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Talking Futures: Sustainability at work in the arts

Online-Workshop by Open Futures in collaboration with KlimaKontor

4.04.2023, 5.30–7.30pm, in English


In a cultural sector marked by a systemic precariousness that only worsened with the pandemic, ecological sustainability won’t be achieved without social and economic sustainability. Without decent socio-economic conditions, artists and cultural professionals are simply not well positioned to (fully) commit to ecological sustainability (just like many other disadvantaged communities: think, for instance, of the French Yellow Vests fighting against higher CO2 taxes that would have reinforced their precarious situations).

This is why sustainability in the arts can only benefit from an intersectional perspective (ecological, social, economic, cultural), which in turn means reconsidering labour arrangements in the sector. Socio-economic precariousness as well as power relations derive from the very nature and structure of the prevalent work relations in this sector: asymmetrical, temporary, conditional, and reputational. From these arises the often intensive competition, therefore the pressure to continually produce, be visible, market yourself, as well as gender, race, ability, and other forms of discrimination and violence.

Our intention then with the workshop “Talking Futures: Sustainability at work in the arts” is to offer a space to co-imagine sustainable ways of organising, working and thriving together as cultural professionals and as human beings, so that neoliberal competition and productivism, proprietary authorship and symbolic violence give way to more inclusivity, reciprocity, common good and, ultimately, ecological sustainability. We thus examine and work to reconsider some of the structural relations within and between artistic teams, presenters and funders, among others. Our purpose being to envision more socially and ecologically responsible futures for the cultural sector.

We begin by introducing some aspects of intersectional and transformative sustainability, then work in small groups (zoom breakout rooms and Miro board) who then report their thoughts and ideas as a basis for an informal collective conversation.

An event by Open Futures, in collaboration with KlimaKontor

Idea and co-moderation: Isabelle Vuong

Co-moderation: Annika Haas

Isabelle Vuong is a futures specialist and curator with a focus on sustainability, and a former manager of professional organisations and artists of the performing art field in Switzerland.

Annika Haas is a media theorist, art critic, and writer, who works and teaches as a research associate at Berlin University of the Arts (UdK), where she recently finished her PhD on Hélène Cixous’s philosophy and writing through the body.


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