For the multi-faceted event "The Impact of Art for Social Change towards Sustainable Growth for Cities", ArtBOX teamed up with the Municipality of Thessaloniki and their new art for social change project LABattoir at the city’s Old Slaughterhouse building. Together, the two co-organizers - inspired by LABattoir’s mission as a socially engaged machine for the production of culture and laboratory of applied creativity - presented a concise introduction to the practice of art for social change as a tool for understanding and addressing the current crisis, both collectively and individually.
Art for social change typically emerges in times of crises. The artist becomes a catalyst for social change, identifying and addressing society’s real needs, while the work of art moves away from traditional exhibition formats. It becomes process-based, resulting from the artist’s work with the community. The aim is to create long-term impact on society, through the empowerment and self-organization of communities. The Conference looked into basic theory concepts, practices and examples of how an institution or city can, administratively and collectively, react to crises via top-down and bottom-up innovative initiatives based on art for social change practices.
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Vice-Mayor of Culture, Education and Sports, Ellie Chrysidou, introduced the conference, with a presentation of the City’s policy and vision for LABattoir as a socially engaged machine for the production of culture. Christos Savvidis of ArtBOX spoke about the project REALISE and the potential of art for social change for growth.
The first session was devoted to theory. Sotirios Bahtsetzis - art theorist, curator and author - gave a short historical introduction to art for social change throughout the 20th century, and Stephanie Bertrand - art theorist, curator, Fellow of the Onassis Foundation for the academic year 2015/16 - gave an overview of the current discussion on art for social change as contemporary art practice.
In the second session, practices and examples from around the city has been focussed on. As a starting point, Giorgos Chatzinakos - PhD Candidate, Leeds University; Polis: Ma in European Urban Cultures - presented his recent research on the area where the LABattoir is located. It is about an underdeveloped area very close to the center of the city, with a lot of potential for growth. Leonidas Trampoukis from LoT Architects based in Thessaloniki and New York continued by talking about the possibilities of participatory, community design, and Manolis Chatzigiannis - economist, Technology Transfer Officer at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki - described the university’s efforts to bridge academic research results and the market.
Finally, Giorgos Drivas, Rania Emmanouilidou and Apostolos Rizos presented the results of the workshops that took place the week before. The workshops urged the participants to renegotiate their relationship to creativity and to activate their own experiences, in order to trace the unique characteristics of their environment, not only as natural and/or urban landscape, but also as space of experience, leading to the creation of new dynamics.
In the first workshop titled “Epoc”, artist Rania Emmanouilidou and designer Apostolos Rizos asked the participants - 30 young and established professionals from various fields, out of which 17 young practitioners who participated in the resulting exhibition - to collect materials such as objects, images and sounds from the area around LABattoir. These materials initially functioned as a starting point for conversation during the workshops, giving the participants the possibility to revisit and reinterpret their environment. Then, they were used as the raw material for a collective installation, embodying the character of the area to the public.
The second workshop “Directing Reality (Docu Fiction / Docu Drama)” focused on fiction documentary and its techniques. The artist and director George Drivas and the art theorist and curator Sotirios Bahtsetzis gave a historical overview of the art of documentary through specific examples and then developed ideas together with the participants for creation of a short documentary on local circumstances and the crisis. This motivated the participants to adopt new ways of looking at and interpreting reality.
The event was concluded with the screening of the video “The Slaughterhouse Gardens” by Stergios Karavatos and a live dj set by Savvas Metaxas & Spyros Emmanouilidis from Granny Records.