The Evens Foundation has launched a research and experimentation project to explore the conditions that enable a transformative aesthetic experience. It spans ancient, modern and contemporary creation, from the visual arts to music and sound.
Our aim is to look closely at the assumption that an aesthetic experience and arts education contribute to social and cultural inclusion.
After reviewing important and critically assessed work done in the fields of participatory art and social practice over at least 30 years, and the more recent reuse of these strategies to "integrate" newcomers, we decided to focus our attention on contemporary practices that take a critical stance on their ideological underpinnings and try to honestly evaluate their effects. Do they merely reproduce and perpetuate current power relations or do they contribute to interrupt and transform them?
The following questions helped us refine the project focus: How does an encounter with an artwork – an individual experience in itself – create the possibility of relating and attuning to others? How can our rich and complex cultural heritages provide the foundations for sharing in our increasingly diverse societies? How can the critical examination of a difficult past lead not to separation and disconnection, but to possibilities of thinking together ? Finally, do the gallery education and mediation practices fully consider the cognitive and empathic potential of the aesthetic experience?
The Foundation has been committed to working with heterogeneous groups for many years, and we have found that many cultural institutions question their mediation practices based on segmenting and categorising their audiences. This project, ultimately, seeks to create a common space for different publics to come together and share their symbolic worlds.
We have established partnerships with two major cultural institutions, the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Together with their educational teams, we began reflecting on experimental projects that could generate responses to our common questions. Two distinct but complementary projects have been designed as a result: Museum in Dialoog/Musée en Dialogue and La Tablée, each with a specific focus and several overarching concerns.
With our third partner, Theatrum Mundi, a research centre founded by sociologist Richard Sennett, we established the Voi[e,x,s] Research Fellowship. Starting from an observational study of a participatory artistic project at Chapelle-Charbon in Paris, the researchers will explore how a shared sensory experience affects people’s relationship with each other and their environment.