BUREAU for CULTURAL INTERCONNECTIVITY - BCI conceptualised by Chu Yuan ( Zhu Zi Yan)
Cultural Interconnectivity and current models of cultural productions
culture has been acknowledged to be interconnectors - with artists and cultural
workers as agents of change - between peoples, communities and nationalities, bridging
diverse backgrounds and beliefs. Awareness of the importance of working cross
culturally has been on the rise and many art activities now privilege cross
cultural exchanges, as we face new challenges in cultural diversity,
fragmentations and conflicts, both within a common locality and inter-locality.
Yet what are
the models of cultural productions that we are falling back on? We can agree on
the importance of sharing, exchange and dialogue, as the gap in cultural understanding
widens, even as distances between cultures and groups of people collapse in other
ways. Yet have we taken time to evaluate how effective our current models of
cultural productions are in extending cultural connectivity - in generating new
ways of making and sustaining connections between peoples?
existing models such as artist-residencies, exchanges, traveling projects,
biennials, international festivals, etc. Artists and curators are mostly falling
back on academic training, and then go onto working with institutions such as
museums or creating "alternative" spaces. Curators and festival directors are
invited from cultures from across the world to work in diverse frameworks and
issues. Art students have choices of working with a gallery, or outside of the
commercial gallery system after their graduation but a majority still feel
pessimistic about limited avenues and possibilities for furthering their
profession. Art councils in many advanced economies have been allocating much
funding to maximize the use of the arts and artists as cultural and economic
Mobility and Groundedness
Artists' mobility has risen drastically. In a recent international event of ResArtis, which focused on artists mobility and exchange and interculturalism within the framework of globalism, in the midst of discussions around the global traffic of artists and arts exchanges, a smaller scale discussion grew among some of the delegates, on an important factor that seem to have been overlooked - in light of the present art system of biennials, networks, international mega events, and arts exchanges - that of "groundedness". Groundedness needs to precede mobility and groundedness should function as an important and essential collaborator to mobility.
Rooting the idea for BCI
platform of IFIMA, Chu Yuan and Jay Koh have been initiating dialogue and
activities in artistic and community collaboration and resource-sharing across
cultures. However, we believe that the appropriate action and form that the
action takes needs to be intimately responsive to context, to the "local"
conditions - the behavior patterns, knowledge and belief systems and existing activities
and agencies on site. This involves a long term view and sustained engagement
with a community in project development and collaborative processes.
Critic Lee Weng Choy, who is also artistic co-director of The Substation, Singapore, in addressing what he perceives as the crisis of art criticism, states that it is a crisis of performance - in that it can analyse, reflect and represent very well the complexities of art, culture and society, but it fails to point to any alternatives. He calls upon art criticism to perform the "universal crises of local symptoms". By local symptoms he means conditions under which cultures perform within specific places and historical moments. He pointed out the lack of articulation of local symptons and the need to make universal examples of local symptoms. A similar concern is also echoed by Davide Quartrio of BizArt Shanghai on the need for "building local cultural content".
What then are the local symptoms of still hanging onto perhaps outdated forms of art education, cultural institutional structures and art market mechanisms? In Sweden, where we were on a 10-week residency based in Umea, the symptoms were very clear - high unemployment rate and low morale of artists, government spending much money to create new functions and forms of employment for artists (through many Art & Business programmes, for example carried out by ARKIV in Umea), pessimism of art students and inability of artists to innovate new models of cultural productions that are adaptable to their own immediate environment.
The importance of articulating local symptoms, we intuited, holds the key to answering a question that Nick Tsoutas, formerly with Artspace Sydney, posed to us recently: How do we develop models that will carry cultural production into the next 25 years? If we are to choose, what are the things that we want to carry forward and what to leave behind?
