, Measure, Sustainability, Op. Cit., p. 6 14.  Gabriele Detterer, ‘The Spirit and Culture of Artist-Run Spaces’, Ibid., p. 20 15.  Jason E. Bowman, keynote address at the FOOTFALL Symposium, 21st November 2014. The symposium, which took place during TULCA Festival of Visual Art, Galway, was coordinated by Megs Morley and 126 and included presentations from invited contributors, Jason E. Bowman (Midwest UK; University of Gothenburg, Sweden), Valerie Connor (NCFA chairperson, Independent curator) and Mikael Löfgren (writer & activist, Unga Klara theatre Stockholm). In the afternoon, a discursive ‘Plenary Session’ was devised and facilitated by Ailbhe Murphy and Ciaran Smyth of Vagabond Reviews.


an alternative. It must also be acknowledged that alongside the many current or surviving examples of the artist-run are hundreds of others, underground or under the radar, defunct or forgotten, who have done their part in creating, supporting, and sustaining our visual art culture from the ground up. In that previously and often-used analogy, whereby your place in the art-world can be gauged as being on a certain ‘rung’ of the ladder, artist-run spaces tend to be seen as the ‘bottom rung’. If however, we were to use an alternative analogy, one that more accurately represents the vitality and adaptability of the artist-run, then these spaces and practices could instead be described as being the vital roots upon which everything else in our contemporary art culture can be borne and sustained, something that should be supported and nurtured.

gavin murphy is an artist and curator based in Dublin, where he is co-director of the artist-run space Pallas Projects/Studios. This text is an edited version of an essay which first featured in the publication Artist-Run Europe: Practice/Projects/ Spaces, Gavin Murphy & Mark Cullen, Eds. (Onomatopee, Eindhoven, 2016)


Mapping the network pau waelder

When the participants at the first meeting of what would become AIM Europe found themselves sitting around a large table in a conference room at the Swedish Embassy in Berlin, they did not really know each other. The representatives of ten artist-run organisations from ten Euro­pean countries (Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom) had been invited by the organisers of Supermarket – Stockholm Independent Art Fair to discuss the possibility of creating a translocal network of artist-run organisations and developing a large cultural project that would take place in different cities across Europe. The first session of the two-day meeting had been allocated to presentations of each of the organisations and their local art scene. At that point, a map began to emerge in the minds of those present in the room: geographical locations came alive in each speaker’s descriptions, common problems and challenges were identified. The need for artist-run spaces to reach beyond their respective local networks and support each other, both in terms of sharing knowledge and access to infrastructures, and finding financial resources, was immediately clear. It was also agreed that an online platform had to be developed in order to bring more visibility to artist-run initiatives among the public at large. In the subsequent meetings that took place over the course of four years in Stockholm, Copenhagen, Mallorca, Helsinki, Athens, Riga, and Wrocław the AIM network continued to work as a nomadic office, while the


number of participants changed, some partners dropping from the project, others stepping in. The online platform gradually became the main subject and objective of every assembly as although it was undeniable that the organisations in each country faced different situations and challenges, depending on local politics, funding, and culture, they all shared a lack of visibility. Artist-run spaces might be known of, but people usually have trouble finding them in their own city. Therefore the approach of creating a map (an art map for each city, and then a map for all artist-run initiatives in Europe and other continents) seemed most appropriate since the most basic condition for visibility is to be locatable. Establishing a balance between the ubiquity of an online platform and the specific location of each physical gallery, an Artist-Run Map began to take shape. It focused on attaining AIMs three main objectives: enhancing the visibility of artist-run initiatives, establishing a translocal network, and sharing resources. The website would include a directory of artist-run spaces in Europe, maps of European cities showing the location of these spaces, articles and resources, and an intranet where AIM members could work together on shared projects. Among the challenges that this platform had to face, the main ones were the funding of an infrastructure to support its maintenance (both in terms of dealing with web hosting and practical issues such as employing dedicated staff), the short lifespan of some artist-run initiatives (which


could make the map unreliable or even obsolete), and the question of selection – whether a committee should decide what is included and if public institutions, artist-in-residence programmes, and even commercial galleries could somehow be present on this platform. While developing the prototype, the work focused on minimising maintenance, at the same time being aware that to make the Artist-Run Map completely self-maintaining was not possible. The main objective, in this respect, was to have less demanding registration and updating processes where the registered organisations update their own profile and content. In order to deal with the problem of the short lifespan of some artist’s initiatives, a feature that allows information to continue having a func-

Prototype, Artist-Run Map, 2016.


tion and meaning was suggested: the registered partners would be contacted annually by an automated email message, where they are prompted to log in and confirm or update their information. If this is not done, their status changes so that they appear in the archive of the artists’ initiatives that have ceased to exist. The organisation can revert to an active state if it becomes active again. The selection of partners to be included in the Artist-Run Map proved to be the most complex issue: while it was desirable to keep an open registration (given that the map is presenting self-organised activities), it could generate an indiscriminate number of irrelevant entries that would add confusion and compromise the initial objective of the project. Therefore, several strategies of demarcation were discussed: for instance, to include only artistrun exhibition activities in the search function, while keeping the option of an extended search that included other types of artist initiatives, such as residencies, collective workshops, studio groups, cross-cultural art centres and so on. Every user registering an organisation would select one or more type of activity, and these parameters would control the search results. However, the policy for delimiting what types of activities or organisations that would be allowed on the platform, or be included in the search results, remained to be decided: should a boundary be set to establish what could be considered an ‘artist-run’ activity? Should it be non-commercial, non-institutional? Where to draw the line, considering that some activities


combine different art forms, amateur art, or even activities of a completely disparate nature? A solution was proposed that involved a small team devoted to approving or denying applications on a regular basis, using an online tool. If a registration was approved by at least two or three members of the committee, it would be automatically accepted. The prototype works with the same database as the applications to Supermarket. For the last couple of years, applicants have been asked if they want to add their organisation to the database, and it is also possible to register only for the Artist-Run Map at Supermarket’s website. However, the registrations made before 2013 and 2014 were missing some parameters and had their geographic information handled differently, which caused incompatibility problems and they needed to be registered anew. Despite being based in the database that collected all these registrations over the years, the Artist-Run Map currently exists as a private beta version, still not open to the public. AIM decided not to reveal the prototype, given that some key issues remain to be resolved, such as the selection method, a proper system to handle submissions and questions from participating organisations, as well as the user interface itself. Several previous attempts have been made to create a similar platform but they all ended up being inaccurate after a short time. AIM has opted to wait until a stable platform can be fully developed rather than make the same mistake.


While the map takes its final form, it is already strengthening the network of those involved. By working together on a common goal, a group of artists and curators who initially knew little about each other have developed a community that has expanded over the years, despite the differences and the distance involved. Nurtured in the halls of Supermarket, evolving over the years, and generating other initiatives and fruitful exchanges as it consolidates its platform, the Artist-Run Map is already more than just cartography. This publication explains the process of developing the map as a way to discuss key issues of self-organisation and methods for transferring knowledge and experience, in order to engage other artist-run organisations enabling them either to join the project, or to develop their own map. As it evolves, however, the map is clearly drawn in the minds of those who participated in AIM, thus it already continues to grow beyond its explored territories, as more and more artist-run spaces keep connecting the dots.

pau waelder is a curator and researcher based in Mallorca and Barcelona. PhD in Information and Knowledge Society, he is consulting lecturer at the University Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) and Editor of Media Art at contemporary art magazine.


A network for exchange of knowledge and experience the aim meetings 2010–2016

In 2010, Supermarket introduced a new programme aimed to connect its participants to each other and to allow for exchange of ideas: the Supermarket Meetings. A large number of exhibitors taking part in Supermarket were invited to participate in scheduled meetings where they could exchange ideas and make new contacts. The Meetings sessions are relatively short, closed to the public, and involve a small group of five or six participants. The artists who run Supermarket realised that the exchange of experience and knowledge that was generated in these meetings could be developed further, and therefore they took the initiative to host a two-day conference in Berlin. Nine other artists’ initiatives were invited, all of whom had previously participated in Supermarket. They represented different types of artist-run project spaces, galleries, and other creative groups in order to discuss the common problematics from different perspectives.


aim berlin, october 2010, was held at the Swedish Embassy in Berlin with nineteen participants from ten organisations. Initially the situations of the artist-run activities in the different countries were presented and compared, as well as the relationship to the rest of the art scene and the audience. A series of problems and possible solutions was identified, followed by discussion regarding the possibility of creating common platforms. The AIM Network was formally established, and its long-term goals concerning exchange, collaboration, mobility, visibility and accessibility were formulated on the basis of the preceding discussions. The previews of Art Forum Berlin, the ABC Art

First Meeting in the Swedish Embassy, Berlin, 2010. Photo: Marta Szymanska.


