by Julia Suwalski
The project presents the power and potential of a workshop that chooses to make the opinions of its most important users in the city, the residents, count once more. The intention of this art project is to draw out parts of the unseen and unheard life of Belgrade citizens and, in particular, the life of the Savamala citizens. With our work we stimulate social change through collective craft practises. We strongly encourage a critical attitude toward our built environment. With ‘Power of (inter)action, a series of workshops’ we presented a project on urban transformation in the form of a series of workshops.
In October 2013, we, the collaborating artists Julia Suwalski and Ron van den Akker first visited the site. We spent a week of talking and listening in Savamala.
Soon, we chose to work with the power of making in offering and organising a workshop ‘a neighbourhood, noise and musical production’.
While talking to citizens we clearly understood our luck, that the Goethe Institute provided us the room ’Savamala dizajn studio’ in the Kraljevića Marka 8. The district is invisibly structured on various levels, thus is the ownership of houses and the possibilities to rent apartments relatively complicated. With an ambition to activate the room together with locals/citizens as a platform for exchange and new networks for a long-term period, we saw the benefit of a workshop as a meeting which brings together small groups of participants around a predefined task or problem.
A workshop has visible results which are obtained through contribution of all participants. It is organised as a series of multi-hour sessions over a period of several days, which helps to build up a closer relation between all participants. A workshop is a creative process on which a group of participants exchange knowledge, experiences and ideas. The method is also called ‘collaborative learning’.
It develops a sense of trust between different participants who jointly analyse and assess the impact of important interventions, explore options and shape ideas for further development of a certain project or plan.
Preparation of the Workshop:
We decided to define our themes in order to announce our workshop better and to attract participants.
Both of us have ceramic art and crafts as a background. As pensioned ceramicist we saw the quality in sharing our knowledge with participants. We hoped the power of knowledge and passion could jump over to make people enthusiastic about working together and with clay. Inspired by the intensive soundscape of Savamala, we added noise and music to our themes for the workshops. In order to intensify the impressions of Savamala, we asked the participants to sculpt sound-producing objects related to space or to bodies in space.
-sculpting sound-producing object related to space ‘’like grrrr,srrrr train going over a bridge’’
-sculpting sound-producing objects related to bodies in space ‘’persons,identities,houses’’
With our Toolbox (Instruments/tools to work with clay), Toolkit (a workshop on wheels) and a station-is a roof as a recognisable attribute of our group and part of all activities, inside or outside of our room.
Beside its performative value it is a practical equipment with a roof and benches to be independent whatever the weather conditions might be. We moved together from our room towards a ‘central’ place of Savamala, the riverbank of the river ‘Save’. Placed on that viewpoint we were able to overview the bridges as two boarders of Savamala,the old ships neglected, the residential buildings covered with a dusty curtain, high-frequency traffic. The impressions were completed by noise of traffic and tang of emissions and river water.
Starting with these impressions we presented the workshop goals, after which the participants were given the opportunity to get acquainted with a certain specific plan or project and, subsequently, to express their opinions and comments on the presented subject.
Firstly our goal was to make people enthusiastic to gather, make music together, share and network. Secondly, we intended to activate and open up a place like ’Savamala dizajn studio’ as a platform through organising further workshops. By giving the responsibility to locals as well the activation of the place could have a long-term effect. From the first session on, we planned together upcoming workshops initiated by locals in order to activate the place and to give it a long-term perspective.
To underline our goal to make a place in collaboration with locals, which can function as a long-term platform for exchange, gathering and production, we handed out ‘empty’ poster. We invited participants to fill out the ‘empty’ poster to announce their own action or workshop.
-feedback informing builds a network of trust and mutual respect
The next two sessions took place in our room ’Savamala dizajn studio’. All participants had time to reflect on their own work and improve the objects partly. Additional support and knowledge we got from Draško Mašović. He is part of the Laboratory of Acoustics at the School of Electrical Engineering. The main research field and processing material is sound. His very specific knowledge and experience with sounds Draško liked to share within our workshop. The participants used the possibility to present their inspiration for the objects and which sound they would have liked to produce.
