Workshop in Komiža, Croatia, September 11-22, 2017

11/09/2017

From September 11th to 22nd, 2017 Omnimedia is hosting the workshop in Komiža, in the Island of Vis.

Artists Marica Grgurinović and Christian Liljedahl worked with the local community with an ambition to artistically instigate cultural shifts and social change especially in the sense of the raising civic engagement to improve the quality of life in community and building of public will and relationships that helps to cohere island’s community members around common purpose, identity, and a sense of belonging which may lead to social or community capital (collective value of bonding social networks that connect people, and the inclinations to do things for each other that arise from these networks and are based on trust, reciprocity and cooperation). The workshop was organized during the tourist season and the filming of the Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again Hollywood blockbuster. Event such as the invasion of Hollywood filmmakers and bringing the Hollywood film industry to the island made a crack in local culture and became a source of harmful stress for the members of local culture that influenced the workshop process  Facing all the difficulties that came out of such conditions, artists investigated different modalities of working with the community. Many precious insights came out this interesting, but not an easy experience.Focusing on individual approach while collecting stories from the local’s artists discovered many important issues to be discussed and developed in the future – concerning the different perspectives on the island heritage, community identity and cohesion, history and relation to the sea.

In such situation, when the island of Vis became a scene and backdrop of both – Greek island and musical Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, the workshop addressed the impact of such phenomenon on local society, including the arenas in which cultural heritage is preserved, held, collected, exhibited, presented and exists in the context of conflict between need to preserve island’s culture and increase commercial value with development of film tourism as a possible side effect of Holywoodization of the island.

The challenge was explore the effectiveness as well as problems of participatory approach and the way how it can be put into the practice when “the society of spectacle” and very powerful film industry turn the island’s cultural life upside down, threatening to replace the essential historic authenticity with fake authenticity and turning filming into symbolic capital of destination.

Also as this kind of mass tourism is based on the commodification of what should be valued as unique and on the homogenisation and standardisation that eliminate difference and wonder, through the PAIC workshop tried to imagine and explore a better alternative for a change focused on mindful alternatives which shift the definition of success from more (more visitors, acomodation capacity, resource to be exploited with destruction and harm) to better (more respect, community cohesion value, meaning, skills, vitality, sence of place, fulfilment, identity and heritage protection).

Since the island of Vis and the town of Komiza represent very particular topologies within both the Croatian and Adriatic geographical and historical context and within the wider Mediterranean cultural-historical and geopolitical environment, it is important to work on its preservation and improvement of mindful usage of heritage. Vis and Komiza have witnessed prehistoric times, the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome, the Renaissance, the 19th century struggles of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Italy and England for the domination over the Adriatic, the wave of emigration from the island to America (San Pedro, CA) at the beginning of the 20th century. Vis was the only free territory in the Adriatic in 1944 with collaborating forces of Tito’s partisans and British Army stationed on the island. Special topological punctum is Tito’s cave. Today it is also an international tourist destination.

All the while, Vis and Komiza have been both the periphery and the centre of the Mediterranean and Croatian culture. Despite having a small number of inhabitants, a small surface area and being geographically isolated, Komiza is an urbanized place featuring a pronounced linguistic, cultural, economic and social identity. Because of its strong identity, it can serve as a mediator for the problems that are common to island communities in Croatia, which arise as a result of physical, social and cultural isolation and their aspirations for change. We hope that integration of art and culture into these communities’ priorities will provide them with the skills and resources that can influence this change, and will further contribute to their vibrant cultural scene. Art and culture would thus become the strong indicator of those locations’ cultural vitality and quality of life.

To include through this workshop art and culture as one of the quality of life indicators we used use ACIP’s definition of cultural vitality as “…evidence of creating, disseminating, validating, and supporting arts and culture as a dimension of everyday life in communities”. This definition of cultural vitality is in line with the PAIC goals and island communities’ needs because it links culture and cultural preservation, renewal and representation to growth and development, economy, tourism and other communities’ concerns and recognizes art and cultural participation as integral to everyday life, community dynamics, and community conditions. Both approaches recognize that art and culture are resources that come out of communities rather than being “brought to” communities from the outside.

As the PAIC is built on the premise that cultural regeneration through art and creativity and through personal and social growth and transformation is the key to a better quality of life, and that implementation of new creative practices is more meaningful when it relies on the collaborative efforts of the wide spectrum of people involved, we find that familiarity with sociocultural processes is crucial for a workshop and project’s success. Therefore we will continue to generate success stories and good experiences, combining different research design and the activation of processes with short-term, medium-term and long term actions, involving local agents (individuals and various organizations), artists (those who form part of the local context, and those invited to join), the organization partnership (the four countries involved) and collaborating institutions, (institutions involved in the workshop process) with aim to develop artistic practices as a complementary method to sociological research, allow accessibility and inclusion issues to be conceived not only as a way to bring the community closer but also as a way of including art and culture as an important dimension of civic life and considered culture for its civic value.