Berlin Contemporary, Preview Berlin, and other art events were visited. The AIM Berlin participants (all of whom were practising visual artists) organised the group show ‘Private View Berlin’ (6 October) at the artist-run gallery Artillerie in Wedding. The show presented works by Alex Baggaley, Raphael Egli, Kim Dotty Hachmann, Julia Hürter, Dafna Maimon, Monika Müller, Sari Palosaari, Pontus Raud, Andreas Ribbung, Matthias Roth, Meggi Sandell, Bertram Schilling, Ben Tomlinson, Signe Vad, Marcos Vidal, and Ricarda Wallhäuser.

First Meeting in the Swedish Embassy, Berlin, 2010. Photo: Nico Feragnoli.


aim stockholm, february 2011, was organised at Kulturhuset in Stockholm in conjunction with Supermarket 2011 – Stockholm Independent Art Fair, and with fifteen participants from seven partner organisations. During this meeting the network discussed ways in which it could be expanded, and how theoretical ideas and writings on the artist-run scene and self-organisation should be collected and made accessible. Economic influence in the art world and its impact on the status of non-profit operations, along with the differences of interests and focus were also discussed. Further themes included how artists’ initiatives relate to ‘DIY

Opening of the group exhibition ‘Private view Berlin’, Artillerie in Wedding.


culture’ and self-organised representation, and the concept of ‘trans-local interrelations’ in relation to ‘international cooperation’. These topics were embraced in short presentations and a series of group meetings with 23 Swedish artistrun initiatives who were participating in Supermarket 2011. Visits were made to art fairs Market and Supermarket as well as to a number of other art events.

aim copenhagen, september 2011, took place at the Danish Art Workshops in Copenhagen with fourteen participants from five partner organisations and two specially invited artist-run initiatives from the

AIM Copenhagen 2011 in the Danish Art Workshops. Photo: Andreas Ribbung.


Baltic countries: Art Container from Tallinn, Estonia, and TotaldobĹže from Riga, Latvia. During this meeting the network began to discuss the possibility of gathering information on and experience of self-organised exhibition activities and projects through a survey, to establish a knowledge base, and to create a list and a map that would raise awareness of this often invisible scene. Aarhus-based exhibition space Spanien 19C and Copenhagen-based internet platform Netfilmmakers presented their activities and participated in the discussion during one of the days. Visits were made to ART Copenhagen and the alternative art fair Alt_Cph11.

aim mallorca, march 2012, was hosted at Can Gelabert Binissalem in Mallorca with ten participants from five partner organisations, as well as Alvaro Campo from the Nordic Art Association. Based on the idea of creating a web portal and database/CMS for artist-run initiatives discussions were about what goals could be achieved by such undertaking, and what kind of target audience would be addressed. A stakeholder analysis of existing interest in such a database served as the basis for discussion. A number of problems were identified: how to market the service to users, how organisations might be registered on the database, how long-term funding might be achieved, how the database should be maintained, and how to ensure that only appropriate organisations are


listed in search results – or whether total openness for participation is important for it to be consistent with the idea of self-organisation. A proposed solution to the last problem was to keep the openness, but ensure that different lists could be extracted based on the keywords and parameters contained in the registered information. Invited guests Carles Gispert and Jose Troya presented ‘Icouldbeyou’ from Mallorca and ‘La Xina art’ from Barcelona: two artists’ initiatives that were part of a very active network in the 90s and vanished due to lack of both funding and communication channels. Visits were made to the Crida residency, and Pilar and Joan Miro Foundation in Palma. The meeting coin-

AIM Mallorca 2012 in the cultural centre Can Gelabert. Photo: Kim Dotty Hachmann.


cided with the ‘Art Brunch’ gallery open day in Palma. The exhibition ‘Next Stop Mallorca’ at Cultural Centre Can Gelabert in Binissalem was organised in collaboration with the AIM meeting and featured artists Alvaro Campo, Kim Dotty Hachmann, Pontus Raud, Andreas Ribbung, Matthias Roth, Signe Vad, Marcos Vidal, and a sound art compilation by MUU Gallery, Helsinki. public event at supermarket talks in stockholm, february 2013. Since 2013 AIM has arranged annual public events in the Supermarket Talks seminar programme, a part of Supermarket – Stockholm Independent Art Fair.

The group exhibition ‘Next Stop Mallorca’. Photo: Kim Dotty Hachmann.


Supermarket Talks were held in Studio 3 at Kultur­ huset. The seminar started with Andreas Ribbung and John W. Fail presenting the database/CMS for artists’ initiatives around the world, designed both as a network platform and a public web directory. Signe Vad moderated a panel discussion called ‘Visibility – an empty buzzword or an important focus issue?’. Artists Sookyoung Huh, Philip Tonda Heide, and Nico Feragnoli, talked about artist-run initiatives in relation to the public sphere, and whether they can compete with institutions and private companies regarding audience. The panel considered if such a competition is even worth the effort, what the benefits are, what the costs are, and what are the alternatives. The seminar concluded with Kaspars Lielgalvis showing his ‘Culture Currencies’ project, which strives to overcome one of the main challenges preventing the development of non-governmental institutions – the constant lack of funding. Eleven participants from nine partner organisations and a Finnish guest organisation took part in ten smaller meetings organised in the framework of Supermarket Meetings. During a joint working meeting possible features and content of a web portal were discussed, e.g. a directory/map, event listings, open calls and residencies, a database of articles and resources about artist-run initiatives, social media features, links to other information, and intranet facilities for AIM members where work documents and messages could be exchanged.


aim helsinki, september 2013, held at the Business Meeting Park Kamppi, with eleven participants from seven partner organisations. Included were visits and meetings with representatives from Huuto Gallery, Gallery Forum Box and MUU Gallery, where the particular support systems for artists exhibiting in Finland led to a discussion about cultural support and ways of operating for the arts in different countries. The network decided to develop a pilot version of the database/CSM – and different solutions to the previously identified problems were discussed in detail. At the Cable Factory there were meetings with repre­ sentatives of HIAP, Frame Visual Art Finland, and Check-

Outside Huuto Gallery, Helsinki, 2013. Photo: Matthias Roth.


point Helsinki. A group exhibition with Philip Tonda Heide, Kim Dotty Hachmann, Anni Laakso, Pontus Raud, Andreas Ribbung, Matthias Roth, Meggi Sandell, Bertram Schilling, Signe Vad, and Marcos Vidal was held at Cable Gallery during Art Fair Suomi, an annual membership exhibition organised by two artists’ associations representing new media in contemporary art: Artists’ Association MUU and the Photographic Artists’ Association.

public event at supermarket talks in stockholm, february 2014. AIM organised two panel discussions at Supermarket Talks, once again, as in the previous year, held in Studio 3 at Kulturhuset. First of the discussions was ‘Life Beyond the Budget – a panel discussion about alternative financial strategies’, with contributions from Nini Palavandishvili (GeoAIR, Tbilisi), Amy Fee (House of Dance, Stockholm), and Kaspars Lielgalvis (Totaldobže, Riga), moderated by John W. Fail (Ptarmigan, Tallinn). The panel considered how art and cultural initiatives can go beyond traditional models of financial support – looking at methods of economic survival, and brainstorming to find new ways of collaboration toward the creation of alternative structures that actively respond to changes in state policies, social trends and other cultural patterns. The second event was ‘Going Public: studios, work and outreach’, a panel discussion with Josh Ginsburg


(co-founder and resident artist at Atlantic House in Cape Town), Elisa Pessoa and Gabriela Maciel (resident artist/ founder of TAL at Fabrica Bhering in Rio de Janeiro) and Lucian Indrei (co-founder of Lateral Artspace in Cluj-Napoca, Romania), and was moderated by Signe Vad. The panel discussed collective workspaces and studio partnerships that facilitate exhibitions and residencies. The panel brought up the positive impact of working with public activities, rather than non-public, gaining inputs from other artists through residencies and exhibitions, for example. In addition to the public programme, eleven participants from nine partner organisations had fourteen smaller meetings in the Meetings Programme, and a working meeting where work on the programming of the database/ CMS was reported and a research workshop planned.

aim athens, june 2014, was at Art-Athina in the Taekwondo Stadium, Athens, with thirteen participants from nine partner organisations. For the second year Art-Athina ran ‘Platforms Project @ Art-Athina’ (a section for artist-run spaces and artists’ groups) and AIM were invited to participate in their seminar programme. A discussion moderated by George Oreopoulos and Delia Potaminaou from the radio station Beton7ArtRadio opened the conference. They hosted a group interview, a model commonly used in the radio programme Art Therapy, using questions that often arise within an artist-run initia-


tive, such as how the membership is composed, what is easy or difficult with the cooperation and collaboration, if non-profit work is (unavoidably) exhausting, if their own artist practice come in conflict with – or is inspired by – the non-profit work. It also examined projects, as inspiration and formal ways of operating that lead to the selection of certain types of art, curatorial practices, funding and sharing of resources, and the relationship of artist-run initiatives to the commercial and institutional art world. Local artist initiatives Salon de Vortex, Lo and Behold, and Filopappou Group were invited to present their projects, which was preceded by short introductions from

Internal meeting, Platforms Project, Art-Athena, Athens, 2014. Photo: Matthias Roth.


the partner organisations. Subsequent discussion revolved around how activities affect the availability and sustainability of premises. The conference included a regular working meeting for the network partners where the pilot version of the database was shown and where data collection and the map function were developed further.

aim riga, september 2014, was held at Totaldobže, Press House, Riga, with seven participants from five partner organisations. The meeting was preceded by a three-day workshop at Ta-šu Manor, Grobina in Latvia’s

Ta-šu Manor, Grobina, AIM Latvia 2014. Photo: Andreas Ribbung.


countryside, which was directed towards research and networking with artist-run initiatives around the world. Serious TV LiVe recorded a broadcast – ‘Conversations with Artists from European Artist-run Exhibition Platforms: Goals and Challenges’. Discussions in Riga about the database focussed on the map function, user interface, and design. The local artist-run initiatives ‘427’ and ‘Ziema’ presented their activities and participated in a discussion which started from Riga’s particular situation with an abundance of abandoned buildings and attempts to make these spaces available for cultural activities.

