International Summer School of Arts and Sciences for Sustainability in Social Transformation (ASSiST)

For up-to-date information about this program, please visit the ASSiST website at: !

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We at Cultura21 International, Cultura21 Nordic and Germany’s Cultura21 Institut e.V., have the pleasure to announce our upcoming international project, launched in collaboration with the International Council for Cultural Centers (I3C) and the Latin American Network of Art for Social Transformation: the first International Summer School of Arts and Sciences for Sustainability in Social Transformation (ASSiST). The event is planned for August 2010 in Bulgaria, in Gabrovo, which is situated in the beautiful Balkan mountains. This project is supported by the Asia Europe Foundation (ASEF) as a follow-up project of the Dialogue on Arts, Culture & Climate Change (Beijing, 2008).

The expected dates for the summer school are August 21-27, 2010. (As the school starts in the morning on the first day and ends late on the last day, we will ask participants to arrive on the 20th and leave on the 28th or 29th.)

The theme of the first edition of the summer school will be: Walking and Places: building transformations.

Online Platform

In the 3 months before the summer school starts, participants will be invited to prepare themselves through an online “social network” platform, which will also remain active in between each year’s summer school. The platform will be located on ‘NING’ at the following address: ...


The program is now available! (This is a draft program, and is subject to changes.) Download it here as PDF file...

More detailed information on the program will be published by the respective workshop organizers, on the online platform at in the month of April...

Call for participants

The deadline of the ‘call for participants’ expired on March 20th, 2010.

Call for workshop proposals

The deadline of the ‘call for workshop proposals’ expired on January 3rd, 2010.


Not only the ecosystems, but also human societies, i.e. social justice, democracy, cultural vitality and the welfare of citizens, are put at risk by the continuing trend of an unsustainable development: The challenge of achieving sustainability, in the face of a complex crisis of civilization combining ecological, social, cultural and economic dimensions, demands integrated understandings and responses. As the famous Einstein quote goes, “the problems of the present cannot be solved with the thinking that created them”. The atomized, specialized islands of knowledge and of practice in contemporary societies, shall be turned into a common ground from which responses to the global crisis may emerge. We argue that artists and scientists, in putting together their resources of inquiring and re-thinking, in an exchange with civil society, can make an important contribution in the coming decades, before climate change, biodiversity breakdown and other global phenomena would turn into a civilizational collapse. However, in order to do so, artists and scientists urgently need adequate places and moments where and when they can trespass disciplinary boundaries and the routines of their trade.

The Summer School hopes to address the issue of distance and lack of dialogue and cooperation between scholars/researchers, communities and arts practitioners. The Summer School is thus dedicated to the productive dialogue and mutual teaching/learning processes (with workshops given by each for the other) among all cultural practitioners and scholars engaged in change processes for sustainability. The process is expected to be one of mutual enrichment, which can lead to rethinking the opinions and work approaches of each group and of individuals and then get ramified in a series of new approaches to inspire projects in communities around the world.

The Summer School aims to encourage scientists and artists to transform their own working processes, thanks to the insights gained from the other participants. The Summer School is also expected to stimulate the inquisitiveness, the inter- and transdisciplinary openness and the critical reflexivity of participants, allowing them to confront the complexity of today’s global crises and unsustainable developments, with creatively and effectively integrated perspectives. Navigating through the insights of cross-disciplinary dialogues, the summer school participants will discover islands of common experience, on the way to a shared transdisciplinary common ground as the long-term destination of the summer school.

The Summer School will contribute to an understanding of the role of community spaces and organizations dedicated to the arts and how the work of these organization in national and international networks can create a dynamic of sustainable social transformations propelled by a widely spread creativity among generations and across intercultural boundaries.

Vision : a breeding place for transdisciplinary and transformative art&science

The Summer School hopes to generate a high-quality learning experience for all participants, generating innovative methodologies, knowledge and agendas in art, (re)search and action. The vision is to create a framework for a truly creative process for the methodological empowerment of both artists and scientists working for sustainability/social transformation. The event will not merely be a collection of workshops and discussions, but a “school” in the noblest sense of the word: a place for learning, teaching, sharing and evolving together.

The Summer School addresses the HOW questions of art & science for sustainability: For example: How can academic research contribute to community artists and contemporary artists developing new social, aesthetic and community approaches? How can the experience of post-modern off-balance dance contribute to a rethinking of democracy? How can scientists enhance their reflexivity and their creativity thanks to insights from the arts? How can artists effectively work in communities and at other levels of social reality, for social transformation together with academics? In order to address these questions, the Summer School will explore: How do artists and scientists from a diversity of backgrounds, do their work today? Which methods and approaches do they use and how can these be transfered and transmuted to other artists and scientists around the world? And which cross-breedings between these different approaches should be further developed?

