Ville Laitinen, Nenne Bäckmann and Petriina Kiiskinen
Before taking part in PARTGO, public art felt distant and something too grand to approach. However, these thoughts were challenged soon after taking part in the project. So what changed?
In many of the groups teachers and students collaborated to create public art and the teacher’s leadership was no longer present. This was an opportunity for us to take responsibility in a new way. It was interesting to see how working as collaborating artists versus working under the leadership of teachers affected the results and students’ experiences. We also got to see in real time how the experience affected and changed the way the teachers approached teaching. The project came to be an impactful learning experience for all.
The weeks spent abroad were intensive and immersive. As a result, the thought processes and effects did not have time to materialize during the course. Now that some time has passed and we have gathered to discuss the pieces we worked on, we have come to realize how diverse our individual experiences have been.
For Ville, the most important and obvious takeaways were the confidence found during the intensive in Dublin and the realization of how public art does not just mean art in a public space. His biggest successes were creating art together with children who stopped by to participate and successfully bringing forth his ideas and opinions.
Nenne’s biggest challenge was taking responsibility when obvious leadership roles were no longer present. The effects of the experience came to fruition after the course. She gained new confidence in sharing her ideas, and new abilities as an artist. One does not have to be an expert to be able to create meaningful pieces, she realized.
Petriina took part in a group that created an immersive performance. The project changed her view about human physicality in public art and she perceived new points of view about using artists’ bodies as part of the artwork and stepping out of her comfort zone. The experience also brought her closer to the dream of working internationally in the future.
When talking about our individual successes we found that all of us had in a way won ourselves. PARTGO was something different from what we had ever experienced, a new challenge, and a challenging one at that. But it brought growth by making us push past ourselves and a new realization of what public art can be and how we can apply our strengths in new ways. And while in the beginning, public art felt distant to us, we now have a playful and engaged approach to it.
Another important takeaway for us was the international experience itself. We gained confidence in our abilities to work abroad and in diverse groups. We made new friendships and professional contacts, exchanged ideas, and learned from each other. It was a rich experience, deeply impactful and it opened new doors, thoughts, and possibilities to explore. In the end, PARTGO gave us a spark to explore public art and work internationally.
I am a visual artist based in Dublin, Ireland, and while studying at NCAD I was one of the first students to participate in the PARTGO programme. Since then I have created works of art in the public space as well as for the gallery space. The PARTGO course taught a background in public art both in Ireland and internationally through tutor presentations, group discussions and a formative site visit to the Technical University Dublin (TUD) campus in Grangegorman. The syllabus examined Dublin through an exploration of its culturally charged symbols – the monuments, statues and historical sites displayed publicly as memorials and social commentary. This experience encouraged me to take my art out of the studio and into public spaces to engage with a new audience, challenge socially accepted codes of behaviour and examine my own viewpoint. Since participating in PARTGO, I have continued to research sites of historic and public importance in Dublin that correspond to themes in my work and as a result producing happenings in public spaces which include the audience of the 2022 All Ireland Women’s Gaelic final at Croke Park, the formal gardens at the Irish Museum of Modern Art and Herbert Park formerly the site of the 1907 World Fair/Irish International Exhibition. I continue to use the online platforms and techniques learnt during PARTGO to sustain my own artistic networks and generate collaborations with artists based in Limerick, Berlin and Seville post-college.
I took part in two intensive PARTGO programmes, first in the pre-intensive course held at MOME, leading up to the online pilot hosted by the University of Turku in the spring of 2021 where I also participated, then a year later in Dublin for a week-long session organized by NCAD. Prior to these, my awareness of public art and community-based artistic practices could not have been understated. As a practitioner of inherently more selfish and solitary artistic creations, my experience of the fact that we live in a society is rarely a physical one. It’s rather a visceral but calculated routine that is under my control. In other words, it has little use for the kind of artistic practice that PARTGO inspires, which I think is largely about the potential processes of cooperation between its participants and their conscientious immersion in a larger community. It’s an artistic imprint that prefers a dialectic to production; a great remedy for the narcissism that on the other hand can easily poison it. So I tried to control my urge to impose myself so as to enable the dialogue and to support an easy atmosphere where ideas can freely flow instead of grabbing and be fixated on them.