Matthias Roth biking in Press House, Riga, 2014. Photo: Izabella Borzecka.


public event at supermarket talks in stockholm, april 2015. AIM organised three panel discussions at Supermarket Talks, which was this year was held at Konstfack: University College of Arts, Crafts and Design, next to Svarta Huset – the new location for Supermarket 2015. In ‘Cultural Exchange Rate’ speakers considered the meaning and value of cultural exchange in an imbalanced world. This discussion raised the challenge of having open attitude towards cultural exchange and the inherent difficulties given the existing inequalities in international participation. The discussion was introduced and moder-

Panel discussion with Abir Boukhari, Nia Pushkarova, Jeroen van der Hulst and Signe Vad. Photo: Björn G Lindahl.


ated by Jeroen van der Hulst, Editor-in-Chief at Pamphlet Magazine (NL), with participants: Abir Boukhari, founder of AllArtNow, Damascus (SY); Nia Pushkarova, founder of Water Tower Arts Fest, Sofia (BG); Signe Vad, founder of TYS Exhibition Space, Copenhagen (DK). This discussion was made possible with support from the Swedish Institute. Nafasi Art Space in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, presented their background and current work in a discussion with historian Mikela Lundahl under the title ‘Visions and visibility – challenges for the artist-run scene in Tanzania’. The debate concerned power structures within the art world, east African and gender identity politics, western hegemony and hierarchy, international influence and the post-colonial context of these issues. Who is (not) represented and (how) is it possible to change? The participants were: Rehema Chachage, artist and artistic manager of programmes at Nafasi Art Space; Diana Kamara, artist and poet, Dar es Salaam; and Mikela Lundahl, PhD in History of Ideas with Research In Critical Heritage Studies, Gothenburg / Copenhagen. The third discussion ‘Art in the margins’ considered migration and immigration, and asked how can artistic projects represent the unrepresented and illuminate the experiences of excluded communities. Erik Berggren (Museum of Forgetting) introduced Secil Yayali from the artist-run space Pasaj that operates in the Tarlabasi neighborhood, a historic area in the centre of Istanbul, that has always been a home for minorities suffering discrimina-


tion from Turkish authorities and the wider society, and Olson Lamaj from the artist-run space Miza (Tirana) presented artists who discuss the experiences of Albanian immigrants in their new countries of residence. In addition to the public programme twelve participants from seven partner organisations and two guest (from Lithuania and Bulgaria, who became new partners) got together in twelve smaller meetings in the Meetings programme. A general working meeting dealt with the obstacles to publish the unfinished pilot version of the database, and meaningful ways to extend the network’s experience by creating opportunities for other artist-run initiatives to share knowledge and experiences.

public event at supermarket talks in stockholm, april 2016. Three panel discussions were organised at Supermarket Talks, which this year was held in Svarta Huset at Telefonplan, Stockholm. ‘Reinventing Independence – Ten Years of the Artistrun Scene’ was a special discussion seminar with Andreas Ribbung, Pontus Raud and invited representatives of the partner organisations, together with exhibitors of Supermarket 2016, all of whom brought their expertise and experience to the discussion. The seminar considered the ways that the artist-run scene has developed during the last ten years. It also asked what kind of conclusions can be drawn and what strategies do we have for the future


– one point of agreement was that the self-confidence of artist-run initiatives has increased. Eight participants from seven partner organisations participated in fifteen smaller meetings in the Meetings programme. In addition to the exhibition and the existing talks and performance programmes, a new way to participate was introduced – Professional Networking Participants aimed at individual artists working with curatorial and organisational activities. The AIM network met with two representatives of Wrocław 2016 European Capital of Culture to plan a forthcoming workshop.

aim wrocław, may 2016, politics of colla­ boration. Poland has a long tradition of grassroots initiatives, although most of them are characterised by ephemerality. Artists increasingly complain about the lack of financial support, conservative cultural policies, an overwhelming dominance of public institutions, and lack of media interest. Is it possible to improve this situation? This question (alongside many others) was addressed during the three-days of ´Politics of Collaboration’ – the last of AIM’s meetings series, with representatives of artists’ initiatives from across Poland, local activists, and students of the Wrocław Academy of Fine Arts. Events were held at Barbara, Wykwit and Entropia Gallery. The collective character of the meeting was reflected in the exhibition ‘Abracadabra. Politics of Collaboration’,


as well as in the preparatory phase and the selection of subjects for discussion. The focus was placed on specific aspects of collaboration at different levels: international, national, local, and within artists’ initiatives. It was essential to concentrate on the aspect of ‘empowerment’ in the context of the current political situations in both Europe and on global scale: the rise of isolationist tendencies in different countries, diminishing budgets for independent, experimental and critical practice, dominance of public institutions and commercial galleries, putting the material interests of individuals before the collective interest (mainly in the context of competitiveness within the art world), low status and poor visibility

Meeting workshop during AIM Wrocław 2016. Photo: Alicja Kielan.


of independent galleries, and the lack of bargaining power in negotiations with the local authorities, institutions, etc. The participants looked at the flipside of these issues, and how they could be addressed by learning from each other, providing inspiration, arguing, and supporting one another. For three days Wrocław hosted a total of thirtyone artists and curators from ten countries,1 The agenda for the meetings and seminars was supervised by Anna Tomaszewska. The production of the project was overseen by Katarzyna Zielin´ska and Marta Kołodziejska of the European Capital of Culture Wrocław 2016 Festival Office, while the exhibition accompanying the event was curated by Andreas Ribbung. The guests were presented with a detailed agenda and assigned to international working groups, whose moderated discussions focused on the current problems, limitations and challenges faced by artist-run initiatives. The jointly agreed items to be discussed concerned both abstract and very concrete matters including: • • •

Cooperation of galleries with similar profiles in different countries; Cooperation at the local level; Local experiences versus the international (global) context; the significance of cooperation of independent initiatives in order to strengthen their position and prestige in the art world;


• • • • • • •

The importance of creating spaces for experimenting and stimulating critical thinking; Collaboration policies in the context of growing nationalistic tendencies in Europe; Issues connected with equal rights of artists invited to exhibit and ways of running galleries; Financing the activity; Ways of functioning without a budget; Issues connected with selling works or intentionally resigning from commercial activity; Ways of combining artistic practice with other forms of earning a living.

An important aspect of the meeting was the local context which became the pretext for reflecting on the long tradition of self-organisation in Wrocław. The visiting artists and curators had the opportunity to talk with the representatives of local independent initiatives and visit their spaces. At Entropia, one of the oldest galleries

1.  1646 from the Netherlands, LTMK from Lithuania, TYS Exhibition Space from Denmark, St Marc from Spain, Supermarket from Sweden, Totaldobže from Latvia, MUU from Finland, Microwesten/>top from Germany, Watertower Art Fest from Bulgaria, a number of organisations from Poland: the Miłos´c´ gallery from Torun´, F.A.I.T. from Cracow, the Wschodnia gallery from Łódz´, the Szara gallery from Katowice (previously based in Cieszyn), STROBOSKOP from Warsaw, the Salony Foundation from Zielona Góra, Wrocław-based organisations: Wykwit, Entropia and U galleries, the Art Transparent Foundation, and students from the Academy of Fine Arts, Wrocław who also represented the MD-S gallery.


