Youth in Action – Montenegro

May 22, 2014

Art of Youth Group Photo

Art of Youth Group Photo

I was recently selected as a UK artist representative for the Youth in Action, Art of Youth European Commission programme held in Montenegro.

The programme brought together participants from across Europe to learn about different contemporary art practices, European Citizenship, and to create collaborative pieces of artwork to be exhibited in the open air amphitheatre in Old Bar, Montenegro.

One of the things that took me, and the other three artists from the UK and Ireland, by surprise was that not all the participants were professional artists. From the selection process we had been through here, we thought it was a prerequisite. In fact, the participants from the other European countries (mainly from the Balkans) were from many different disciplines. Some were studying and others were professionals in fields such as architecture, computer science, cognitive science, art history, graphic design, law, and youth work. This turned out to be a wonderful mix, revealing knowledge, skills and different perspectives that might not have been present had the whole group been full of fine artists. It worked for lively and interesting debate about the topics concerning European Citizenship and the politics affecting each country and collectively.

The training part of the course took the form of lectures about contemporary arts practice and seminars about sense of place and European Citizenship. Details of these and the structure of the programme can be found on the blog set up by Ion Creative’s Nancy Barrett: Same Difference.

I’m still reflecting on the full experience of my time in Montenegro and the people that I met. I came away with a feeling of such happiness with the experience, the group had gelled so well, and considering we had many strong, vibrant characters among us, there was never any conflict, just sharing and understanding.

I learnt much about the different customs in each country and the passion everyone had about keeping their own national customs and identity, but also being part of the European Union as a whole, and that this was never viewed as a dichotomy.

I’m writing this on the day of the European elections with many anti-EU parties campaigning to take the UK out of the EU, precisely because they feel the UK is somehow restricted, our culture threatened and at a disadvantage by being in the EU. The main topic that came up in the Youth in Action programme was the freedom of movement, exchange of ideas and cultural experiences that being part of the EU could afford us all. To restrict that again, in my view, is to take the UK backwards, cutting off the nose to spite the face.

Unity sunlight

Unity sunlight

The group I worked with were keen to learn about using light as an art form, and so we made two pieces of work, the first a sunlight performance piece, and the second a night-time light photography made one evening on the beach with us all running around with torches probably looking possessed to any passers-by who wouldn’t necessarily realise that we were ‘drawing with light’ to 15 second exposures.

Unity

Unity is a two-part piece of work. The first is a performance using sunlight and mirrors. Five people transmit a beam of sunlight to each other in a star pattern, finally reflecting the word ‘unity’ onto the ground of the space. The unified action shows the positive effects of collaboration and understanding between EU countries. The second part is night-time light photography which addresses differences and obstacles faced through lack of understanding and knowledge of other countries. The result is a highly stylised and abstract interpretation of these issues.

Artists: Elisa Artesero Danijela Kojic Aleksandar Dragas Marta Garcevic Natasha Jordanova Genc Hani

Other pieces of work were dancing and painting performances, installations, stop motion animation and Christo-inspired tree-wrapping.

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There were many other facets to this experience; for instance the intercultural nights, where we were introduced to the strangely popular musical genre of “Turbofolk” in the Balkans, awesome fast-food pastry dish of Burek, the fact that Bulgarians nod when they mean ‘no’ and shake their heads when they say ‘yes’, and some great ska and punk from Croatia. We also ate a lot of Montenegrin cheese. A lot of cheese.

A wonderful experience that I’ll cherish for many years.

 

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One Response to “Youth in Action – Montenegro”

  1. […] ahead to May and I was selected as one of the UK representative artists for the ‘Art of Youth’ Youth in Action European Commission project in Montenegro. The programme brought together participants from across Europe to learn about different […]

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