PAIC team visiting KraftWerket and Kenneth Balfelt in Copenhagen

15/02/2017

As part of PAIC networking and dissemination activities, the PAIC team spent a day in Copenhagen, learning about good practice local examples and exchanging ideas about theoretical roots, artistic approaches and cultural management. We wanted to use a comparative perspective on the various participatory concepts and approaches and thus arranged the visit to KraftWerket, nice, self – organized place used by young people for their own artistic/cultural activities.

 

KraftWerket is a warm place, with tv and music studios, concert space and many other rooms adjusted to different activities. Entire building was showed to us, with detailed explanation about its organization and functioning. This Youth House and workshop oriented organisation is supported by the Municipal of Copenhagen. They educate tomorrow’s culture contractors, creating a dialogue between the city government and the city’s young people. Kraftwerket is working to ensure that young people of Copenhagen are able to start projects, set up events and have influence on political change. It is Copenhagen’s most experienced project consulting place and has for 15 years helped and advised young project visionaries, artists and performers to develop ideas and realize their projects in the city. (https://da-dk.facebook.com/kraftwerket). The working mode is based on mutual trust and group as well as individual responsibility. For example, young stakeholders have their own keys of the place, using it according to their needs, but with the awareness of the responsibility for what happens in the space.  There is also a fund for projects, approved by the municipality and allocated in accordance with the decision of the board consisting of young stakeholders and adult leaders of the KraftWerket. These are all nice examples of structuring the organization based on participation, dialogue and sense of responsibility towards community. Along with values PAIC strives to establish and promote, we were happy to be introduced to the place where such vision functions as a daily experience. Collaboration between different kind of stakeholders as a principle of functioning is making it possible. It was communication between youth, organizers and municipality, as we have been told, that made this space for innovative and creative expressions of future artists and culture enthusiasts possible.

 

As the PAIC team is focused on cooperation and exploring cross sectorial as well as various local and cross national project ideas to enlarge the project perspectives and open new future opportunities, the trip to Copenhagen continued with another fascinating story. We went to me Kenneth Balfelt, Danish artist working in the field of participatory art and urban interventions. He introduced us to his practice, methodology and working principles based on communication and negotiating between different actors in social field. To give an example of both his methods and believes he told us a story about two girls, grandmother and an orange. Both girls wanted an orange and quarreled about it. At first, grandma wanted to split it in two equal parts but then she remembered to ask them more specific question about what they need the orange for. One girl answered that she wanted to use orange peel to bake a cake and the other said she wanted to make the juice from its core. It was clear from the answers that both girls could get exactly what fits their needs, but if grandma did not have time or wisdom to listen more careful and deeper, grls would, either keep quarreling or and up with unsatisfactory solution.  Kenneth told us the story comprises an essence of his approach: when working with communities as well with municipalities it is important not just to ask questions but to learn to listen to each group. From the art of conversation and listening, leaving things open enough, the solution appear “almost by themselves” as he said. It is a process of hearing the needs of individuals and groups instead of imposing and presupposing, the process of finding and creating solutions step by step, not of forcing preconceived plans and ideas into community. To illustrate it even better, Kenneth gave an example of his work on the Copenhagen park where beer- drinkers gathered. He was engaged by the municipality with the aim to make the park more plausible for children, walker-bys but also for its usual residents who spend most of days there, drinking beer. As a result of Kenneth’s work, dialogue between the municipality and beer- drinker’s community was established and the park was redesigned so different group – children, passer- bys as well as drinkers can use it side by side. Even now, when there is presentation of the project, some of the park beer-drinking residents are invited to tell their side of story about the involvement in the project, since the park design included their needs. They were proud to tell us so when we took a snowy walk through the beer-drinker’s park.

 

It is always enjoyable and beneficial to learn from those whose work inspires and contributes to community. Inspite cold and snowy weather, we felt worm at Copenhagen, learning about this beautiful, as well as socially and environmentally aware city with lot of socially engaged practices.