in Wrocław, Dominika Łaba˛dz´, co-founder of the U Gallery, presented the history and programme of the initiative that used to be in a rented tenement building on Jednos´ci Narodowej Street. The building, which had been renovated and adapted through the efforts of Dominika Łaba˛dz´, Marysia Orzeszyna-Kułakowska and Małgorzata Sawicka, operated for five years as an autonomous platform for artistic work. In 2015 the owner demolished the building, and new apartments are being erected on the site. Despite not having a physical space, U Gallery is still active in what the artist described as ‘symbolic’ space, being involved in local, often controversial, issues connected with the municipal cultural policies. Alicja and Mariusz Jodko, the curators of the Entropia Gallery, which has been operating since 1988, familiarised the guests with the reality of self-organisation in the difficult period of transformation in the 1980s, when two artistic currents were simultaneously developing in Poland – an official and an underground one. At that time, a gallery was one of the few acceptable forms of counterculture – a ‘quasi’ or ‘extra’ institution providing an alternative to the existing institutions (also in the social, environmental and countercultural sense), that operated parallel to the officially sanctioned art scene of the communist era. This is how the ‘independence’ of the galleries being set up in Poland in the 1980s should be understood, although most of them paradoxically depended organisationally, administratively or financially on the local councils or larger


institutions, such as cultural centres and universities. The Entropia Gallery was no exception – operating under the auspices of the municipal council of Wrocław. Although as an institution it is controlled by the local administration, it was set up as a grassroots initiative by its founders, and from the very beginning it has functioned as an individual and original project. Discussions about the history of Entropia Gallery, which is firmly rooted in the collective conscience of Wrocław residents, and the story of the tenement building at 93 Jednos´ci Narodowej Street, was continued in a new venue for art, an old house at 21 Jana Kochanowskiego Street where the basement had been converted to an

Inauguration of the group exhibition ‘Abracadabra. Politics of collaboration’. Photo: Alicja Kielan.


exhibition venue. There was an opportunity to explore the house, which dates back to around 1900 when Wrocław was the German city of Breslau. In an informal atmosphere of a picnic in the garden, the founders of the Wykwit gallery answered questions about running the house. Wykwit is a space where art and private life permeate each other, without any predefined programme or common ideological denominator. Since the artists who run the gallery also live in the building, supporting it depends on collective efforts. The founders emphasised that their artistic-curatorial practice is completely independent of external institutions and curators. The discussions initiated on the first day were

Summing-up session during AIM Wrocław 2016. Photo: Alicja Kielan.


continued during the summary meetings and semi-open seminar held on the following day and moderated by Anna Tomaszewska. In keeping with the title of the programme the conversations revolved around the importance of artists’ self-organisation and the specific contextual aspects of collaboration (within a gallery, locally, nationally, and internationally). An important facet of the discussion was the local context of the meeting. For this reason participants were invited to analyse the history of artists’ self-organisation in Wrocław and the reception of their activities by the local audience. Among other challenges addressed on this day were the issues of selling works by initiatives that are

Opening of the group exhibition ‘Abracadabra. Politics of collaboration’, Culture centre Barbara, Wrocław 2016. Photo: Alicja Kielan.


non-commercial, the justification of creating residency programmes dedicated to artists running their own spaces, e.g. research sojourns in different cities in Poland and elsewhere, and inviting artists connected with independent spaces to Wrocław. Apart from the shared subjects, each of the five international groups focused on one specific aspect of running self-organised initiatives. Group one2 discussed issues connected with the limits of artistic freedom. The group’s starting point was the notion of censorship, considering self-organised initiatives in the context of a counterculture functioning in parallel to an officially endorsed art. Understood in this way, grassroots initiatives are treated as a basis for the democratisation of art, which can be practiced and curated virtually by anyone, and thus blurs the distinction between those who are artists and those who are not, between what is acceptable as artistic expression and what is stifled or regarded as taboo. As the moderator observed, the discussion on the limits of artistic expression quickly turned into a wider conversation about the changing political and social contexts in which the art scene functions; among the addressed topics was the positive example of Entropia Gallery which began in the 1990s to incorporate new technologies and mobile apps in its activities to avoid being stuck in one schema. The general reflection pointed toward a conclusion that an open art market, and increasing competitiveness of the official and


non-official spaces for art, inevitably leads to certain concessions to the ruling ‘system,’ because in order to increase visibility and reach the audience, even ‘the most inde­pendent’ initiatives must think about communications strategies and maintaining visibility. The second group3 considered the advantages and limitations of grassroots initiatives and their more institutionalised equivalents. Although the discussion was very animated, the group admitted that they did not arrive at clear conclusions as both ways of approaching artistic actions seem to be more or less functional depending on the local political, social and financial contexts. The participants did agree that establishing new spaces for art in environments where official cultural-artistic institutions already exist stems from the natural need to take up initiative and create a field for individual expression, free from organisational profiles and budgets. Against this backdrop founders of independent galleries fulfil the role of activists, unlike curators who are always separated from the audience by

2.  Moderated by Signe Vad from TYS Exhibition Space (Copenhagen) and comprising Marcos Vidal Font from St Marc (Mallorca), Alicja Jodko and Mariusz Jodko from Entropia (Wrocław), Anna Stec from SURVIVAL (Wrocław), and Iwona Ogrodzka from the Academy of Fine Arts (Wrocław). 3.  Moderated by Nico Feragnoli and comprising Mathias Roth from Microwesten/>top (Berlin), Lina Rukevicˇiu¯ te˙ Sodu˛ 4 and LTMKS (Vilnius), Norbert Delman from STROBOSKOP (Warsaw), Joanna Rzepka-Dziedzic and Łukasz Dziedzic from Galeria Szara (Katowice), and Jagoda Dobecka from Academy of Fine Arts (Wrocław).


certain impassable distance. However, the group members highlighted that grassroots initiatives undertaken by these artists-activists are not in opposition to the mainstream arts scene; instead they supplement it by providing a critical or simply alternative option for managing art and culture. Group three4 dealt with the challenges faced by artist collectives and focused on issues such as group potential versus individualism, ‘victimless’ activities, and the effective use of a group’s potential. The participants drew on their personal experience and different practices used in collective work. Everybody agreed that private initiatives are also subject to structuring, and the members involved in them must be responsible for acquiring funds, nego-

The video work ‘Reconsidering’ by Clara Pallí Monguilod at ‘Abracadabra. Politics of collaboration’, Culture centre Barbara, Wrocław 2016. Photo: Alicja Kielan.


tiating with partners, and organising exhibitions. Even initiatives verging on the principle of a ‘non-ideological commune’ such as Wykwit, whose members live and work in a shared space, need to adhere to a set of rules. Here, collective work includes a number of activities – from minor house repairs, through thinking about the house as a venue for creative interventions, to exceeding the limits of their ‘own backyard’ and inviting people from the outside to co-create the gallery. It was observed that the best guarantor of a group’s smooth, ‘victimless’ functioning is basing it on the individual resources of each of its members, using their talents and predispositions. The group also attempted to define the notion of ‘collaboration’ and concluded that it is based on potential exchange, direct contact with each other and with the audience, and an open dialogue rather than a mentorship model. Group four5 examined the purposefulness of independent organisations by posing questions about the reasons for their establishment, their programme offer,

4   Moderated by Andreas Ribbung from Candyland and Supermarket (Stockholm) with participants Mindaugas Gapševicˇius from >top (Berlin) and LTMKS (Vilnius), Piotr Lisowski and Natalia Wi´sniewska from Miłos´c´ (Torun´), Adam Martyniak from Wykwit (Wrocław), Karolina Włodek and Anita Welter from the Academy of Fine Arts (Wrocław). 5  Moderated by Kaspars Lielgalvis from Totaldobže (Riga) with Timo Soppela from MUU Gallery (Helsinki ), Gaweł Kownacki from f.a.i.t. . (Kraków), Karolina Bieniek from SURVIVAL (Wrocław) and Ewa Słu zyn´ska from A-I-R Wro (Wrocław).


and the ways of providing access to art that is alternative to the main stream. Despite considerable differences (the participants came from initiatives of varying structures and sizes), the group members began by giving the reasons for doing what they do, and concluded that the existing system of curating and managing art failed to provide them with a feeling of security, both financial and ideological. Disappointed with the official art scene, they set out to create their unique versions of it, following their own priorities and original artistic programmes. They considered their overarching value to be in retaining their independence and ensuring contact with live art, not just as artists, but also as mediators and organisers of events,

Kim Dotty Hachmann, ‘Küchen Power’, dye-sublimation print on textile, 300x200 cm, 2016 at ‘Abracadabra. Politics of collaboration’, Wrocław 2016.


exhibitions and creative activities. The participants also agreed that the main driving force behind their actions is not solely the effect of their work but the process itself, while the idea they try to follow is ‘life as art.’ The fifth and last group,6 considered the notion of space in which artists operate. The discussion concerned the overlapping of private and professional life, and including artistic activities in everyday life due to working in a space that simultaneously fulfils the roles of a flat, office and gallery. The conversation began from examples of good practices, represented by the aforementioned U Gallery and Wykwit, as well as by the apartmentgallery in Wschodnia Street in Łódz´. As reported by Ewelina Chmielewska, who represented the Wschodnia Gallery, the overlapping of everyday life and professional duties is a natural function of the gallery that was set up under the communist regime as a way of relocating suppressed artistic expressions into a private space. At that time it was a venue for theatre rehearsals and free jazz sessions as well as a site of clandestine political activity. Although it was a highly inspiring situation, where a constant inflow of new artistic ideas led to an

