D6 has been working with the artist Henna Asikainen since 2016. This ongoing artist-producer relationship has evolved through a research residency, commissions, events and deep engagement between artist, producer and a broad yet transient community of participants. Henna works closely with migrant and refugee communities as part of her work. Importantly she retains an equity in the relationships developed through these projects, she does not directly tell other people’s stories but captures them in a more abstract way. She creates space for participants to bring their own objectives to the project, they are not there necessarily because it is an artistic project, but perhaps instead for the sense of community, to learn something about each other, to make the networks that they needed in order to make this place their home.
The Brexit campaign talked about taking back control, the idea that you could go into communities and you could give them back control acknowledges and ultimately exploits the fact that people feel isolated. Our projects cannot change political systems, but we can help to build understandings of what opportunities and voices we can have. There is unity in collaboration across miles, across borders and it is crucial not to forget the importance of internationalism in these conversations.
Contested Desires is a transnational cooperation project that we are leading, exploring our shared and contested colonial heritage and its influence on contemporary culture. At a time of increasing right wing populism, Contested Desires aims to challenge the de-stabilising and divisive impact of political discourse where the diversity and expansion of our communities continues to be met with the power play of fear-mongering, discrimination and exclusion. We are creating a capacity building programme for artists and producers engaging with communities and heritage spaces. With a focus on transnational exchange and learning, the programme offers unique opportunities for artists and communities to explore our shared heritage through research, workshops, residencies and exhibitions.
We are operating in a world where we have to produce more in less time; do lots of bits, for lots of people, in as little time as possible. But we know that if you do fewer things, with fewer people over a longer period of time, that experience is much, much deeper. So thinking about the degrowth paradigm, how do we conceive of culture in a way that slows down? If you take more time, then we are addressing the urgency of having to deal with the emergency because we are using less resources to do it? The idea of taking more time to think about things differently and working with fewer people can be difficult, because funders want to see numbers. But I also think it's our job to explain that the numbers aren’t everything.
When working with vulnerable communities the question of equity is so important. Who are you doing the project for? What do they get from it? Are you doing something because it makes you feel good about yourself? Or are you doing it because you care deeply about that individual and you're interested in what they've got to say?