To take a fresh look at the many challenges faced by the arts and heritage sectors, through the symbolic and historical prism of the city of Alexandria and its influences on urban development in the Mediterranean and beyond; this is, in brief, the objective of Alexandria: (re)activating common urban imaginaries, a project that wants to give a voice to innovative reflections on the relationships established between creation, culture, heritage and the development of the modern Mediterranean and European metropolis. To do so, it will set up nomadic artistic residencies between Egypt and Europe, produce exhibitions in the cities of Marseille and Brussels, and organise professional seminars and public forums. Conceived as an enabler for European and Mediterranean cooperation, ALEX will run from 1st November 2020 to 31st December 2023, with the aim of shedding light on the heritage of the Mediterranean city, which still remains insufficiently explored and understood, through the development of new cultural and artistic perspectives. How? “By facilitating the mobility of artists interested in comparatively interpreting the current urban fabric in European cities and Alexandria,” we read in the abstract of the project, “while questioning existing perception through a scientific and historical awareness-raising approach (…). The ALEX project will take visitors, contemporary artists, scientists and activists on a journey between heritage and creation, between the north and south of the Mediterranean, in a quest for what today constitutes our imaginaries of the city, its origin and its future”.
The project, supported by the European Union’s Creative Europe programme, draws on the resources of eight main partners: the Royal Museum of Mariemont (Morlanwelz, Belgium), the Palais des Beaux-Arts “BOZAR” (Brussels), Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto (Biella, Italy), the Museum of the Civilisations of Europe and the Mediterranean “MUCEM” (Marseille), the Onassis Stegi (Athens), the University of Leiden (the Netherlands), the Kunsthall of Aarhus (Denmark) and the Undo Point Contemporary Art Centre (Nicosia, Cyprus).
Among other actions, ALEX includes two residency programmes which will evolve independently but will encounter each other at various moments during the project cycle: the Caravan Residency Program: Thinking with Alexandria, conceived and realised by UNIDEE Residency Programs at Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto in Italy, and curated together with Edwin Nasr and in conversation with Sarah Rifky (please click here to see their bios); and Politics of Heritage – School for Sonic Memory Residency, organised by Onassis Stegi in collaboration with Theatrum Mundi. Prospective residents can apply for both residencies but will only be accepted to one.
The concept of the residency
“The chimeric port city serves as heuristic device for the Caravan Residency Program,” curators Rifky and Nasr explain in their curatorial text for the residency, “Alexandria has been shaped by the historic tensions and contested narratives of imperial and emancipatory forces. In the 13th century, it emerged as an atypical site of commercial activity and pre-capitalist trade infrastructures set up by European merchants. The New Imperialism of the 19th century then incorporated the Eastern Mediterranean into the circuitry of global economy; at that point, Alexandria was administered by the Ottomans, then bombed and occupied by the British. The city became a playground for the articulation of utopian imaginaries, hosting anarchists, intellectuals and renegades from the Arabic-speaking region and the world over to experiment with radical modes of assembly and critique and establish popular theatres and universities, independent presses and fugitive communes. The opportunity to think with and through Alexandria allows us to exercise worldmaking against erasure and towards futurities”.
The Caravan Residency Program
As mentioned, the Caravan Residency Program is part of Alexandria: (re)activating common urban imaginaries, a project that intends to survey the European cities of Athens, Brussels, Marseille and Nicosia through the lens of Alexandria and its contested urban imaginaries.
The presentation of the project states that “the opportunity to think with and through Alexandria allows us to exercise worldmaking against erasure and towards futurities. Worldmaking starts from worlds already at hand: the making is a remaking (Nelson Goodman)”. The Caravan Residency Program is thus an invitation to compose, toy with and re-figure existing parts and elements structuring our everyday through a peripatetic format in Alexandria and other cities across Europe and the Mediterranean. The year-long multi-city residency invites artists, cultural practitioners, and activists to articulate and configure new modes of relating to and understanding urban, infrastructural and social processes and formations. The residency programme engages local organisations in partner cities and works toward the 17 Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the United Nations 2030 Agenda.
Applicants can be artists working in diverse media – digital, moving image, painting and printmaking, performance, photography, sculpture, sound and text – as well as cultural practitioners and activists informed by and concerned with archival research, knowledge production, placemaking and/or community-based engagement; priority will be given to subjects demonstrating commitment towards generating new insights around urban histories and dynamics, coloniality and power formations, infrastructures and networks, and maritime cultures and poetics.
Applicants must be fluent in English and must currently reside within one of these countries: a EU member state or the United Kingdom, a EU pre-accession country, i.e. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey; an EFTA member state, i.e. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland; one of the following countries of the EU southern neighbourhood, i.e. Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia.
Selection and grants
Sixteen participants will be selected to partake in a field, discursive and practice-based programme in conversation with the residency curators, social entrepreneurs and a range of tutors and presenters working across diverse disciplines and contexts, to be tailored to the group. The residency is outcome based, and participants are expected to develop a final project as part of the programme’s conclusion, which will be then showcased as part of the Forums: Contemporary Alexandria in Athens, Biella, Marseille, Alexandria and Aarhus (Denmark). The deadline for application is 30th May 2021. Successful applicants will be informed by end of June, and the final list of participants will be announced on the organisers’ and project partners’ websites and social media platforms. All participants will be offered three residency paths and two residency stays in Biella, Italy. One residency stay will be planned in Alexandria, Egypt and one in Marseille or Athens or Brussels or Nicosia, depending on each participant’s individual choice. The final stay will be in Biella, and will be reserved for the production and presentation of the final projects. The grants cover travel, accommodation and meals. Participants will receive a €3,000 fee, payable in accordance to international and local laws. Additionally, each artist will have a budget of up to € 500 to cover the production costs of their final projects.