6.  Moderated by Anna Tomaszewska (Warsaw/Stockholm) and comprising Nia Puskarova from Watertower Arts Fest (Sofia), Kim Dotty Hachmann from Microwesten/>top (Berlin), Marta Gendera from Fundacja Salony (Zielona Góra), Ewelina Chmielewska from Wschodnia Gallery (Łódz´), and Michał Mejnartowicz and Karolina Balcer from Wykwit (Wrocław).


open attitude, and the informal meetings often assumed the character of artistic interventions, operating in a private residence unavoidably means coming up with ways of communicating and cooperating with neighbours. This working group devoted a lot of time and attention to the notion of equal rights in the context of the make-up and programme of artist-run galleries. As it turned out, even initiatives like these rarely analyse their functioning from the point of view of selecting exhibitors and dividing the duties within the gallery. The issue of residency programmes for artists running their own spaces was discussed extensively during the seminar. It was unanimously concluded that the idea of in-

Clara Pallí Monguilod, ‘Reconsidering’, HD video, 22 min, at ‘Abracadabra. Politics of collaboration’, Wrocław 2016.


ternational meetings and exchanges offers the possibility of being exposed to a multitude of specifically local cultural and social attitudes, which translates tangibly into activeness based on collaboration and bridge-building between organisations operating outside of the official art scenes. Such residency programmes are offered by the Dutch project space ‘1646’, which hosts independent artists and curators for a period of up to two months. The Wschodnia and Wykwit galleries also offer similar programmes. In the context of Poland the lack of, and the need for, creating a forum for discussions, presentations and meetings is very real. Resembling Supermarket – Stockholm Independent Art Fair (Sweden), such a platform

Karolina Szymanowska, ‘Re:Cycling. City installation’ at ‘Abracadabra. Politics of collaboration’, Wrocław 2016.


could raise the status of domestic initiatives and the whole independent art scene: the idea of creating such a platform in Katowice (with the Szara gallery) emerged. Following the group discussions, a more in depth presentation of the initiatives comprising AIM and those participating in the Supermarket Independent Art Fair took place (Polish initiatives have been taking part in Supermarket since 2008). The participants in the meeting also exchanged ideas about ways of funding operational activities, e.g. using crowd funding platforms, adopting a multi-level system of membership fees, the possibility of donating 1% of tax to non-governmental organisations (which is particularly popular in Poland), or incorporating commercial events in the functioning of artist-run spaces (for example auctions and events). There were also more alternative ideas such as the ‘action-vernissage’ mentioned by the representatives of Wykwit who documented the process of producing cider that was then sold to visitors. The final element of the meeting was the opening of the exhibition: ‘Abracadabra. Politics of collaboration’. Curated by Andreas Ribbung, it featured works by artists belonging to the AIM network. The show was the result of many years of collaboration in the form of meetings, presentations, debates and conferences. It also featured video works by Polish artists connected with the galleries invited to Wrocław, and Karolina Szymanowska’s urban installation titled ‘Re:Cycling. City installation’, curated by Mariusz Jodko.


During the closed meeting of the AIM network, members’ plans for future functioning were discussed, including the possibility of inviting initiatives from other countries (also from Poland) to join the network. Most of the participants agreed that working in small groups was a positive aspect of the Wrocław meeting, which made it possible to learn about and compare the specificity of artist-run organisations in Poland and abroad, and it also established more intimate and ‘real’ contact between their representatives. Another advantage of the discussions in small groups was the varied background of the participants, which enabled them to acquaint themselves with the particular contexts of different organisations. The students felt the event to be really inspiring. Due to the limitations of time it was not possible to discuss all the subjects on the agenda as extensively as would have been desirable.


A conversation between Anna Tomaszewska, Andreas Ribbung, Signe Vad, Lina Rukevicˇiu¯ te˙ and Nico Feragnoli anna tomaszewska

anna: Let’s start from the end – your last meeting was called ‘Politics of collaboration’. Could you explain how you understand the term ‘collaboration’ within your own artistic and curatorial practices? andreas: Individual artists who work only with their own career and don’t cooperate at all might get quite a lonely existence. There are different ways to cooperate, with various degrees of collaboration, and for artists who can put their own career aside for a moment, the artist-run space is an example of collaboration that is beneficial for many. Competition among artists is a fact which often prevents us from getting organised or from collaborating. One can notice a similar competition between artist-run spaces: the limitation of funding opportunities and attention can lead to envy, which is not a good start for common actions. However, we see a number of examples of how the orga­ nisations quickly realise the advantages and benefits of collaboration when they try it. Simple cooperations, such as making a local art map, co-organising gallery nights, or mentioning each others’ openings in newsletters, are collaborations that are effective but not at all demanding or costly, and everyone can benefit from them. signe: For me politics of collaboration means the power of collaboration. I am a big fan of Hannah Arendt’s definition of power – something that happens when people act together. I don’t mind artists who work in a very intro-


verted manner and need solitude; I often have that need myself (actually, I very much appreciate the wisdom and complexity that comes from contemplation). For me the important thing about collaboration is that each of us can define our own conditions and structures. This is political, because there is always an ideal behind a goal, and when we act together we create our own institutions, as opposed to letting the existing structures decide whether we have validity according to their values. I am very classical in my ideas about political action, as I believe that freedom is in the head and supression is in the structures. In my artistic and curatorial practice, collaboration and acting together is always based on a need; that is, something is needed

Supermarket Meetings at Supermarket 2012 – Stockholm Independent Art Fair. Photo: Valentin Brutaro.


due to the situation, circumstances, politics etc. This way, collaborating becomes an open process; it is based on available opportunities and specific external conditions, but with the goal remaining flexible, and consequently the final outcome being fairly unknown. nico: About the topic of collaboration and, in this case, politics, I think one should always try to ask an underlying question. That question being: to what extent is collaboration political, or, is collaboration a political act? I think it is. Very much so, in fact. Here I would like to make clear that I do not mean to politically radicalise this topic in any way. On the contrary, I’d like to try and restate what ordinary, day-to-day matter politics, in fact, are. We need to look back in order to describe the context. I take for granted and accept a general image of the art sector – at any level, from artists, curators, and collectors to institutions – as being a context driven by strong individual agendas, points of view, and interests, not dissimilar to the way in which the economic sector works. Independent players (art spaces, collectives and individuals) in that field put themselves, per definition, in the position of someone who proposes an alternative: someone who can both imagine, and wishes to create, a dialogue within their immediate context. In that role, then, I think it is very important to be aware of the fact that the act of collaborating does not simply mean ‘sharing costs’ of a project or endeavour. Through collaboration, one is, first and


foremost, reestablishing a horizontality: actively working on what can be achieved by a group of individuals within the society they are part of. Collaborating has in itself a meaning: it is an act by which certain parts of society can claim their own existence on several levels, individually and collectively, and assert their ‘being there’. It is the defining act of any group that chooses to be active inside a larger system; that is of great importance because larger systems all too easily move away from horizontal relations between individuals towards vertical ones. In a nutshell, my point here after such a lengthy introduction, is that the outcome of collaboration does not simply boil down to (practical) opportunities for organisations and individuals to carry out one or another specific project, but it defines a strategy to be visible and represented in a part of public life that would otherwise push you to struggle in a corner. lina: I see collaborations existing in two ways: people- or idea-related collaborations, and space-related collaborations. Similar ideas or research fields bring artists together, or even connect artists with researchers from different fields. In that way, artists sometimes end up answering questions raised by physicists, sociologists or politicians. But by going deeper into these other fields, artists reach out to, and become heard by audiences they would never be able to address otherwise. Opinions and reactions from those audiences feed back into art practices, encouraging the looped motion of thought-processes. Space, that


is, physical space related to collaborations, tends to be specific and creates a strong network of people around, which can be very beneficial for artistic self-organisation. At the same time, if those collaborations extend internationally, beyond the borders of the actual location, the space gains a new character, defined by artist or event names that associate with the space, as a sort of keywords. There is a lot that can be done by arranging these keywords and matching them with the content of the space. anna: What brought you to set up the AIM network then? andreas: We wanted to investigate whether it would be possible to create a larger, and greater collaboration: a big art festival, an exhibition, or a platform for producing these kinds of collaborations – and for the first time with sufficient funding. We had learned that solid partnerships are essential for applying for larger-scale funding applications. Quite soon we found out that there are key issues around self-organisation that were interesting to deal with, and we created a network for exchange of knowledge and experience, and for discussing visibility, mobility, and collaborations, without the mission to produce anything. signe: It was the obvious possibility to strengthen and help the artists’ self-organising scene. A strong international network can enforce the whole scene and


