Our aim was to look closely at the assumption that an aesthetic experience and arts education contribute to social and cultural inclusion, in other words, to question the idea of art as factor for social cohesion.
After reviewing important and critically assessed work done in the fields of participatory art and social practice over at least 30 years, and more recent re use of these strategies to "integrate" newcomers, we decided to focus our attention on contemporary practices that take a critical stance on the ideological underpinnings of their work, and try to honestly evaluate their effects. Do they merely reproduce and perpetuate current power relations or do they contribute to interrupt and transform them?
The following questions helped us refine the project focus: How does an encounter with an artwork – an individual experience in itself – create the possibility of relating and attuning to others? How can our rich and complex cultural heritages provide the foundations for sharing in our increasingly diverse societies? How can the critical examination of a difficult past lead not to separation and disconnection, but to possibilities of thinking together ? Finally, do our gallery education and mediation practices fully consider the cognitive and empathic potential of the aesthetic experience?
The Foundation has been committed to working with heterogeneous groups for many years, and we have found that many cultural institutions question their mediation practices based on segmenting and categorizing their audiences. This project, ultimately, seeks to create a common space for different publics to come together and share their symbolic worlds.
We have established partnerships with two major cultural institutions, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels and the Pompidou Center in Paris. Together with their educational teams, we began reflecting on experimental projects that could generate responses to our common questions. Two distinct but complementary projects have been designed as a result: Museum in Dialoog/Musée en Dialogue and La Tablée, each with a specific focus and several overarching concerns. More information about these projects will be shared soon.
With our third partner, Theatrum Mundi, a research centre founded by sociologist Richard Sennett, we established the Voi[e,x,s] Fellowship. Starting from an observational study of a participatory artistic project at Chapelle-Charbon in Paris, the researchers will explore how a shared sensory experience affects people’s relationship with each other and their environment.