The Summer School will also foster thinking at a paradigmatic and normative level and link the WHY and the HOW questions, in order to avoid mere instrumentality. That ‘deeper’ level will address issues of spirituality, epistemology, ontology, aesthetics and introspection, and critically reflect the orientations and values we vest in ‘social transformation’ and in ‘sustainability’. Art and philosophy, conceived not only as vehicles, but also as possibilities to step outside ourselves, will contribute to this deeper, epistemological and ‘more than rational’ level of the Summer School’s methodology.

The Summer School aims to provide an intense and insightful learning experience to all participants, which is interdisciplinary, engaged and intercultural:

a) The Summer School aims to facilitate the cross-breeding of arts and sciences in their efforts to renew their methods and their paradigms towards social transformation for sustainability. It also aims to exchange these insights with organizations from civil society. Concerned are the fields of art and science in a wide sense, including on the one hand the whole spectrum of the academic world, from natural sciences and social sciences to philosophy and humanities, and on the other hand a wide variety of artistic practices, from eco-art and community arts practitioners to social sculpture, media art and others ; from the side of civil society practitioners, concerned are NGOs working in communities and for sustainable development. The summer school’s focus cuts across established disciplines, pursuing inter- and transdisciplinarity, but also affirms a proactive and normative, yet self-reflexive and critical framework.

b) The Summer School aims to train effective agents of change, not mere observers of contemporary crises nor uninvolved prophets of doom. The Summer School aims to foster social transformations towards a more sustainable civilization: i.e. resilient human cultures advancing social justice, economic well-being, ecological integrity and cultural diversity. It is intended for artists, researchers and practitioners who acknowledge and support the values of engaged (i.e. normative) and self-reflexive, concrete and theoretically informed, positive and critical practices in science, art and civil society.

c) The Summer School aims to facilitate transcontinental exchanges, comparisons and critical explorations of experiences across the world, with participation of researchers and practitioners from the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania and South-, Central and North-America.

d) The Summer School aims to enable the conceptualization and drafting of possible future partnerships and projects among artists, scientists, and practitioners.

e) The Summer School aims to generate a transdisciplinary process allowing the pluralistic and diverse, yet united and overarching burgeoning of a transdisciplinary culture in the arts and in the sciences:

  • Inspiring scientists to reach beyond the limited types of formal rationality traditionally catered to in the Western scientific tradition. New approaches and new tools, inspired by artistic methodologies and artistic (re)search practices and theories, shall carve new avenues of explorations for the participating scientists.
  • Inspiring artists to enrich their current practices. New methodologies for action and (re)search, e.g. interdisciplinary work with scientists and activists, shall open further perspectives for the participating artists.
  • Enabling participants to develop varied ways to work transdisciplinarily, no longer only as determined ‘artists’, ‘activists’ or ‘scientists’, but, as artiscientists, artivists, intellectactors, i.e. shaping new identities for a new culture.

Theme for the first edition of the Summer School (2010)

An overarching theme is proposed for the first edition of the Summer School: Walking and Places: building transformations

Walking, as a practice for exploring, learning, mapping, and intervening, in urban and in rural contexts, will be explored. This practice brings up insights highly relevant to the summer school’s focus on action-based research – and constitutes a field which has grown rather directly out of a relation to practice, rather than as a theoretical problem held by science for itself. Traditional as well as new ‘déambulation’ practices (e.g. in postmodern dance or among traditional pastoralist communities) mark the relationships between cultural practices and their social and ecosystemic environments. Furthermore, in the recent past, walking-based (re)search practices have flourished both in the arts and sciences (e.g. in contemporary art practices or in the new discipline of “Promenadologie”), opening up spaces for inter- and transdisciplinary explorations, which the summer school will further develop and interconnect.

Read more here for a background information on the theme...

Expected Organization and Activities

The following is subject to changes and is only a provisional overview.

The Summer School will alternate methodological workshops with open discussions. The preliminary planning of the first edition of the Summer School is as follows, for a total duration of 7 full days:

  • half day of introduction
  • 2 days and a half of workshops
  • Half a day of Open Space discussions (morning), and half a day of personal introspection (afternoon)
  • 1 day and a half of workshops
  • Half a day of Open Space discussions (afternoon)
  • One day of work in groups on a ‘training the trainers’ workshop-prototype on ‘transdisciplinary teaching&learning for sustainability in social transformation’, and an evening of conclusions and perspectives.

The workshops offer shall be balanced, offering a large spectrum of arts-based and academic insights, a mix of challenging-critical and creative-constructive perspectives, and a diversity of international perspectives. The workshops shall be conducted under a principle of mutuality in learning:

  • All participants shall commit themselves to following all workshops, encountering different fields or specializations than their own.
  • Each workshop organizer shall also engage her or himself to also follow the other workshops as a member of the learning community.
  • Each participant will be considered as a learner-teacher.

The half-day of open space discussions following the first three days of workshops will allow participants to explore the experience of the first workshops: In a first step, they will be encouraged to communicate to each other, what has been experienced in the workshops, in their own words. Thereafter, they will be asked to look for common expressions for these experiences (also reflecting on the differences between their own words/ own cultures).

