RETHINKING PUBLIC SPACE } The Prince Claus Fund welcomed project proposals for cultural initiatives related to the rethinking of public space. Through this call, the Prince Claus Fund supported creative cultural initiatives that re-think, re-appropriate and/or re-use the public space in innovative and new ways and are linked to their local context. The term "public space" is defined as a social space that is open and accessible to all. A public space can take many different forms: it can be a gathering place defined by its social aspect, a civic space, a community space, a virtual space . . . The strength of the public space is its potential in reaching out and involving a wide and diverse group of people.
N.B: The answers of this questionnaire will be published in the Prince Claus Fund publication on the theme of rethinking public space.
Please complete the following:
Title of your project: In and Between the (Re)public
Name of your organization: Queering Yerevan Collective
1. Why – to what purpose – did you decide to undertake this project? As one of its annual art interventions Queering Yerevan posed the following question “What does it mean to live in and be an active member of a post-soviet (re)public?” The task was to problematize the growing division between the private and the public using a queering approach where the norm is subverted. The purpose of this project was to publicize the censored (what’s kept in private) and to create private spaces in a totalitarian culture that homogenizes anything that is different.
2. What are/were the challenges in carrying out your project? Many of the original graffiti works and stencilled texts on the walls were erased by the municipality of Yerevan. Some of our members were taken to the police station, interrogated, and fined for “ruining” private property and for corrupting people’s minds by disseminating the words of the socialist feminist poet Shushanik Kurghinian.
3. What is the most valuable thing you have learned? That it is necessary to document everything, all the events and activities of the Queering Yerevan Collective, because it will be erased by one or another system (be it contemporary art historiography, the police, or the patriarchal society).
4. How does your project re-think or re-define public space in your country? Public space is unreservedly masculine and heteronormative in Armenia; what we tried to do with our project was to offer a new, interrogative and diverse perception of public space.
5. Would you have been able to carry out your project without the help of the Prince Claus Fund? We would have been able to organize the art interventions and publicized some of our works on the Queering Yerevan blog, however we wouldn’t have been able to print the catalogue without the help of the Prince Claus Fund. The catalogue allows us to reach a wider range of audience and to preserve the works that have been erased by various entities.
6. How would you define public space in one word? Disciplining.
7. What is unique about public space in your country? It is defined and determined by a policing (masculinist) gaze.
8. What is your favourite public space in your country? The square in front of Yerevan State University.
9. In your opinion, how do arts and culture shape public space? Public space is always already immersed in arts & culture, the question is: what kind of arts & culture? Policing and totalitarian arts & culture foster a policing public (and vice versa). Interrogatively engaging and dynamic arts & culture, which are also self-reflective, transforming, and future-oriented foster an open public space.
10. What would you recommend to the Prince Claus Fund regarding the support of arts and culture in public space? Keep doing it! And thank you for supporting small collectives like ours!