Step 1: Programming

In the shadow of the coronavirus 
The years 2020 and 2021, overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, have allowed us to practise minimalism – it is a kind of training which exposes the former everyday life and its weaknesses: consumerism, overproduction, hyperglobalism, inequalities and socio-economic exclusion. The old system will not go back on track easily – and it shouldn’t. Reforms and a major reset are much needed. Remember that it is up to you, at least partly, whether the lessons of the pandemic will catalyse deeper changes or whether it will exacerbate previous weaknesses.

> Read a report describing the situation of artists not employed by institutions during the pandemic: “Other culture is possible. Coronavirus and the future of culture in Poland”, source: Instrat and Biennale Warszawa
> Read the report Culture of the Future, describing the situation in culture caused by the COVID-19 pandemic based on the example of the Poznań cultural sector, source: Poznan.pl
> Read an article by Katarzyna Niedurny about the reactions of theatres to the pandemic: The pandemic was assumed to halt pathology in theatre. For now, all we have is a huge crisis, source: e-teatr

Running away from overproduction
Tons of materials are rarely reused or recycled. Set designs, exhibition architecture, props are often produced for a one-off event. This is a compulsive mode of having to produce more and more artifacts only to dispose of them soon after use (see: PRODUCTION: MATERIALS). Overproduction associated with the life of materials is only one aspect of this problem. Another one is the imperative of ‘being productive’, i.e. running numerous projects, one after the other, or, better still, all at the same time, to prove one’s usefulness, take care of visibility, keep or gain an audience, start the funding spiral, as the success of one production is an excellent argument in the process of applying for more funds. Deadlines, projects, grants – we have learned how to catch, patch up, rush around, often losing quality on the way, giving up a chance for deeper reflection on the activities carried out and foregoing fundamental assumptions due to insufficient time to include them. Another problem is creating ephemeral productions e.g. shows or performances which are presented to the public only once or twice, as there is no more room in the busy programme and competitiveness and ailing cooperation between cultural institutions do not allow the productions to be shown elsewhere. 
Interestingly, not even the pandemic could halt the overproduction momentum. Searching for the lost contact with the viewers, the Internet, which turned from a communication platform into one for programming activities and then remained so for months, was first a space for presentations of archival digital content, only to give way to new more or less polished digital productions. Insofar as the pandemic overproduction could be viewed as springing from the anxiety over the uncertain economic future and solidarity with non-institutional creative freelancers who otherwise would be devoid of income for many months, overproduction as such is not a new challenge as it has been shaping the area of culture for decades now. It is therefore necessary to stop accounting for cultural activity according to market rules, i.e. productivity, competitiveness, visibility, prestige, quantity. These indicators must cease to be the drivers of cultural activity for the escape from overproduction to be possible. Culture requires calming down, slowing down and use of longer creative processes. It needs cooperation, rather than competition; sharing, rather than ownership barricades. Contrary to some concerns, this would not reduce the space for creativity, experiments, provocation or innovation – these activities are supported by a more mindful process that allows for extension of both critical discussion and of cooperation.
A successful escape from overproduction also creates hope for solving another problem affecting the cultural sector, i.e. the lack of work-life balance, over-exploitation (or self-exploitation) of employees and the resulting chronic tiredness or burnout.

> See more: EMPLOYEES
> Also read: Weronika Parfianowicz, Overproduction, source: Dialog 
> As a relief from overproduction, check out Stach Szabłowski’s text on making art which does not exist: The event has been cancelled, or art in quarantine, source: Przekrój

According to theoreticians of post-growth, the temptation of overproduction is not so easy to overcome. This is because it is not only our approach to the volume of production that requires reformatting, but also the values on which we build our activities. The problem is that the discourse of growth and development has become generally accepted as ‘natural’ and unquestionable. Yet, infinite development on a finite planet is not possible; the resources are inherently limited. Increasing wellbeing does not therefore depend on increasing the production and consumption of goods, but on the sustainable management of resources. This would support the wellbeing of all living creatures, the entire environment, and the entire planet. The post-growth project, although it is based on the necessity to rethink human attitudes towards the environment and the climate, translates these reflections into social relationships as well. Looking for a way to share and manage resources more equitably, the post-growth project sees opportunities in cooperatives, local organisational structures and horizontal methods of knowledge production, which can serve as scenarios for building a better future together.