thus also serve the artists who are creating their own platforms, as it is always a lot of hard unpaid work. But it can also help the public to find and discover this very important, yet nearly invisible scene that the artists create themselves. Personally, for me it was also a great opportunity to network with colleagues from around Europe, and learn about the wide spectra of platforms and ways of working within this field. nico: I guess the experience of Supermarket in Stockholm had given us the idea that such moments of exchange, and discovery of each other’s activity, could reach further than the yearly gathering in Sweden. There we could see an already existent international infrastructure, where individual groups have been active and busy, but with little possibility, in terms of tools and means, to interact with each other. It was clear, at this point, that all needed to be done was to figure out an effective way to bring the artists in contact, allow them to discover one another, and share the mutual expertise they had developed on the field in their home bases. lina: Lithuanian Interdisciplinary Artists’ Association (LTMKS) only joined the network in the beginning of 2015 through its associated organisation top e.V. It is a very important network for us to be a part of, providing access to an extra layer of European contemporary art scene, and a direct contact with its participants. For small


artist initiatives, as well as for larger associated groups of artists like LTMKS, this collaboration works perfectly well. It provides its participants with a platform to discuss many common issues, ideas to share and things to get involved in together, such as the past events in Wrocław or the planned events in Plovdiv. anna: Your network consists of 11 partners across Europe. All of them are artists’ initiatives of different kinds: from artist-run exhibition spaces to art fairs and art festivals. You all differ in terms of organisation, size, focus and practice, but you share the struggle to maintain your programmes. It seems that generally artist-run spaces have to constantly justify their existence. Why is that? nico: I think that comes precisely from the extreme flexibility of those groups and organisations who can afford to operate in the context of artist-run spaces. By their very nature, they put a big emphasis on creating an alternative to the established and current ‘space(s)’ of production and exhibition of art. Their profile and their projects are committed to the pursue of experiment to their outermost limits. But that often means committing to projects of an ever-changing nature: an aspect that can ultimately undermine the understanding (by a wider audience) of what an artist-run or independent space is and what it is doing. In merely financial terms, this also often goes hand in hand with the fact that independent spaces either focus


too little, or are too short-sighted at that point of their existence, to mind objectively about how to profit from their work; with that I refer to the pure amount of time that they invest in maintaining their activity – in their labour, if you want. Were independent art spaces experienced enough to understand how to deal with their resources from the very beginning, that would make the running of their activities more sustainable and longevous, and make them capable of having a ‘levelled’ communication with the more commercially-oriented characters in the art sec-

Art Container, Culture Factory Polymer, Tallinn, Estonia. Established in 2007 and active until 2011. ‘The Bathers’, sauna installation at Fountain Art Fair in Miami, 2009. Photo: Tanel Saar.


tor, such as galleries and museums, who, indeed, possess that kind of experience. andreas: In countries where there is financial support for artist-run spaces, such support seems to have gradually become more and more project based, which means that you have to adapt in many ways, and there is a risk of self-instrumentalisation in order to fit in the support policies, or you just have to come up with catchy new ideas all the time. It is hard to get the confidence to work long-term. There is also a skepticism towards artist-run practice, and quite rigid conceptions about valuation of art and its quality, based on a strong belief in the art market, and preset hierarchies in the art world. lina: Most of the non-commercial artists’ initiatives are very fragile as physical spaces, because they depend on project-based funding. Therefore their destiny is even more decided by politics, economics, and other socio-political currents. Their ideas are raw, diverse, not tested economically, and thus unprotected. However, artists’ initiatives are strong as ideological communities, regardless their size and structure, and this provides the energy for their struggle. No matter how stressful this formula of functioning is, the instability that comes with it directly and positively influences the content of the exhibiting space: it demands to keep one’s eyes wide open and react to the outside world.


signe: I think there is more than one answer to that. One thing is the financial aspect. The platforms are often dependent on state-, municipality- or private-funding, and these authorities always need some ‘valid reasons’ to support them. So the initiatives must spend huge amount of volunteer time and resources to formulate the intentions in advance. Another thing is, I believe, that there is a tendency for artist-run platforms to constantly deconstruct the organisation, due to the often fluent group of activists behind. If the artist-run platforms don’t institutionalise, but stay in constant flux instead, they are difficult to grasp. In general, if your ‘doings’ are difficult to fit into predefined categories, outsiders will have problems seeing you clearly, unless they devote time to understand, or are ready to ‘not understand’, which, in my opinion, are some of the most important contributions that the artist-run scene brings to its surroundings. The longer artist-run spaces exist, the more they tend to get institutionalised. They situate themselves in the local city and develop a consistent profile. When this happens, they need to justify their continuing importance on the same terms as any other cultural institution, just like many spaces here in Denmark that have to apply for money based on their contribution to the ‘general culture’, as they have become part of the city’s cultural selection. anna: How do you define the role of artist-run spaces in relation to art institutions and commercial


galleries? Are you in opposition to them or do you complement each other? nico: I am tempted to say that, in fact, no image would ever be complete without a degree of ‘opposition’ between some of its parts, would it? I think that it largely depends on the specific context (or place, if you want), in which an organisation happens to be working in. In some places there might even be a clear need for an uncompromising opposition. I think that the core of the issue is that an environment, a system or a place all need an inner generative dynamic. And that dynamic ensues if different characters, who are busy in the same field, can engage in a dialogue. So the nature of independent art spaces is to offer a dialogic proposal of an alternative, as I mentioned before. They signal with their activity that it is possible to work differently and with a different agenda. They stand for the awareness that (in society, in culture) there is a room to operate individually, instead of expecting a change or an alternative to come from, say, above. andreas: I think that artist-run spaces and other self-organised activities also serve as an important addition. Working in a space between the state and the market is really important for the public discourse. lina: Artist-run spaces definitely complete the ecosystem of art institutions, commercial galleries and


other art organisations. The opposition is perhaps in the principles of working, but the purpose is shared – to build art audiences and to promote art. signe: Personally, I like the idea of a multifaceted art world; there are so many varieties of whom, how, what, and why reasons to present art. I am not in general opposed to either institutions or commercial galleries, but I can be in opposition to specific political or philosophical ideas that can inspire me to act. I love my freedom of possibilities to make space for alternative political or philosophical actions. I can have opinions about validity of various state-funded art institutions, but I don’t necessarily resist them – for me, it is like free learning and public schools. Free learning can expand the pedagogic process, but it does not mean that I am against state-education. Regarding the commercial galleries, I see their main goal as something so different from the artist-run scene, that it is more like a parallel dimension. anna: It is said that “in times of dread, artists must never choose to remain silent”.1 What’s your opinion on the current role of critical engagement within contemporary art? Is it important for you to keep the balance between the ‘aesthetics and activism’ in your everyday work? Do you discuss or work on these issues in the network?


nico: Frankly, I don’t expect any major revo­ lutionary outbreak to come from art or artists. Neither do I think that it is the domain where to look for (activist or political) engagement, to tell the truth. When it comes to the network, the idea at its core is in itself a deed of activism. Yet, if being engaged entails pushing people to think, how many more places than the arts can one come up with when you are urged to think about what you are thinking? andreas: I think you should count engagement and activism, such as working with self-organisation, as a part of your profession, beside your own artistic expression, even if you make quite unpolitical art pieces. lina: Artists have always been in the position where they have been allowed to say more than anybody else and have had a privilege to match ideas which had nothing in common. At certain times, it becomes even more important for this voice to be heard, whether it takes on the form of artistic practice or gathering artistic communities into art initiatives – or a mixture of both. This is what we consider when deciding what ideas will be presented at the project space – every single idea separately, and all of them together as one idea. Aesthetic decisions come in parallel, but somehow they always go together naturally.

