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Case studies of three successful audience and market development projects

Kalender – Benjamin Verdonck

In 2009 the Flemish theatre and sculptural artist Benjamin Verdonck delivered Kalender, a performance that lasted 365 days. In that entire year he accomplished some hundred acts, gatherings, happenings and accumulations in the city of Antwerp. By doing so he was present in the city for a long time and created a buzz around his artistic project. Some actions were planned ahead of time, but by also adapting to things that were happening in the city he was able to capture the interest of a wide range of inhabitants and passers-by.

Photo: Mark Rietveld

In 2009 he installed new monuments, wrote letters to free political activists, tried to build houses, led a parade of consumer goods, collected lost properties, dressed up to do slapstick acts, started a vegetable garden in the middle of a buzzy crossroads… Online he kept a dynamic calendar in which he reported the different activities. At the beginning of the year a lot of the happenings involved only him; by the end of the year some gatherings included many inhabitants of the city. As the project grew, the amount of followers grew with it.

During the year he also presented the progress of his calendar in a couple of theatre venues, and at the end of the year he gathered all of his activities in an illustrated book as a souvenir for his funding bodies, partners and followers. His way of approaching the project changed a one-man calendar into a city-wide activity for all Antwerp’s inhabitants.

Kortrijk Congé

Kortrijk Congé is a festival organised by Kunstencentrum BUDA (arts centre) in cooperation with De Kreun (music centre) and vzw Wit.h (community arts organisation). Kortrijk Congé is built upon cooperation between artists, organisations and audiences. Without interaction, it wouldn’t exist.

For ten years, Kortrijk Congé has been organising a series of very different editions. Collaboration and collective work are key words, forms differ. Another key interest of this festival is the city and its future. Kortrijk Congé had its last edition in 2015. The organisation is working out a new concept for the future.

In 2014,Stadinstaat vanuitzonde ring (‘City inastateofexception’) took place. The organisers invited their audience to come to the festival, asking that they stay for eight- hours, without knowing beforehand what would happen. A jury selected ideas coming from the whole country, and even further afield. Practical ideas about living together, as well as poetical concepts, formed the basis for experiments in community living. Visitors were challenged to cooperate in a system that was still inventing itself – to build up a self-sustaining community by means of what they themselves brought in, whether it was knowledge, food or something else. The system was based on an economy of action rather than money, and relied on responsibility as a common good. The ‘city’ this created existed for 25 hours.

The audience the festival reached in 2014 was a middle-class, white, educated one. But as they’d been thinking about the city in all its aspects, in 2015 they aimed for a greater inclusion of people from different backgrounds. That’s why they invited the Russian art collective Chto Delat (which means ‘What now?’) and introduced them to different kinds of organisations in Kortrijk. They came up with the idea of a procession formed of performances, banners, costumes and so on, that would provoke ideas about our common future. The festival took place for only one day, but a ten-day programme of workshops prepared the event. Workshops were organised by different types of associations (social, artistic, etc) and were open to everyone. The procession and the subsequent gathering was meant to be a celebration of the future – a future still to be made by every citizen.

NEXT

NEXT has taken place every year since 2007, presenting international performing arts over sixteen days, and spread over the Eurometropole Lille-Kortrijk-Tournai-Valenciennes. NEXT is also involved in LEARN DO SHARE (2015), a one-day conference about stimulating citizen participation through innovation, creativity and digital technologies.

Five Flemish, Walloon and French art and cultural organisations (La Rose des vents, Villeneuve d’Ascq (FR), Espace Pasolini, Valenciennes (FR), Kunstencentrum BUDA, Kortrijk (BE), Cultuurcentrum Kortrijk (BE), La Maison de la culture de Tournai (BE) combine their strengths, presenting self-produced and hosted performances. The focus is on new art forms and on challenging the boundaries of performance art.

The aim of NEXT is to present performing arts in the region, and to let audiences and artists travel through the Eurometropole, showing its broad potential as a meeting zone for culture. The aim is to present and stimulate the Eurometropole as a region of international artistic creation and presentation. Recognised artists as well as promising new ones are invited. During the festival, the audience can take buses to and from the locations. Locations may also be outdoors or pop up temporarily. Workshops are organised to create spaces for audiences to meet artists (and vice versa) during the festival. Every workshop is outlined by an artist. Every edition ends with a big party bringing together the audiences and artists of the two weeks of presentations.

In 2015, NEXT was rewarded with the EFFE award by the European Festival Association for its trendsetting qualities.