> Check out this artistic post-growth toolkit and listen to interesting interviews on the connections between post-growth and culture: Post Growth Toolkit, source: Postgrowth.art
> Check the post growth encyclopedia to find out more about its assumptions: The Postgrowth Encyclopedia, source: Postgrowth
> Familiarise yourself with the definition of ‘degrowth’, one of the proposals for the organisation of reality not based on economic growth. ‘Degrowth’ which can be also called ‘the policy of moderation’, focuses on environmental, economic and social justice: Degrowth

Feminism and care collectives
The idea of a feminist cultural institution was promoted in the Czech Republic and Slovakia by activists associated with the Tranzit gallery, and in 2019, during the Forum for the Future of Culture, it was introduced into Polish discourse by Agata Adamiecka-Sitek, Marta Keil and Igor Stokfiszewski, who simultaneously tested the possibility of its practical implementation in the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw. They understood feminisation as a critical reflection on the areas of power, work organisation and the forms of oppression anchored in the current model of culture. Referring to current cultural policies in Poland and the challenges that cultural institutions face today as defenders of democratic values, they pointed out that work towards these values can only take place when they constitute the actual basis for the functioning of institutions and when they also translate into internal work processes. According to the authors, such consistency could be achieved through feminisation of cultural institutions, i.e. departing from patriarchal patterns of dependence and hierarchy and directing them towards values that are traditionally regarded by societies as feminine, such as care, cooperation, and caring about the community. A cultural institution interpreted as a figure of an ambitious, assertive, steadfast hero gave way in this model to an institution being a platform for empathy and dialogue, providing care to weaker voices, creating a space for support and cooperation.

> Read a collection of texts by Agata Adamiecka-Sitek, Marta Keil and Igor Stokfiszewski on feminist cultural institutions, under the common slogan: Feminism! Not Fascism, source: Didaskalia
> See a code of practices Feminist (Art) Institution created as part of tranzit.cz in 2017, source: tranzit.cz

Greening of cultural institutions as a programme project
A green cultural institution is not one that simply takes up topics related to the climate and ecological crises during meetings with the public. It is an institution where ecological reflection rebuilds its structures and the way it functions. It is a place that speaks about ecology and acts in a pro-environmental way. Therefore, programming in a green cultural institution is carried out on several levels. The first one is about ensuring environmentally friendly solutions in the process of preparing and implementing programme activities – including reflection on the formats, materials used, resources, and their impact on the ecosystem. The second level is about being mindful of your own work environment, which includes transparency and energy efficiency of procedures, fair employment and remuneration, respect for team members regardless of their function, opposition to exploitation, systemic inequalities and competition, broadening of internal participation and collective discussion, strengthening inter-departmental cooperation and sharing knowledge and resources. It is also a place for cooperation with others, inclusion of external creators, non-institutional and institutional partners or activist movements in the programming as equals. The third level is about the quality and character of our meetings with the audience, which concerns caring about inclusivity, diagnosing and removing barriers, using accessible language, broadening space for cooperation, taking diversity into consideration and including less audible voices of marginalised groups or groups discriminated against. Only the next level is the sphere which is classically understood as ‘programme’: events, projects and activities directed outside and addressed to the audience. In green cultural institutions this level is strengthened by advocacy, i.e. promoting introduction of pro-environmental initiatives in the daily lives of our audience members. Programming in green cultural institutions entails much more than just ‘talking about it’. The quality of cooperative structures, relationships and background processes which precede meetings with the audience is equally important as the quality of a classically understood programme. At the same time, green cultural institutions are self-reflective, self-critical and transparent – they do not hide their weaknesses and imperfect practices which require change; they acknowledge them, reveal and reflect on them in order to seek common solutions together with the team and other actors of the cultural sphere thereby reducing their negative consequences for natural and work environments.
Remember that greening is not a process which will happen overnight, nor is it a goal which can be reached single-handedly. It requires long-term engagement of people and teams from every level of an organisation. Ultimately, this process should become an element of the overall policy of a cultural institution. In practice, however, it is often triggered by grassroots changes – individual initiatives and informal steps taken by groups of employees who are not indifferent to this aspect. Searching for new formulas for action and creating a new language of cultural practices hold special potential and a great challenge for culture. Even imperfect trials, however, are better than perpetuating the present unjust system. The greening of culture requires ‘doing culture’ radically differently than before.

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