Fusion. Collision. Translation. Adaptation. Transition. The nouns that could as well stand for the stages of culture shock, are manifested as the stepping stones of KALEJDOSKOP EAST-WEST, the new creative platform for rediscovering and promoting diversity in the contemporary urban canvas of multicultural Britain and beyond.
Grown from her university project as part of MA Arts, Enterprise and Development at the University of Warwick (Coventry, UK), Emilia Moniszko’s KALEJDOSKOP took a little more than half a year to mature into an independent initiative. Back in June 2015, the project’s first incarnation took shape of a 2-day micro-festival that was focused on the local creative economy and the future of arts in Coventry (the city currently bidding to become the UK City of Culture in 2021). Held in partnership with the city’s NHS mental health delivery agency The Pod, the festival attracted 12 acts and more than a hundred spectators. This promising start and the resonance it brought up locally helped to shape the future of KALEJDOSKOP and outline its forthcoming programme.
Emilia’s cultural roots and independent artistic practices are the two underlying facets of the project. Born in Poland and moved with her family to England when she was only 13, Emilia launched KALEJDOSKOP (Polish for Kaleidoscope) to reveal and revisit the creative practices of ethnic groups from Eastern Europe that are underrepresented in the cultural policy, media and city identities, first on the urban premises of post-industrial Coventry, then country-wide and internationally.
The project’s specific goal is to help Eastern Europeans living and creating in the UK and Western Europe in general to find their voice through contemporary art, experimentation and public debate. It asks the questions of how representative the national cultural policies can be, and whether there is a single identity that immigrants can retain, or we can rather speak of the immigrant subculture that goes beyond any definitions tied to nationalities. Contrary to typical community building initiatives, KALEJDOSKOP exposes cultural diversity, not subdues it, providing opportunities for integration into the Western European cultural field without losing distinctiveness and individuality.
When it comes to the birth of the concept, doing her Master’s around arts, cultural policy, entrepreneurship and development proved to be a “mind-opening” experience for Emilia, reshaping her understanding of art and the role of artists in society, as well as suggesting what she could do to build up the local community. The project is also informed by and largely builds on the actual cultural policies, drawing on the concepts of the European Union integration, the UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and Agenda 21 for Culture, among others. Still, the goal is to go beyond them to allow more inclusivity and experimentation beyond conventional forms.
Along with the theoretic prowess, the university also brought an important collaboration with Jonathan Vickery, Associate Professor and Course Director at MA Arts, Enterprise and Development (University of Warwick) who first assisted in organizing the micro-festival in June and who now takes the role of Emilia’s co-director at KALEJDOSKOP. His experience in development projects and connections in the creative industries helped to shape the project professionally, as well as to bring together an impressive International Advisory Board which role is in easing the access to institutions, intellectual property, resources and human capital.
It’s particularly noteworthy that the project implies no management or marketing strategy. Instead, it is being developed organically in collaboration with all the participants without enforcing anything. Central to this approach is also the prevalence of genuine passion over the drive to find regular funding, which should bring together a truly sustainable community that doesn’t have to rely on external investments to keep on.
KALEJDOSKOP defines itself as a platform, not an organisation, for this platform is flexible, multidisciplinary and dynamic, and its upcoming programme aptly reflects this approach. Currently under development, the programme for 2016 will feature or provoke public events (interviews, talks, lectures); art exhibitions, commissions in photography, documentary, writing; research and symposia; community and social engagement. Beyond this, part of the project will be building a digital archive of creative contributions and writing, all to be published on the KALEJDOSKOP website.
At the moment, Emilia and Jonathan are working to expand their geography with the upcoming event ‘The Coventry-Belgrade Dialogues’ that will focus on creating dialogues on ‘Art, Memory and Activism’ between the two twin cities and will feature a number of public discussions, publications and documentaries involving researchers and artists from Belgrade, Serbia, living in the UK.
Now, the call for contributors: if you’re an artist, blogger, creative practitioner or enthusiast interested in Eastern European arts and culture, please e-mail KALEJDOSKOP EAST-WEST at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can get involved.
The project: http://kalejdoskopeastwest.org.uk/
Emilia’s art: http://moniszko.com/
Photography: Marcin Szymczak, http://www.marcinszphotography.com/
The featured image: KALEJDOSKOP EAST-WEST logo by Emilia Moniszko