Reflection on the Intensive Summer Course in Marseille, 1 – 12 July 2018
In the European Academy of Participation (EAP) summer course in July 2018 about 45 international participants (art graduates, Masters and PhD students in sociology, theatre, urban planning, literature, etc. and young practitioners) were invited to spend twelve intensive days of exchange and learning in Marseille. The Goethe-Institut Lyon/Marseille and the Aix-Marseille Université organised the course on behalf of the EAP consortium and in collaboration with the local organization Les Têtes de l’art. The course as a part of the EAP project was co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union. It took place at La Friche La Belle de Mai, a former tobacco company transformed into a cultural center that hosts more than seventy local and international organisations, and offered an inspiring learning environment for the participants. Under the topic Métissage des cultures (engl.: “cultural melting pot”) the course focused on local participatory projects, associations and on the city itself as an urban space for artistic expression. The course took into account the characteristics of the culturally and socially rich Mediterranean port city that was shaped by several immigration waves during the last centuries. One of the participants said about the city: “It was a great experience to be in the wonderful city of Marseille – I can hardly imagine a better course. This also includes La Friche La Belle de Mai which is a very inspiring hub of expertise and a place where you can really meet different social groups from the city. Learning how a place like this can operate in a city and what kinds of strategies the institution is using to involve the public was very insightful.”
On the first day the participants were invited to arrange the “Place To Be” with furniture and to decorate it with their own artworks. This room served during the course for the participants as a place to meet during their free time and to present each other their own artistic work. The “Place To Be” was also used as a ‘speakers corner’ for self-organized discussion groups and on several days even for French courses.
For each day ‘responsibility groups’ were created which started every morning with 45-minutes sessions consisting of group building games and interactions. Furthermore they announced important practical information, collected feedback of the other participants and documented all activities during the day with different media. These ‘responsibility groups’ gave the participants the opportunity to get actively involved in the organisation of the course and its implementation.
In order to promote a horizontal knowledge exchange, three group projects were offered in which the participants had the possibility to exchange best practices and to work with artists from Marseille and Germany. The three group projects focused on different target groups: Artists working in public space, in semi-public space (schools, community centers, etc.) or in closed space (e.g. prisons). One of the participants reflected about this group projects: “I am very glad to have had practitioners in the course; their work was very close to my own practice. Getting to learn from people with so many more years of experience was very comforting and useful. It was really nice to have done an intervention in a public space and in a country in which I’m not fluent in the language. It gave me confidence to work in non-English-speaking countries.”
Several city walks with different topics were proposed to the participants during the course. Interculturality, economy and digitalisation – these important subjects for artists working with participatory methods were discussed with local stakeholders during strolls in different quarters of Marseille.
The TALKS were daily one-hour sessions containing the presentation and discussion of the work of local and international artists in a horizontal way. Ethical and practical issues related to participatory art were addressed and new ideas developed. “I learned a lot from the organizations and artists we had been exposed to, I soaked up a lot of knowledge and information from the presentations as well,” said a participant.
Several exhibition visits, the attendance of a dance spectacle, a picnic in the evening at the sea or an invitation to eat at private homes of people from Marseille are only a few examples of activities that complemented the rich program of the intensive twelve days course in Marseille!