In my experience taking part in PARTGO offered a great platform for the investigation of community, identity and their relationship to culture and the overall design of our environment. Big, broad notions that are played out within small interactions, specific architectural details or hidden political realities. It’s a conversational exercise the themes and methods of which depend heavily on the people you’re working with, on the environment you are working in and the perspective you bring to the table. It’s enriching because it sucks you out of your routine and problems and puts you in a dialogue you hadn’t been prepared for. Therefore, you have to rely on your instincts and humanity, and with that heightened sensitivity, enter a city (or small fraction of it) and a group of people you are not familiar with. Curiosity awakens about things you had not been consciously interested in. In our university lives and artistic practices we are predominantly under pressure to produce; preferably something better than the other, something palatable. Even when we succeed and are rewarded for this, it accumulates alienating experiences. The art of not knowing but wanting to figure out is rarely an option on the table or an expectation in the programmes. In my university experience, PARTGO had that role to play and I’m very thankful for that.
EKA, Sculpture and Installation BA
I participated in PARTGO for three years. All three workshops have been completely different – one being entirely virtual, the second very physical (it consisted of walking around in a circle for hours to make a Desire Path 135/66) and the third working with the windows and views of Dublin and its people.
Meeting all the students who participated in PARTGO showed me the endless possibilities that exist within the art world. Some put a lot of emphasis on morality and on connecting with the locals, some just wanted to act, to live, to perform. Some worked with the virtual world, making 3D models, thinking of the causes of giving out our data online. I encountered techniques, questions and ideas that I had not met before. It made me eager to try out more things I hadn’t yet encountered.
The best things are born from working together. I received confirmation of that by working on projects that could not have happened without a team of people from different backgrounds, with different skills. As a sculpture student who mainly works with physical materials, I wouldn’t have created a virtual gallery where artworks come alive from the walls and enter the virtual space. It only happened thanks to the trust between the teammates. Working in teams is good for trying out things that would be too scary to try alone, to intervene and to think big.
There is a lot of potential in combining art and the public space. All those small interventions through the PARTGO workshops have given me the courage to try to break out of the white cube and to work more with urban areas. In one project I tried to bring more nature and colour to the streets of Estonia by making sculptures out of soil and seeds. The space is for all of us, it has to be questioned and rethought, artists are the best for this job.
The fellow young artists of Dublin, Turku, Budapest and Tallinn are definitely more connected than before. Some borders and boundaries between us have since been broken down and I can’t wait to reconnect with the people I’ve met throughout the years of PARTGO. A lot of future projects are waiting for us to join forces once again!
I participated at the Budapest and Dublin intensive programmes of PARTGO. It was amazing to experience how different cultures could meet in one group and that in the end we managed to turn this ‘blind date’ into a successful and productive cooperation.
I have never participated before in a course that went both online and offline. First, I was a bit wary of the online part as that kind of situation always creates a distance, but as it was basically about sharing our different experiences with Covid (in Budapest), the exchange was easy and interesting. Then in Dublin, where I actually met most of the students I had first met in Zoom, real collaboration started. At the first meeting we had to decide about the system and strategy of working together, which included a decision about the role of the mentors within the group. We decided to go for no-hierarchy and that all decisions had to be made together.
This sometimes created tough situations but was very instructive. In the end, the final work was a performance that expressed the creative process itself, and not some material, tangible result. I was very happy with that result and really enjoyed collaborating in this way through and through, and observe the team’s dynamic. It created an opportunity to share ideas without any negative judgement. I felt safe to freely express my thoughts. In the same way, everyone was transparent and honest in sharing their opinions, so it was easy to connect. It was an extra pleasure that the members of my team became friends by the end of the workshop.
All in all, PARTGO was a really amazing experience for me as it brought me out of my comfort zone, and it turned out that I can make myself useful when working and solving creative problems together with people from other countries. I feel it expanded my experience with a variety of social situations, both in the creative process and the presentation, and improved my social skills. I am glad that I had the opportunity to take part in this trip. This kind of intensity we have lived through together could be something very close to the essence of art education.