1.  Toni Morrison: ‘No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear’ (The Nation, March 23, 2015).


signe: During the last 15 years, I have asked colleagues if they were ready to die for their art. Most of them just refused to answer such a silly question, but it seems that times are changing, and once more that could become a highly relevant question. For me personally, my practice as artist is somehow divided into introverted and extroverted. The introverted work is based on the conviction that art can alter minds on a deep and philosophical level, it is a contemplative practice, but always addressing contemporary themes that I feel a need to reflect upon. The extroverted part of my practice is made of networkbased collaborations and projects built on basic DIY principles, and is always activated by a need to react on politics and society. In general, the core of both directions consists of aesthetics and activism, but in very different disguises. anna: I also wonder what’s your opinion on the contemporary artistic education? Are there, or should there be any direct links between artist-run spaces and art schools? What’s your own experience in regard to this? nico: The approach in art education varies immensely per country, and in the same way each and every culture reserves a different place for its own art as a part of the life of its society. Simply by drawing two lines North-South and East-West across Europe, and following those as the axes of a diagram, would yield a range of an immense scope. My personal and direct experience is limited to Italy


and The Netherlands; one could hardly find two systems more distant from each other. It is not relevant on this occasion to go deeper into what those differences are and what they produce. It has been my experience, though, that in the Netherlands, the link that you mention between art schools and artist-run spaces (compared to Italy) could be realised more easily and with very important results. Art students would not only be acquainted with artist-run spaces as visitors (thus developing a wider understanding of how far the borders of art or the art world stretch

Alma Enterprises, London, UK. Established in 2004. ‘When the Time Traveller Kills Their Grandmother’ collaboration, curated by Fritz Welch, 2005.


within society), but often they happened to be in the position of running an art space – or even more than one – and they would be doing that together with like-minded colleagues. Even more important, as a result, was the fact that by running a project of their own they effectively extended the reach of their work, and learned to evaluate and understand the impact of their personal work at the academy beyond the walls of the school. That fact alone makes one think in different possible ways about what it can mean to be an artist. In the Netherlands, where I am based, that state of things has largely changed, if not disappeared. For many students in art schools, an artist-run space is nowadays often an alien concept, and the intention to start one is removed even further away from their priorities. The key issue is just the availability of several square metres of space where one can make things happen. andreas: In Sweden I think the direct links between the higher art education institutions and artist-run spaces are the students who found their way into the artist-run spaces. When it comes to professors and teachers, it is dependent on their networks, since official cooperations are infrequent. Within the art academies and colleges there is often an image of the art world that is completely different from the one which exists in the rest of the art world. lina: It would be interesting to see an overview of such education at art schools in different parts of the


world. As far as I know, there is a possibility to choose a class on self-organisation at Vilnius Academy of Arts, and it is a rather recent occurrence. Perhaps it will change the current state of things, where there are very few artist-run initiatives across Lithuania. From my own educational experience, the discussions we had with emerging artists from nearby artists’ initiatives during my studies were very inspiring and eye-opening for everyone’s further self directed artistic careers. signe: Here in Denmark there is quite a strong connection between artist-run spaces and art schools right now. Very often a new artist-run space is initiated by a group of recent graduates, as a way to interact with the art world. It seems as if in the later years this movement has become stronger, and that the art students have more focus on activism and DIY. I personally question the idea of letting the educational institution teach the youth how to become activists, even though I have done such lectures myself... I much better like it when they blow the system in their own way, and from their own sense of need. anna: What would be your advice to young artists who, despite the increasingly difficult political conditions and contexts, decide to start an artist-run space directly after their graduation from the school? What should they focus on at the beginning?


andreas: To start zero budget, grow organically. It is not uncommon that spaces are started by recent graduates, but for a group coming right from an art college it could be a challenge to reach an audience outside of their common network, especially if they are closely interconnected and moving in the same circles. lina: Great question. The advice would be to not concentrate on the increasingly difficult political conditions but to start asap, to fully engage in the activities of their artist-run space, to enjoy running a project space as an artistic experiment, to invest energy into its visibility, to involve people they trust and to share responsibilities between themselves. Later it might be a good strategy to seek several different funding options – both local and international, public and private – to increase stability, and to share experiences locally and internationally, just like AIM does. signe: There can be a great feeling of freedom and fellowship when you work in a no-budget environment. The feeling of collegial collaboration and exchange have a lot of alternative potential. And when there is nearly no money involved, you have to come up with unique solutions. When you engage in a no-budget environment the people you work with are tied together through a shared idea of collaboration, therefore the environment rising


from these collaborations is based on common convictions. This creates strong communities and a feeling of togetherness instead of competition. In addition, it also inevitably provides basis for new artistic experiments, since it is the artists themselves who shape this space. My advice: be creative and work in no-budget solutions. Just start and learn along the way. nico: That may vary considerably depending on the context which they find themselves in. That said, I side with everything already stated by my colleagues. On top

1646, the Hague, Netherlands. Established in 2004. ’Excellent (10+ or better)’, video installation by Matthijs Rensman and Alexandra Werlich, 2009. Photo: Nico Feragnoli.


of that I’d like to add: focus more on creating a dynamics, less on creating a form. With the latter I mean that it is important to create an active place, structure or group of people capable of being in dialogue with a context. Not to simply put up interesting presentations. Last but not least, talking to each other is a key; it is important to make people meet face to face. anna: Increasing the interest of art in general as well as reaching and educating new audiences are subjects of importance for artist-run galleries, subjects that are also reflected in your programme. Why do you think that they are so crucial? andreas: I believe it is a ‘life and death issue’ for artists as a group to try to make art less excluding. Art has been made so exclusive that it became margin­ alised. It is not only the complexity and eliteness of contemporary art that scares people off, but also the fact that commercial galleries and players of the art market want it to be seen as something very exclusive. To make art less excluding is in fact the only way to broaden the inclusion and representation of different social and ethnic backgrounds in the art world. lina: Artists spend their entire time and energy identifying, visualising and criticising the ‘hottest’ issues of the present that generally relate to us all. The space where


these ideas are displayed is the means for them to be seen – whether in the form of visual artworks, actions, processes, experiments, educational events, or presentations. The main purpose of artists’ initiatives is to spread these ideas while they are fresh. From our experience, it has proved that experiments in different fields (sound, theater, technology) bring different audiences. Those audiences become communities, and if you ‘feed’ them with some kind of ideas, they keep visiting and engaging. signe: It is about breaking the standards, expanding the field all the time. It is about being alive and in constant change; working with areas and topics, being situated in the circumstances and responding to them, that is of the highest importance. Everything is so professionalised and institutionalised now in the art world, that it suffocates the agency in our own field... So it is just about starting to act, and from there you will inevitably aim to reach, educate or interact with new audiences instead of the traditional art public. nico: I said something about this before, when I talked about independent spaces as entities daring to re-appropriate the possibility of direct action in culture. I think culture is a function of sociality, a byproduct, if you want, that is functional to our lives as human animals. Art is just one of the elements of culture and, therefore, an element of sociality. Art exists and produces a cultural


value in the moment it performs its socio-cultural role: when it is presented, discussed, remembered, disregarded, enjoyed, criticised and so on. Art and culture are like dancing, they exist while you do, that is perform them, or not at all. A book is not just the paper and ink printed on it, it is the content; the paper and ink as being deciphered. In that sense any creative process is eventually a social process. So, one might say “but there’s plenty of culture around: museums, galleries and whatnot”. That is true, and that is one way for it to exist. But accepting that as being the only place for art means – largely – to leave our own choices to somebody else. I think it is fair to say that in the life we live there are already too many choices that we, indeed, leave to someone else. Because that means, essentially, accepting a role that is only a passive one. anna: I also wonder what are your main expectations towards the audience and how do you address this in your projects? Do you engage the viewers directly in the creative processes? andreas: Participatory art has been a big trend, but now it is just one of the different ways in which people work. In a way, it has been almost forgotten that all encounters between a viewer and an art piece can be engaging and creative.


lina: This engagement varies depending on the type of the event. We aim to have a rich programme of events from regular exhibitions to one night events (actions, screenings, practice presentations etc.), and also workshops. Workshops and similar events engage audiences most, as they invite for direct participation. Exhibitions engage audiences more if they involve additional performances, artists talks, tours and so on. From my point of view, audiences prefer to be actively approached by artists. Of course, our main expectation from audiences is for them to be present and curious, and open for engagement. signe: We have not focused so much on participatory art in particular, but instead we have worked on creating a scene, an environment where the participating artist and performers, as well as the general audience, are there together during a day programme. That means that some are presenting and some are not, but all in all, it is a group consistent of a huge variety of people experiencing the event together. nico: I am with Lina on this. It really depends on the nature of your project. I also think that it would be a complete misunderstanding to disregard the fact that organising a show is engaging with the audience. anna: We tend to avoid talking about failures, but I wonder if you would like to share some examples of less


successful experiences – whether as separate initiatives or for your network? For example, I am curious if the flat (non-hierarchical) structure that you seem to apply really works in practice? andreas: Risk-taking is essential for creating art, and in our projects we sometimes use the same methods. Failures come with that, and I guess artists in general forget the setbacks and just continue. The downside is that we are equally bad at appreciating success in the long run. The AIM network didn’t manage to share the work in an organised way. The progress has been very dependent on the initiatives from individuals of the partner organisations. lina: I would suggest that failures lead to new beginnings, and this applies to the independent art space map. Its organic and transitory nature is based on appearing and disappearing artist run spaces that often compromise on location, financing, demand of human energy, and management, but don’t compromise on ideas. They are like temporary stages in someone’s artistic practice. signe: In our exhibition space, I was the founder, I shaped the frame and generated the initial idea, I had a board installed that I answered to and I had the financial responsibility. Then others came along and for a long time they were young helpers, but as they became more expe-


rienced and grew new ideas, they also became more and more part of the initiative. Now we are looking at plans for a new space – the new space will be more collaborative, and I look so much forward to that. But we still have different competences. I know a lot about running a space and have a lot of connections, but I suck at writing; my younger colleagues see and know much more about what is happening on the edges, they can write and do a whole bunch of other stuff, so the collaboration is based on respect of what each of us can contribute with. Regarding failures, I don’t know... I often have thoughts about how I should have handled something differently, but because I always learn as I go along, I am always a novice and therefore I make a lot of mistakes; but they can usually be used in a positive way, and something completely different happens.

