City (Re)Searches

Experiences of Publicness Project Initiators

Project description

From June 2012 until June 2013 the research project "City (Re)Searches" put culture under the spotlight. We focused on contemporary cultural heritage and expression. We explored the memory of culture i.e. something that city people valued and held as significant for their lived lives in families, in community and in public. To come towards living culture - percolating and re-forming itself - it was necessary to develop ‘instruments’ of communication using the lens of an engaged art practice. For this task of communication, we invited 12 artists and researchers who have a depth of understanding about the place of culture in society. They were invited to collaborate and to exchange their practice, ideas, experience and were called the PIE Group.
City (Re)Searches involved a series of 4-day inquiries that travelled and grew incrementally from Cork (Nov 2012), Belfast (Feb 2013) and Kaunas (June 2013). In each city we explored 2 questions: (1) What culture can do and (2) How can culture transform? These questions were approached through the lens of specific communities and localities. We wanted to listen to, and hear as many voices as possible. One member of the PIE Group, a Dutch artist called Jeanne van Heeswijk, produced an emergency pop-up structure for the public discussions that became our temporary home for inquiry in Belfast and Kaunas.

How was the project innovative?

The project was innovative by viewing memory of culture not as something past but as a lived in the present; by linking the state of culture with the state of publicness; by nurturing new narratives about the public value of culture and public life of art; by seeking to register/map the contemporary features of culture and public-ness; by linking the local and the translocal; as well as by making mistakes and existing with shortcomings of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

How is the project linked to the theme of 20th century European memory?

As researchers we want to be witnesses to the the potency of culture to effect transformation in local communities. Can culture be an instrument for communities to move outside their own traumas and injustices of recent memory? Cork, Belfast and Kaunas today produce memory that is often not seen or heard. In Belfast, some of its citizens marched for the right to raise its flag emblematic living memories of extreme violence of nationalist/loyalist histories on both communities. In Cork, we met victims of lived life in Ireland’s greedy Celtic Tiger that passed over its poor communities and left the country bankrupt. Since joining the EU, Kaunas and Lithuania has had a steady stream of almost a million people becoming work migrants and forced Ryanair patrons travelling to Ireland, UK and Scandinavia. Our deliberations produce a set of emergent themes important for memory if it can be mobilized as a recuperative force in which to turn the tide of participation in culture, in society and in politics.

Further information:

Project documentation:
Sample Pamphlet:


Blue Drum (IE) in association with Kaunas Biennial (LT) and Community Arts Partnership (NI)