With human relations and social context as their point of departure, community artists handle a varied range of skills, methods and tools to create space or to moderate circumstances for shared activities. Also in design and design research we see a growing use of participatory practices in which the knowledge, experience and creativity of community members are valued beyond inspiration. Artistic participatory practices, which are not exclusively initiated by artists, can establish connections between people and strengthen or create communities. Such relations need to be worked on, especially when the artist or designer is an outsider to the community.

In the practice based PhD project TOWARDS TOGETHERNESS the possibilities of artistry, creativity and new media to create a temporary feeling of togetherness during participatory practices is researched between 2009 and 2015. As a response to my experiences in community art and in contact with indigenous communities, I am investigating how it is possible to create a temporary feeling of togetherness. In my opinion distance is not beneficial to collaboration, or to end results. Difference, on the other hand, is valuable. People are allowed to be different and they better stay themselves, whatever ‘us’ or ‘them’ they belong to. The inclusion of different experiences is always one of the added values of participatory practices. I believe though, that during the act of participation, artistic and creative practices can bring people more together, temporary. The act of expression and shared activity can build a metaphorical bridge where people can meet in the middle, in the between. A temporary feeling of togetherness, also to be described as a feeling of solidarity or connectedness, can occur in this shared moment, which will diminish when people end the activity and go back to the ‘us’ that distances ‘them’.

Two media art projects and a yet unknown amount of happenings and artifacts are realized during this practice based PhD research. In the project FOOD RELATED, an online platform is developed to collect and exchange facts and experiences related to Arctic food culture. In the project NIVA TO NENETS the artist drives her beloved Lada Niva to the reindeer herding Nenets in the northwest of Russia to question the paradox of bringing help. Participatory practices are common in the realization of both projects and are also the main activity during the happenings that accompany them. Researched in practice and in theory, these participatory moments focus on the following research question:

How can artistry, creativity and new media create a temporary feeling of togetherness during artistic participatory practices?

Part of the participants are indigenous, which enlarges the studied us-and-them experience. My decision to choose the Arctic region as working location is based upon my personal interest and my personal wish to do a project that might support the peoples of the Arctic. The difference in character and approach of the two projects guarantee a rich research practice while the happenings make smaller experiments and iterative testing possible. Multidisciplinary working habits enable innovation, interesting for all domains involved. Most of the explored methods derive from anthropology and design research, such as participative ethnography, performative engagement, participatory design, cultural probes and several mapping methods. Although the outcome will be ascribed to art, it will be beneficial to all who aims for a temporary feeling of togetherness during (artistic) participatory practices.

I am grateful for the support of professor Patrick Devlieger (promotor) and Liesbeth Huybrechts (co-promotor), who guide me during this quest…

Rosanne van Klaveren is a media artist, researcher and teacher working on participatory practices and new ways of storytelling since 1999. She studied Autonomous Art at the HKA (Arnhem, Netherlands), Photography at Post-St.Joost (Breda, Netherlands) and Cultural Studies at the University of Leuven (Leuven, Belgium). Van Klaveren realized many storytelling projects online (www.verhaalprojecten.nl) including BRAINTEC (www.braintec.info) that won the ISOC-Award for Internet and the Arts in 2001 and was nominated for the International Media Art Price in 2002. To profound her knowledge of the Arctic, she also studies a BA in Circumpolar Studies at the University of the Arctic (Bodø, Norway). She teaches about participatory practices, digital storytelling and research practices at the Media, Art & Design faculty (Genk, Belgium), where she is a member of the research group Social Spaces (www.socialspaces.be).



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