For a Co-Imaginative Politics

Commoning Democracy between Art and Urban Governance.

What does it mean nowadays to take democratic decisions in the political and cultural sphere? How do we create tactics and strategies to foster processes of cooperation? Which are the practices enacted both at local and global level? Are commons potentially laboratories for cultural and political democracy? How can cultural actors and governments co-create participatory democracies?

Nowadays the notion of ‘participation’ is part of the political agendas in different geographical contexts. While many discussions about forms of democratic engagement in politics and in the cultural field are taking place for imagining a better and more inclusive world, at the same time, participatory practices based on (apparently) shared decision-making processes are also legitimizing forms of political populism both enacted by the right and the left of the political spectrum (i.e. Brexit in UK, the five stars movement in Italy and many others …).

The cultural sphere can be seen as the place to observe, to understand and to experiment with social and political changes. This is the reason why this domain is not impartial and safe. Only culture has the capacity to produce symbols for representing and communicating the values of our societies (both from a top-down and bottom-up perspectives). Cultural spheres are territories for introducing new possibilities, new imaginaries for living together and where those imaginaries are transformed in concrete civil actions. Commons, participatory democracy, participatory art practices, cultural democracy are part of emerging debates that take place in contemporary cultural institutions, in cities and at the EU level.

This symposium intends to open a discussion about forms of decision-making in policy frameworks and in cultural organizations. How can we generate co-imaginative processes to stimulate collaboration of different layers of our society? A ‘co-imaginative politics’ appears as a practice where the encounter between top-down policymaking and bottom-up actions – enacted by artists and the civil society at large – is creating novel democratic engagements and arrangements. Is this a form of (cultural) resistance to global pressures?

Three sessions, characterized by different points of view, will aim to discuss this notion of decision-making and co-imaginative practices creating a dialogue between cultural professionals, politicians and researchers which are experimenting with commoning democracies in their daily practices. 

We are interested in understanding how decisions are taken, what does participatory democracy mean for cultural institutions and for the interaction of cultural actors and governments

Pascal Gielen, Giuliana Ciancio

Venue:  Museum Hof Van Busleyden, Mechelen


Photo by: Sophie Nuytten

For a Co-Imaginative Politics. Commoning Democracy between Art and Urban Governance

  • 13,00- 13,40 | Introduction | Pascal Gielen, Giuliana Ciancio, University of Antwerp
  • 13,40 – 15,40 | Section 1 | the cultural policy perspective
    • Keynote: Dea Vidovic, director, Kultura Nova Foundation (Croatia)
    • Monica Urian, policy officer, European Commission (Belgium)
    • Hanka Otte, postdoc researcher, CCQO, University of Antwerp (Belgium/Holland)
  • 15,00 – 15,40 Debate
  • 15.40 – 16.20 | Coffee break
  • 16.20 – 17.20 | Section 2 | the organizational perspective
    • Keynote: Christine Greiner, professor, Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo (Brasil)
    • Roberto Casarotto, artistic director, B-Motion/ BassanoOperaEstate Festival, (Italy)
    • Sigrid Bosmans, director, Museum Hof van Busleyden (Belgium)
  • 17,40 – 18,20 Debate
  • 18.30 – 20.00 | Book launch &Reception
    • ‘When Fact is Fiction. Documentary Art in the Post-Truth Era’ edited by Nele Wynants, Valiz
  • 20.00 – 21.00 | Section 3 | between art production and policy perspective
    • Patrick Princen, participation councillor, City of Mechelen (Belgium)
    • Elly Van Eeghem, artist (Belgium)
    • Jozef Wouters, artist, Decoratelier (Belgium)
    • Dea Vidovic, director, Kultura Nova  (Croatia)
    • Monica Urian, policy officer, European Commission (Belgium)
  • 21,00 – 21,30 | Final Debate