The momentum and push for cultural connectivity has been building up for some time: the fact that there are so many artist-run spaces and public art institutions worldwide that are involved in cultural exchange; so many artists who each year think up of hundreds of new ideas and concepts and projects on how to link people and places and issues. And yet we are all working in rather restricted ways, in terms of finance, time and collaborative resources.
many websites with the objective of bridging cultures, many portals of
information are still being developed - but what is the interface of linking
potentially good partnerships? If an artist has an idea to make a project in
How can we
find ways to extend the pool of collaborative resouces and expand intercultural
capacities? How can we deepen the necessary inter-organisational and
inter-personal dialogue and understanding that can make a big difference to a
project? We decided that creating a bureau that is focused on and clearly
frames cultural interconnectivity would more effectively highlight these issues
and enhance the performativity of relevant actions. Thus we have drawn up the
basic idea for a Bureau for Cultural Interconnectivity (BCI).
What is BCI?
The Bureau for Cultural Interconnectivity is a collective platform that encourages discussions and reflections on and active imagining of appropriate models of cultural productions in response to localised needs and conditions.
It acts as
a supportive mechanism for cultural interconnectivity by assisting in deepening
the understanding of different cultural contexts, social structures and values,
systems of thought and practices; and to encourage intercultural (intra and
inter locality) collaborations that are attentive to working in response to
localised conditions and needs. This is achieved through active communication
and partnerships between various agencies involved in cultural production on a
A BCI site can be created by anyone or any group, anywhere and everywhere as an autonomous agency that works with other BCI sites.
Objectives of BCI:
1. To expand and extend the pool of collaborative resources
2. To build intercultural capacities - each culture and context is specific and knowledge is locally rooted - developing understanding of local specificities is necessary for intercultural competence
3. To encourage and act as interface for intercultural, reciprocal exchange that is motivated by person-to-person collaboration & honing of suitable models for identified contexts
Activities of BCI:
Possible activities of BCI include:
- Collaborative partnerships to increase interconnections between cultural producers and activities
- Research projects e.g. investigating appropriate models of cultural productions for each locality; and the local symptoms of having inherited models of production that were designed for past conditions or imported from another system
- Dialogues, e.g. to enhance understanding of local symptoms
- Labs to investigate artistic strategies, work processes and appropriate responses to specific social contexts
Resource-sharing projects e.g.
- Interactive exhibitions
Fundamental work for BCI
1. Grounding the local
of suitability of present models of engagement and cultural productions, and active
imagining of other models or how to improve on existing models - this begins
with the articulation of local symptoms of current models and systems in place
and issues in each context. (Although the primary focus is on models of cultural
productions, aspects of the arts and cultural environment, policies and
structures in place that no doubt impacts cultural production will have to be
included in the investigation)
local organizations and initiatives in each locality. Analyse interests and
directions. Make the cultural database available as a resource for other
2. Enlarging on the local
dialogue and possible areas for collaborations between groups, organizations
and disciplines which shares similar interests and directions in one locality.
This involves willingness to apply 'art knowledge' (basically creative
investigations, applications and transgressions of all forms) in working
closely with persons/ organisations from other disciplines, and to learn
from and work with other forms of knowledge and with other organisations with
similar concerns for innovative social transformations
3. Extending to inter-local
1. Resource pool of information on local cultural organisations and agencies in various localities, which includes information on objectives, activities, programmes, audience and community profiles, outreach methods, grassroots networks
2. Consultation to individuals, groups, or organisations - with an idea, for any intercultural or interdisciplinary exchange or project - who becomes a client of the bureau
3. Connecting people and organizations and adapting idea to local context - matching art producer's motivations, intentions, objectives with right agency on site. This involves connecting the 'client' with a resource person/ organisation (arts and non-arts) to enable a pre-project process of dialogue and adaptation of idea into something that is workable, applicable and responsive to context can take place.
5. Depending on the projects, the bureau could assist with raising small grants to support these projects
dialogues investigating issues related to inter-cultural engagements and
collaborations - e.g. examining models, methodologies and approaches; ethics of
engagement and exchange; groundedness in local contexts; building local
cultural content etc.
Is BCI a good idea? Would it work? How to make it work better?
We invite you to give your thoughts on this matter. The idea of BCI, its structure and activities are not fixed and open for discussion and debate.