Whose Europe? The “New Europe” and Controversy around the European Idea

International Conference and Local Workshops, Public Events

The collapse of socialist systems in Eastern Europe and postcolonial moves to restructure the European periphery have brought conflict and even war in their wake, as disputes continue to erupt over the definition and form of national identities. The idea of Europe as a community and the European Union as a supranational and intergovernmental community of states have so far been, and still remain, important frames of reference.

In the cities and regions of Eastern Europe, the parallel processes of reconstituting a national identity and Europeanisation (i.e. forging a European identity in the context of EU membership) have sparked fierce debates over the European question: How does it relate to the respective history and (re)constitution of each country’s national identity? How can it contribute to forging complex identities? Particularly in cities, artists, activists and urban planners, among others who are vehemently committed to the democratic and European reorientation of their societies, have founded democratically enlightened civic initiatives. Subsequent struggles to lay claim to and define public space play out in the reappraisal and handling of cultural heritage, in the creation of both virtual and concrete forums for grassroots activism, in the articulation of visions of a democratic society, and in anticipation of new forms of coexistence, beyond national borders.

Who belongs to Europe? And when we say “Europe”, what exactly do we mean? Disputes over the European idea that are currently unfolding on the outer margins of Europe are to be put up for discussion by the general public. Civic initiatives will first present their projects as conference papers, and thereby foster nuanced and reasoned debate of the often, complex issues and contexts. The jointly developed outcomes will be further discussed locally and an international network of civic initiatives be simultaneously forged.

How might civic initiatives contribute to European unification? What might be the common ground for a “European civic society”? These questions are discussed with the local partners and the results are communicated to a European public as well as transmitted back into the local context. “Civic society” – that spectrum of socially active groups, milieus and scenes of various sizes (local, regional, national) – can forge strong local bonds and propel regional momentum. It also stands for an independent cultural sphere on an equal footing with the political and economic spheres.

Project Phases
Project Phase 1: Regional Conference in Yerevan (March 2019)
The spotlight will be on the region’s European perspective, specifically on the issue of its orientation to Europe. What does “Europe” mean for the national identity of these five countries in “the Eastern Partnership” – Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine? To what extent does public space mirror those government policies in search of a national identity? Where are the geopolitical borders of Europe drawn, and where the cultural borders?
The conference will be an opportunity for all the project partners to address the European question in light of its inherent contradictions, its viability for the future, and the challenges it poses for local, regional and national civic initiatives.

Project Phase 2: Local Interventions and Discussions
The questions and perspectives jointly articulated at the conference will culminate in an action plan, namely the launch, in cooperation with local stakeholders, of an open “lab” and a programme of public events, workshops, and urban interventions, to foster public discussion of these issues.

Project Phase 3: An Online Publication and Exhibition in Berlin (August 2019)
The aim is to mount an exhibition in Berlin along with a programme of panel discussions and cultural events. Artists from each country will be invited to make interventions in public space and in the exhibition. In parallel, a critical analysis of Europe today and its borders with countries of the Eastern Partnership will be presented in an online publication along with other findings of the Wessen Europa? / Whose Europe? research to date.
In bringing to international public attention the question of how Eastern Europe is currently redefining Europe, the project will make a significant contribution to European unity.

A project devised by sbca / CLB Berlin (Sally Below), Archis Interventions South Eastern Europe (Kai Vöckler) and

Project Partners (requested)
AICA Armenia, National Association of Art Critics, Ruben Arevshatyan
ICA Yerevan (Institute for Contemporary Art Yerevan), Nazareth Karoyan
European College of Liberal Arts in Belarus (ECLAB), Olga Shparaga
Georgia, Gaga Kiknadze
Mystetskyi Arsenal Kiew, Olesia Ostrovska
[KSA:K] – Center for Contemporary Art Chișinău, Stefan Rusu

Funding Authority: Federal Foreign Office of the Republic of Germany
Programme: Developing Cooperation with Civil Society in the Eastern Partnership and Russia


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