Art, culture and identity - expression in times of crisis
Inspiring events, books, exchanges and a widely aired documentary are just some of the successes reported by EU-funded researchers exploring cultural narratives and artistic expression in periods of societal crisis.
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Europe is still coming to terms with the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. The neoliberal narrative of Western societies is being reshaped but the form and function of this dialogue has yet to find full expression, according to researchers from the EU-funded CRIC project. For inspiration, they have turned to Latin America.
To better understand such cultural narratives the way people speak, act and express themselves artistically and the nexus between ‘crisis and renewal’, researchers and staff from a number of leading European and Latin American institutions have taken part in exchanges, conferences and field studies involving street youths, indigenous people and diverse actors in this multidisciplinary project.
Via exhibits, visual installations, films, debates and other means, CRIC has attempted to identify the underlying values, beliefs, and practices that shape societies and the way they express themselves peacefully through art and culture.
“Take for example the ‘Cultural narratives of crisis and renewal’ event we organised at Newcastle University, which showcased popular art like Peruvian graffiti and exhibits of social experiments dealing with major challenges like immigration and assimilation, youth and employment, the language of cultural expression and more,” says Jorge Catalá Carrasco who co-leads the project.
Drawings and proceedings of the event were compiled in a 2016 bilingual Spanish-English book titled ‘Sketching Newcastle, a journey through crisis, culture and renewal’.
Peeling back the layers
CRIC has provided a vehicle to explore cohesive and alternative narratives in moments of crisis and social renewal. Participants focused on cultural outputs and practices in periods of societal crisis at the turn of the 20th century on both sides of the Atlantic.
“In the age of digital media platforms, we can often forget how fruitful organic encounters and direct contact with colleagues can be,” says Philippa Page who was seconded to Chile and Argentina as part of CRIC’s staff exchanges.
Her experience involved the opening up of obscure local archives and offered fresh perspectives on crisis and renewal in what can seem like vastly different socio-cultural settings but which ultimately have a lot in common once the layers are peeled back, she suggests.
The project has also co-produced a documentary on the Spanish-Chilean intellectual José Ricardo Morales (2016) with the Spain-based Malvalanda film production company. The film has been screened in more than ten cities in Europe and Latin America.
Collaborative network created
As an exchange programme, CRIC which received funding from the EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions programme has created a strong network of collaborative research and training. This has benefited not only civil society and the 40 researchers involved, but also postgraduate students and researchers from other universities in the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, Argentina, Chile and Peru.
The results go far beyond the original eight participating universities, according to the team.
To date, nearly 60 exchanges between European and Latin American researchers have taken place. The exchanges coincided with international conferences and intense research workshops.
“These activities have generated wide interest and debate around the role that theatre, film, graphic humour, poetry, literature, photography and journalism can play in the creation of shared social interpretations of issues, such as memory, exile, different forms of violence and economic grievances that result from crises on both sides of the Atlantic,” says Patricia Oliart who also co-leads the project.
The research team is keen to keep up the momentum once the funded part of the project concludes in 2018. Participants will build on many of the findings in a new EU-funded European Research Council project studying the interplay between gangs, conflict mediation, and youth organisations in Southern Europe, North Africa and the Americas.
Other enduring features include the creation of several transatlantic networks for journalists and researchers tackling topics such as gender-based violence and feminist activism, critical perspectives on nation branding and national identity, and the arts, politics and understanding of dissidence in Latin America.