MUU Gallery, Helsinki, Finland. Established 1987. Exhibition view: Adel Abidin, Life is short, let’s have an affair, 2014. Photo: Sinem Kayacan.


nico: Not talking about failures is the best way to not grow anywhere or in any way. I am always surprised by how often attempting to look at one’s activity in a critical and conscious way is met with an extreme amount of resistance. Besides that, I do think that non-hierarchical structures can very often be a problem – especially if the nature of the structure halts processes and attempts to verify whether a plan or a programme can be delivered or not, if a project can work or fail, or how it can be improved. In such a situation, sometimes a little push can be enough to get the wheels spinning again, but if that does not happen it can be lethal for a group organised in such a way. I’ll bring here an example of a Dutch artist-run space, with a long and prestigious history. That space had grown into a rather organised structure with a director and a substantial budget; towards the end of that budget, the place decided to reinvent itself, going back to some quasi-horizontal structure which, eventually, did not work as expected. As a consequence, the capability of that space to react in a dynamic and interesting way – and to produce an interesting programme – changed significantly. That aspect became pretty evident and the space lost an important source of support. It soon became clear that it would take a while to try and get back to the same standard the space had in the past. The point of that whole story seems to be that, in fact, the major change in the structure of the space had been made following a more or less vague idea of horizontality rather than


towards an idea of common understanding, shared interests and dialogue that needed to already exist in the group of individuals who intended to run that space. anna: During your 11 meetings you had a chance to discuss many different issues related to the self-organised art scene. You generously share your knowledge and experiences in this publication, but I wonder what are your plans and ideas for the upcoming meetings and for the future of the network itself? andreas: We want to focus on activities where we transmit experience or bring other actors together and help to create new exchange. The last meeting workshop in Wrocław was inspiring and felt really meaningful. Of course we would like to bring our pilot project with the Artist-Run Map into reality, but applying for funding for that project isn’t easy. We would be forced to adopt the project and add on content that we don’t feel motivated to work with. Unfortunately, there seem to be no grants completely fit for this useful idea. lina: The one common idea is definitely that the meetings are important for self-identification and self-assurance, so it would be very beneficial if they would continue. Perhaps there is a lack of a clearer structure and not enough initiative, or time to engage, from all partners within the network when it comes to organising the meet-


ings, but we are all already simultaneously working on more things than possible, so why not continue with this. The plan is perhaps to develop the organic growth of this network, involving more partners on the way and connecting more artists. signe: We have gained so much knowledge that it would be a waste if others can’t benefit from it. The optimal solution would be to have the resources to shape a ‘task force’ that could help if artist-run spaces around the world needed knowledge or network support. Besides, it would be such a big thing if we could launch a well- and wide-functioning Artist-Run Map web platform. nico: I think we should expand the network to make it more visible and also accessible to a larger number of artists’ initiatives. I imagine there could be some kind of ‘distributed office’, whose members do not necessarily need to share the same location or home-base – being spread out becomes an advantage in terms of outreach – but stay coordinated internally and work as access points to the network. It would aim to create moments of exchange equivalent to the meetings but employing different strategies that adapt to the available resources and overcome budget limitations. And, at the same time, strategies that represent the activity of the network locally and establish a more permanent visibility in different countries. I am firmly convinced that the tool of the Artist


Map – in a sharpened form, relieved from unnecessary redundancy – would greatly help in that direction too. The idea of the possibility of such a network truly is of tremendous importance and its proactivity needs to be fostered so that it can represent a wide scope of independent spaces and their aims and ambitions.

anna tomaszewska is a curator, producer and researcher based in Warsaw and Stockholm; former deputy director of the Polish Institute in Sweden, where she was responsible for visual arts, architecture and design; visiting lecturer at Konstfack (CuratorLab). She also collaborates with several Polish art schools.

nico feragnoli is a multidisciplinary artist, designer and cultural producer. He is co-founder of 1646, project space for contemporary art in The Hague, the Netherlands.

lina rukevicˇ iu¯ te˙ is an artist and researcher, based in Vilnius, Lithuania. Currently a co-curator of project space “Sodu˛ 4” (Vilnius, Lithuania) and of creative experimental DIY laboratory series, she is involved in the activities of Lithuanian Interdisciplinary Artists’ Association and art research organisation Institutio Media. She is also a project mediator of international


project Migrating Art Academies. Her research is focused on interpretations of life and death over time, also fields, contexts activities in relation to that.

signe vad is born and based in Copenhagen, Denmark. MFA School of Photography, University of Gothenburg 2009. She works both with photography and video, as well as with a variety of interdisciplinary new media projects, and has done several solo exhibitions and group shows since 2003. She was the initiator and artistic director of Galleri Signe Vad, a non-profit gallery and cross-disciplinary platform in Copenhagen in 2005–2011. From 2014, she has been the artistic director of the exhibition platform TYS. Alongside her artistic practice, since 2005, Signe has worked as an independent curator based in the self-organised artist-run scene.

andreas ribbung is an artist based in Stockholm, where he graduated from Kungl. Konsthögskolan (Royal Institute of Art). Besides working with his own art, he is co-founder of the artist-run exhibition space Candyland in Stockholm and co-founder and one of two creative directors of Supermarket – Stockholm Independent Art Fair. He is also active as a project manager and advisor on art in the public realm.


Members of the artists’ initiatives meetings network

1646 – the hague, netherlands Stichting Project Space 1646 Boekhorststraat 125 2512 CN The Hague Netherlands alpineum produzentengalerie – luzern, switzerland Alpineum Produzentengalerie Hirschmattstrasse 30A CH-6003 Luzern Switzerland ltmks the lithuanian interdisciplinary artists’ association – vilnius, lithuania LTMKS Project Space Sodu˛ 4 Sodu˛ Str. 4-32 LT-01313 Vilnius Lithuania


>top association for the promotion of cultural practice – berlin, germany >top – Verein zur Förderung kultureller Praxis e. V. >top Schillerpalais Schillerpromenade 4 12049 Berlin – Neukölln Germany muu artists’ association – helsinki, finland MUU Gallery Lönnrotinkatu 33 00180 Helsinki Finland sant marc – sineu, mallorca, spain Sant Marc Plaça Es Mercadal 3 7510 Sineu Spain


kræ syndikatet – copenhagen, denmark KRÆ syndikatet Warehouse9 – live art venue Staldgade 8A 1699, Copenhagen V Denmark small projects – tromsø, norway Small Projects Grønnegata 23 9008 Tromsø Norway supermarket – stockholm independent art fair – stockholm, sweden totaldobže art centre – riga, latvia www.totaldobž info@totaldobž watertower art fest – sofia, bulgaria


alma enterprices – london, united kingdom (Former member) tptp space – paris, france (Former member) ptarmigan – tallinn, estonia (Former member) microwesten – berlin/munich, germany (Former member) tys exhibition space – copenhagen, denmark (Former member)


The AIM Network received initial funding from the City of Stockholm, Supermarket – Stockholm Independent Art Fair, Microwesten and the Swedish Embassy in Berlin, as well as short-term and long-term network funding from Nordic Culture Point, © 2017 AIM Network/Supermarket – Stockholm Independent Art Fair editor Andreas Ribbung in cooperation with Anna Tomaszewska and Alice Maselnikova text editing Alice Maselnikova and Stuart Mayes graphic design Dennis Hankvist cover Matthias Roth biking in Totaldobže Art Centre’s tempo­rary space, Riga, 2014. Photo by Izabella Borzecka. printed in Estonia isbn 978-91-639-3500-8 All rights in this book are reserved. No part of the book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. All rights to the photographs belong to the depicted initiatives if nothing else is specified.

This is a publication about the AIM Network, a diverse network of European artists’ initiatives and their exchange of knowledge and experiences over a period of six years. The members got to know each other at Supermarket, an international art fair for artist-run spaces held annually in Stockholm, and continued meeting in different cities around Europe to discuss key issues of self-organised exhibition spaces. They also engaged in an idea of developing an online Artist-Run Map that would gather artist-run initiatives to enhance their visibility and provide space for artistic exchange. There can be found many examples of attempts to create a similar map, but they have all failed to a certain extent, being either incomplete or becoming fast outdated. AIM have discussed the problematics surrounding this project, identified the main obstacles and developed a number of conceivable solutions, but as of now have not gathered the resources to perfect and launch a functioning Artist-Run Map. Hopefully, the groundwork done by AIM can be used by anyone seeking to realise a similar resource, and will contribute to formation of creative encounters where ideas and knowledge are exchanged.

ISBN 978-91-639-3500-8


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