An active participation allows all participants to express their knowledge and experience in a creative way, and to expose their own view of the situation in search of solutions. At the same time, participants develop a sense of personal responsibility for the adopted solutions and their implementation.
Through the presentations we opened up an exchange of practical experiences in Belgrade. Once more the importance of networks became crucial during our discussion. For example, the students were unsatisfied with their school programs not being applied to real environment and a local would appreciate an active community and a growing network.
The Faculty of Fine Arts, Velimir Vukićević
As a matter of fact we needed a kiln to fire some of the ceramic objects. The closest kiln in our neighbourhood was in The Faculty of Fine Arts. As soon as we entered the Ceramic Workshop we had the pleasure to meet Velimir Vukićević. He is a Professor of the Sculpting Department with an open ear for our project. Even though the school is known for it’s strict rules, he understood the matter of our workshop. He even did not only organise a kiln in the school, we even could fire objects in his private kiln at home. Velimir Vukićević is a favoured Professor of the Department, because of his ability to give the students the possibility to make own mistakes. He supported the project and underlined the need of an open place to experiment and network.
As an exchange of service we translated a text for using his private kiln at home.
-finalising sound-producing objects
-jam session with performative action
The last session functioned as a feedback of the workshop. Because of inviting additionally new participants for this session with an interest for making music we opened up the network of collaboration. We started with finalising the sound- producing objects by adding other material or assorting the objects into groups with the help of the new participants. Together we prepared everything necessary for the jam session. A jam session is a musical activity where musicians play by improvising. Jam sessions are often used by musicians to develop new material, find suitable arrangements, or simply as a social gathering and communal practice session. In our case it is about making music with the sound-producing objects related to Savamala, thus creating an improvised ‘hymn’ for it.
Beside the musical part of the last session, we introduced the long-term project for this place. By accentuating the power of (inter-)action and making together with additional activities around the jam session, participants wanted to organise workshops on one’s own initiative. Part of the session was as well a cooking-team, completing our gathering with delicious local food. A local citizen, Ljuba, and a member of our group from Japan, Mai Shirato, prepared together Serbian inspired food on a metal stove heated with wood, completing the activities with an inviting smell.
The cooking together and sharing food is an important action for our project. The philosophy of our projects is to empower a group of people through collaborative activities, shared goals and active networks and the manifestation of power of a self- sustaining community. We think that sharing develops relationships and mutual confidence. To share food and cook together is the basis to find common ground.
“Sharing doesn’t just enhance the welfare of humans,” explained Gurven. “The human subsistence niche would never have been possible without sharing. It’s no coincidence that sharing is most pervasive and structured among humans, the one primate whose economy is defined by high levels of interdependence.”
An underlying norm of reciprocity is by itself a powerful engine for motivating, creating, sustaining, and regulating the cooperative behaviour required for self- sustaining social organizations. Reciprocity as a form of social obligation calling for future acts kindness can be seen in the Japanese word for thank you, “sumimasen,” which means “this will not end”
In the final stages of this session we prepared a performative addition to the Jam Session as a ‘speak out’. People were invited to dance to the music to produce clay mortal. We prepared a pool filled with clay from the workshop, splint from a local carpenter, hay and water. This mixture intuitively invited participants to cover the outside wall of the room ’Savamala dizajn studio’. This ‘reparation’ of a badly damaged wall functioned as a speak out on the issue related development- to tell Savamala about the activation of the place in the Kraljevića Marka 8.
Visible results of the process:
Achieving results is a real proof that the process makes a difference. The project results: improved personal or working relationships, agreement on the goals of the program or plan, identification of problems, generation of new ideas, new partnerships, new initiatives, behaviour changes….