Micro-residency Freiraum in Milan

Last september 2019, I was granted by the Goethe-Institut Freiraum programme for a micro-residency in Milano. An opportunity to discover the cultural energy of the city. Here is my report.

Why going to Milano ?

In May 2019, the IETM performing arts network organised a meeting in Milano on the issue of langage « seen as a political concept, a social compass and a backbone of the cultural democracy debate ». That was an opportunity to appreciate the dynamic of milanese cultural actors and more specifically the quality of perspectives regarding disability and artistic expression.

Milano is also the city where Zona K, the Milanese Freiraum partner, is located. Valentina Kastlunger, director of the venue, and I share a common interest in contemporary performance in relation with social issues. And we both chose the « In defense of diversity » topic.

My objective for this micro-residency was to :

  • to study the chance to implement a project artistically led by Image Aiguë with children from a migrant background in Milano, in partnership with Zona K
  • to meet and map artistic and cultural actors in Milano interested, in societal issues, in order to support cooperations between performing arts communities from Lyon and Milano.

Back to Milano

Last September, from the 9th to the 13th, I travelled back to Milano. I chose those dates as it was also the opportunity to attend the Life on Mars conference that was dealing with he transformation of cultural institutions and new models of cultural inclusion.

Through the diversity of guest speakers (both from Italy and european countries, and also from Asia) one could understand how a change of paradigm is going on in the performing arts field : « Commons, active participation, participatory governance, cultural democracy are part of the vocabulary of most of the cultural operators”.

However, I don’t feel that this reflect the actual situation but rather a process with should engage. Also the conference helped perceiving the issues of the performing arts sector in Italy and its social creativity.

During my stay in Milano, I also met several local actors (photos from left to right) :

  • Valentina Kastlunger is the director of Zona K and Freiraum partner. Her project interests me by the way it questions urban and social issues through contemporary artistic practices. She is also much concern with transmission. At the time I was staying in Milano, Valentina was preparing the opening of a new residency art space. A beautiful industrial space but without much money to run.
  • Ricardo Olivier is a dancer, choreographer and production manager of the company Fattoria Vittadini. They work on the use of « new abilities »(sign langage for instance) in dance but also in new creative and inclusive working processes.
  • Alessandra Valerio is a programme officer « Arte e Cultura » for the Fondazione Cariplo. The Foundation is one of the main supporter for cultural projects in Lombardia and is emplementing a specific programme for participative projects.
  • Vera Erenbourg is one of the leader of Etre : a regional network of artistic residencies co-created with local communities and cultural organisations
  • Valeria La Corte is in charge of outreach projects for the Triennale (Milano design museum that is also programming performances), she is also an expert in innovative devices deaf audience.
  • Isabela Menichini is the director of Performing arts for the City of Milano.
  • Guido Ferrili is an economist in the field of culture, teacher and researcher at the IULM, and Giusy Chierchia is in charge of developping relations with the business sector for the cultural department of the City. Both are members of the A Soul for Europe, Berlin based initiative (and I did not photograph them!)

Conclusions and next steps

Although the economic situation is better in Milan than from the rest of the country, it still remains difficult for cultural actors in the performing arts. For the cultural field in general, the public and business sectors are more and more collaborating but these cooperations do not yet sufficiently take into account the social dimensions of art.

However, there is a great deal of energy and creativity in Milano : a colleague explained me how the cultural sector is used to cope with cultural policies, not to support them as we are used to in France.

Valentina was too busy launching a new residency and I was unable to explore their project in relation to migrants. However, the theme of disability seemed to me to be considered in a very original way compared with our own country : the notion of « new ability » is very strong and inclusive, not only for handicapped people but also migrants for example.

Milano and Lyon are cities that look alike : they have a good economy, are very attractive for tourists and each local performing arts scene is vivid. They are also twinned cities.

The context is in favor of stimulating exchanges between them, especially on the issue of creation in european metropolises and challenges for the performing arts. I plan to travel again to Milano early 2020 in order to organise a visit of colleagues from Lyon during the Festival del Silenzio in May.

I also study the opportunity to involve the Municipality of Milano in the initiative Cities for Europe and maybe to organise later on an A Soul for Europe conference there.

Finally, the calendar was not in favour of going deeper in exchanges with Zona K, therefore it is important to get to know their work better for future artistic collaboration.