In late 2012 Ouunpo will hold a meeting in Beirut, Lebanon. OuUnPo is an international exercise in democracy and self-organisation. It has no rules, no hierarchy, no permanent members or written program. These are negotiated and renegotiated by the members for each session. It is a research network made up of artists, curators and scientists who meets at regular intervals to interact and to investigate a given problem. It often does so in places of crises (Athens, Porto) or where historical conflicts (Belgrade/Skopje) marks the political and human landscape. This strategy is devised to instigate and retain a meaningful discussion about democratic processes.
In the wake of the last years’ events, the network feels that it needs to move beyond its European birthplace and to investigate what can be learned from events of the Arab Spring and how these can be reintegrated into Nordic democratic and artistic processes. OuUnPo has therefore taken the first steps to develop its ties with artists, curators, scientists and institutions in Lebanon. These will be develop during the year and activities will lead up to a week-long work session in Beirut in December 2012. We will use the urban landscape as a starting point and investigate the traces of past and present political and activist history in the city and how these are integrated into everyday life.
Following the outbreak of the so-called Arab Spring in Egypt and Tunisia in 2011, the whole Middle East area has been invested in a renewed propulsion towards democracy and collective participation. In a time when European representative democracy has been facing the turbulence caused by a global financial power, it is important that cultural agents from all European countries start to actively contribute to investigate and renovate the notion of democracy. Lying on the shore of the Mediterranean, Beirut is a city whose past and recent history is intertwined with international geopolitical interests. Due to her strategical position in the heart of the Mediterranean, Beirut has always been an attractive pole for ancient empires and populations, as the unearthed layers of Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader and Ottoman remains testimony. The city offers a complex and multi-layered urban tissue that acts as a proxy for the exercise of collective memory. Today's Beirut is in fact also the result of the wounds caused by decades of war and destruction since the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) and the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War. In the present days, Beirut still plays a central role in the ongoing redefinition of "democratic regime". Its geographical and cultural vicinity to Syria pushed us to directly question the position of the artist -or more in general the cultural agent- within a certain political horizon. As a transnational, non- hierarchical European network of artists, curators, scientists and scholars we will cope with the uncomfortable question of taking responsibility and assuming a position towards the development of a cultural policy between the formal European Union and the Middle-East area. The OuUnPo project will be an occasion to confront international artists and academics with the city of Beirut, its past and present, its institutions, museums, architecture and communities, in order to foster dialogue on the local history of cultural encounters.
The project is going to operate on two interconnected levels:
1. OuUnPo will make interventions in museums their exhibitions and collections. The goal is to activate the temporary exhibitions and permanent collections with creative guided tours, walks, performances, sound-interventions, readings and lectures. These can also take place at a given place in the city in order to emphasize a give aspect of the exhibition or collection. The latter is carried out to create a link between the everyday lives of the citizens and the displayed artwork –to highlight and affect the exhibition without necessarily being part of it.
2. The group is going to carry out investigations in the urban landscape of Beirut. We take the starting point in the Lebanese cityscape and carry out performances, sound-interventions and smaller installational activities. These will be private, public or sometimes for a smaller invited group.
The International workshop will offer an occasion to officially launch the first OuUnPo publication at the Batroun Projects. The long-lasting activities of OuUnPo have been collected and edited in a book designed by Åbäke in London and published by Dent-de-Leone. The book documents in an artistic manner the development of the specific OuUnPo working methods with focus on how they have been implemented to stimulate new outlooks on democracy, self-empowerment and new ways of collaborating transnationally. The book is characterized by a trans-disciplinary approach dealing with issues of contemporary culture, with particular attention to new concepts between visual art, performance, cultural identity, sociology and critical studies.
The events will be organised by Fatos Üstek and Sara Giannini in collaboration with Rayya Badran and Ghalya Saadawi. Confermed partners in Beirut are Batroun Projects and Ashkal Alwan.
For the the meeting in Beirut, OuUnPo will join forces with the international research project "GAM – Global Art and the Museum". GAM is a research program initiated by Hans Belting and Peter Weibel at the ZKM – Centre for Art and Media Karslruhe in 2006. Its aim is to spark a debate on how the globalization process changes the art scene and to undertake a critical review of the development 20 years after its onset. In light of the undiscussed and year-long expertise in the field of global contemporary art, and especially in relation to art institutions, the GAM research team led by Andrea Buddensieg and Hans Belting will be acting as advisory board concerning the issues of inter-cultural dialogue and exchange in the visual arts. Following the week-long events in Beirut, the GAM project will invite some of the participants for a public event in February 2013. During the conference, both OuUnPo members and temporary guests will share their experiences and activities in Beirut with the GAM team and the general public. The presentations will serve as a moment for speculation and confront on the Beirut meeting, but most important as a source for a more general debate on the notions of democracy and art in nowdays Europe.