Art in Times of Corona – Culture is a basic need
Guided by its primary principle of culture as a basic need, the Prince Claus Fund sets out to support, connect and celebrate artists and cultural practitioners in areas where cultural expression is under pressure. Its grantees and partners being situated all over the world, connecting them requires the mobility of people. Without travel possible, the fund’s partners are great examples of those taking the current global health crisis and finding ways to make a positive impact still. Programme Coordinator of the Grants & Collaborations programme, Bertan Selim, emphasises the importance of communication as the fund is "continuously reaching out to our partners to hear how they are experiencing these particularly challenging times. One thing we hear from them is how important it is to feel connected."
One of the fund’s partner’s is DokuFest, International Documentary and Short Film Festival and the largest film festival in Kosovo. In reaction to the spreading of the virus and the requirement of social distancing, they decided to move the 19th edition of the festival into a digital sphere. The public is invited to be part of an experiment where the content of the festival will be transmitted digitally and will reach far beyond than usual cinemas and venues of the city of Prizren – where the festival usually takes place. The festival states on its website: "By doing so we hope to transform personally and collectively through new ways of thinking, working and sharing." Encountering the documentaries and films in a digital yet collective way is extra important given the current global pandemic. The idea of culture as a basic need shows in case of DokuFest how cultural praxis celebrates what it means to be alive, at a time when it is needed most.
As a NextGen partner, Kosovo 2.0 is one of the fund’s grantees that works with young people, representing the future. They are an independent media organisation that is focussed on engaging society in insightful discussion. Through print and online magazines, debates and advocacy initiatives, Kosovo 2.0 is dedicated to deepening the understanding of current affairs in Kosovo, the region and beyond. In light of their ten-year anniversary, they will celebrate this year through a four day Hope Media Carnival: four full days of engaging, inspiring and insightful activities and events. "As we explore hope in a time that can often seem rather hopeless, we invite you to join Hope Media Carnival," reads their website. They made an effort to let the physical events take place in a socially distanced form, while simultaneously streaming for an online public. Kosovo 2.0 shows that culture as a basic need in times of crises, is able to adapt to changing circumstances, while bringing people together and reflect on contemporary times.
The Prince Claus Fund regularly enables travel for partners through their Mobility Fund. When cultural events were being cancelled due to COVID-19, the fund offered flexibility on how the mobility grantees could use the grant. For example, most artists who were to participate in the New York Portfolio Review event opted to use it to attend the 2021 edition, whereas others decided to cover loss of income, and using it for basic living cost like food and health supplies, some went with other travel plans to further their own practice, or used the grant to do online courses and trainings and support their communities. As one of the mobility grantees and head of Market Photo Workshop, Lekgetho Makola dedicated some of his grant as prize money for the JUSTPHOTO award. The award is a two-year fellowship granted to African photographers in Africa, investigating what it means to ‘social distance’.
The above-mentioned outstanding cases are just a few of many. The abundance of comparable examples further strengthen the believe of culture as a basic need; artists, cultural practitioners and thinkers are the ones who pre-eminently are able to rethink the current crisis and turn it into something positive. Their activities count as an example of hope, mirroring our own agency during times like these and underpin the possibility of a better future.