In the half-day of personal introspection, which is a very important step in process of the summer school, participants will be asked not to communicate with each other anymore, but to engage into individual self-reflection. They will be asked to reflect on their own practices, with the question: “How do I integrate other approaches, from different perspectives,into my own personal practice and (re)search?”

The second row of Open Space discussions and the last days of discussions and prototyping, will address the question of transfer: How can the insights from the workshops be transfered and transmuted across disciplines, and to other artists and scientists around the world? Which cross-breedings between the different approaches presented should be further developed? In the half-day of open space discussions, the participants will be invited to explore how the transformed own practices can be forming a common ground for transdisciplinary work. In the workshop-prototyping, the participants will divide in smaller groups: Their task will be to conceive a concept of a workshop with educative elements to be re-used and which each participant can ‘take away’ from the summer school and on which they can further elaborate, back in their own contexts. In the evening of conclusions, participants will exchange on the workshop-prototypes concepts and discuss them as a potential “seed” for a future edition of the summer school...

The Summer School participants will further exchange through an online platform, including a discussion forum, a space for sharing of blog spaces with multimedia content and a wiki (e.g. for further elaborating the workshop-prototypes). An evaluation of the first edition of the summer school will follow, that will raise insights for the opportunity and format of further editions of the Summer School in subsequent years. The appointed evaluation team will also prepare recommendations to be discussed by the organizers of the Summer School and addressed to other organizations in the academic and artistic fields. A publication will also be realized in order to further disseminate the insights from the First Summer School and from its evaluation. Furthermore, a video of the summer school experience will be realized and published on Internet.

Target groups

The Summer School participants will include, besides the organizers of the event:

  • The organizers of the 7-11 workshops selected by the international selection committee (7 to 10 persons)
  • participants coming from the academic fields
  • participants coming from the artistic fields
  • participants coming from civil society (cultural practitioners, NGOs; policy-makers)

The total number of participants will be limited to 30, in order to focus on the quality and intensity of the knowledge transfer and exchange of experience. A selection procedure for the participants will be applied, in order to ensure a diversity of disciplinary and international backgrounds. In order to allow participation from non-European countries, we aim to provide financial support to a few participants for their travel, accommodation and visa costs. (Participants from European countries who are not conducting a workshop, will be expected to cover their own travel and accommodation costs by themselves.)

About the organizers

The organizational strength of the first International Summer School of Arts and Sciences for Sustainability in Social Transformation, benefits from the convergence of the expertise of the three international, non-governmental organizations initiating this event:

  • The International Council for Cultural Centers(I3C ; based in Bulgaria) brings to the project its expertise and commitment in the establishment and coordination of the global network of national networks of community cultural centers (with e.g. the European Network of Cultural Centers), thus I3C contributes a vision and practical experience in network dynamics, trans-continental cooperation, and yet the grassroots realities of small spaces dedicated to community development through the arts. Thematically, I3C has been developing expertise in the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage and cultural diversity synchronized with UNESCO’s Conventions. I3C further acts as the host and organizer of the first edition of the Summer School, in August 2010, following its International Forum on Heritage Safeguarding and Community Arts for Social Transformation and launch of the Trans-Continental Network of Community Cultural Centres (in May 2010).
  • The International Network Cultura21 (‘Cultural Fieldworks for Sustainability’ ; with organizational bases in Germany, Mexico, Italy and Denmark) brings to the project its expertise in art & science based action & research for “cultures of sustainability”, as well as its network of scientists, academics, artists and other cultural practitioners (with its national Cultura21 organizations in Germany, Italy, Mexico and Nordic-European countries). The German organization “Cultura21 Institut e.V.” and the Denmark-based “Cultura21 Nordic” organization act as partners of the I3C in the preparation and organization of the Summer School and in the follow-up evaluation of the event (evaluation team).
  • The Latin American Network of Art for Social Transformation (with its coordination based in Argentina) brings to the project its expertise in transformative artistic practices in communities as well as its extensive network of community arts organizations across South and Central America. The AFST net will contribute with information and connections with outstanding art for social transformation practitioners within arts and sciences.

Two further organizations are partners on the organization of the first International Summer School of Arts and Sciences for Sustainability in Social Transformation:

  • The Center for the Study of Culture and Society (CSCS), based in Bangalore (India), a research center working to “understand culture in its most inclusive sense - as encompassing the diverse attempts of people to produce meaning of various kinds”.
  • KHOJ International Artists' Association, based in Delhi (India), which “aim[s] to assist and develop, forms of art such as media art, performance, video, environmental, public and community based art, sound and other experimental modes of cultural production”.


ASSiST is supported by:

The Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) as a follow-up project of the Dialogue on Arts, Culture & Climate Change (Beijing, 2008)

The Municipality of Gabrovo

Sacha Kagan 2010/03/21 16:48

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