Fear in public space is a project of an international group of artists, arts students, art schools, art spaces and intellectuals that calls themselves the parrhesia network. The aim is to create counter public spaces by performing interventions in public space from the perspective of having parrhesia. The members of this group come from Uganda, Israel, Turkey, the Netherlands and Norway. Challenged by the call Bring your demons out for a walk the artists will bring new work to the public space, creating an environment for a conversation between people on topics that are hidden. These artworks will be displayed in August and September one after the other in the public spaces of the countries of the participating artists and they will be embedded in a media strategy that gives them maximum attention. For that we work together with experts in the field of public communication and journalism. In the months before the works will be exhibited, the participating artists will be involved in expert meetings, listen to lectures, discuss and give presentations at Minerva Art Academy in Groningen. Experts from Groningen will travel to Kampala to give a workshop to a group of artists connected to art Gallery 32 degreees. Experts and artists from Istanbul, Oslo and Tel Aviv will come to Groningen to meet the selected artists and arts students who work on the interventions. For the artists that aren’t able to come to Groningen, we will organize virtual meetings through Skype and live streaming sessions.

History: Parrhesia Open International Art Network of artists, galleries, art academies

In 2016 an international group of artists, art-researchers, academic art teachers met in Groningen and they formed the parrhesia network. Parrhesia (the courage to tell the truth in the public domain) is their starting point, to be translated into different concepts and projects. The group focuses on the role of art as a catalyst for more democratic processes, open conversational spaces, counter public spaces, freedom of speech, anti-propagandist strategies and social change. The research group Image in Context of Minerva Art Academy in Groningen led by Professor Anke Coumans and Dr. Bibi Straatman, coordinates the activities between the art academies, art galleries and independent artists and activists from Uganda (Kampala and Mucono), Turkey (Istanbul), Israel (Tel Aviv/Jerusalem), Norway (Oslo) and The Netherlands (Groningen). In the theme of Fear in Public Space we found a common societal phenomenon to work on. By working together, we will will learn from each other’s cultural and political situation, artistic and political views and strategies, and we will exchange and create knowledge about the public domain. We also suppose that by joining forces our interventions will become more powerful and have more impact on public debates, especially when we manage to build a good media strategy around the project.

Theme: Fear in Public Space

In parrhesia one has the courage to not bow to fear, to bring out into the open what is hidden, to fight against propaganda that hides the truth, to stick needles as declarations and to develop artistic strategies in order to make this happen. We believe to live in a time in which fear rules. Fear is also a glue. Fear helps the authorities to control people with procedures and protocols and laws and rules. The politics of fear is related to neo-liberalism. Today, fear is linked to the enemy within (within society, within your body). We have created a society that wants to have control, and accepts no risks. People keep to themselves, and keep their demons inside. People lose the ability (social skills) to connect with each other in the public domain in a more natural way. People are highly influenced by social groups in the media and by reality shows that give them a certain view on society.

How to open up public sphere: to re-public or to create counter public spaces? How to create a different balance in public domain by artistic interventions, to make people feel more connected and involved?