In this pamphlet, BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht (BAK) and Multicultural Center (MKC), Fittja present an offhand, incomplete list of propositions and experiences showing what cultural institutions can do to contribute to the goals of CRU.

This is described in a series of propositions supported by a selection of projects that BAK and MKC have organised in collaboration with artists, organisations, and collectives, offering a way to look at how cultural institutions can join in political struggles through multiple forms of engagement, strategy, and methodology. The pamphlet gathers knowledges and examples of how art can be a propositional space for political change.

BAK and MKC aim for this pamphlet to humbly contribute to the cause of City Rights United, which hopes to spark the imaginations of people of various walks of life so that they might come together and realise what they have in common (despite wide-ranging levels of precarity), and set a foundation for emerging and solidifying solidarities that go beyond mere representation.

Multicultural Center (MKC), Fittja

The Multicultural Center is a municipal foundation that works toward a society where diversity is reflected in the national self-image and where migration is considered an intrinsic part of the Swedish cultural heritage. MKC has a history of working with anti-racist and migration issues for over 30 years. One of the greatest strengths of MKC is the long-term work, which is also what has given MKC high credibility, and its positions are influential in the Swedish public debate.

MKC creates networks through offering a meeting place in the form of a well-attended restaurant, through educational activities with a focus on and base in anti-racism and the criticism of norms. The center also has an arena for debates, meetings, conferences, film screenings, and art exhibitions, and an art studio for creative workshops, teaching, study circles, and school holiday activities. MKC’s library, the only of its kind in Sweden, is a specialised library with a focus on the subjects of migration, ethnicity, integration, cultural encounters, xenophobia, racism, and cultural diversity. MKC has a research center where the research is based in social work, critical whiteness studies, migration, and racism. Through these different departments, our goal is to act as a counterpoint to what we consider to be a skewed conversation space. We want to provide space to act, meet, and influence those who usually do not always have a voice or a place.

BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, the Netherlands

BAK is a base for art, knowledge, and the political. BAK is committed to the notion of art as a public sphere and a political space, and provides a critical platform for aesthetico-political experiments with and through art. BAK brings together artists and other thinkers and activists to imagine and enact transformative ways of being together otherwise.

In the Netherlands, the legal framework prevents undocumented migrants from seeking employment, but they can be involved in creative and artistic expression. Challenging this framework within the space of art, as practiced by BAK, involves: knowledge, to think and understand the world; imagination, of how the world can be otherwise; and social action, to realize and enact that imagined world, as if it were possible. BAK’s general and artistic director, Maria Hlavajova wrote, “It is this propositional ethos we would like to embrace in order to prompt what has always been the key ingredient art has had to offer for society: imagination. Imagination, however, not just for its own sake, but also for thinking through the world otherwise than how we got to know it.”

6.Make Room and Take Space: Art as a Space for Political Change

Saadia Hussain, artist, art activist, and art teacher at Multicultural Center

Saadia Hussain works as an artist, art educator, and art activist and has her base in Stockholm. Through her work she wants to create and share tools of creativity and outreach. The creative process has been a vital tool in her own life—to explore, question, create, and share. Being born in Pakistan and raised in Sweden, Hussain carries duality within her, of her homeland and her motherland. Her topics revolve around home and identity, losing and finding, and longing for belonging.

7. Stand up and Criticize the Power: Be the Ones that Create Opinion and Change

MKC is a multidisciplinary research environment. The research is based on issues related to international migration, ethnic and transnational relations, and intercultural issues. The profile is cross-disciplinary and the methods are both qualitative and quantitative. Studies are conducted in three areas of knowledge: critical cultural heritage studies, urban living conditions and race, and discrimination and Swedishness.

Researchers often work closely with people and businesses in the field. Our goal is to provide new angles and perspectives, and create a basis for nuanced discussions, which we do by offering training and skills development for organizations, authorities, and civil society, for example.

8. Join, Participate, and Engage: Create New Networks and Invite Others to Join

MKC and the cultural project Noncitizen started a collaboration in 2020, which has resulted in a group exhibition and a scholarship. With this scholarship, we have chosen to support Dennis Harvey and his documentary project about contemporary movement policy, which takes place in six different countries and charts five years.

Under the leadership of the collaboration’s leaders, Harvey and Salad Hilowle, 14 artists with experience of migration have had the opportunity to develop their creations. During the project, professional photographers, artists, and filmmakers have supervised the participants.

Noncitizen, which started in 2015, is a nomadic film and cultural project. The aim is to highlight the issues of oppression in our time, borders, freedom of movement, and people’s human rights. Noncitizen organizes film screenings, seminars, meetings, and discussions. Noncitizen believes in the potential for documentary films to be the starting point for dialogues about issues that are bigger than the individual stories they portray. Noncitizen opposes all sorts of repressive or restraining boundaries: between citizens and non-citizens, rights holders and rights deprived, and between nations, cultures, religions, gender identities, and sexualities. This is done by actively working to create forums for encounters and , and by highlighting relevant films, images, and texts.

Noncitizen Archive is a nonprofit digital archive for storing images of migrant experiences. It is an independent platform for the secure digital storage of personal and observational footage. Noncitizen believes that videos, photos, and audio material captured by migrants and people living in “noncitizenship” are crucial documents of our time. Through Noncitizen Archive, the aim is to save this material for the future, whether it’s for personal use or for research-based or cultural projects.

9. Changing the Master Narrative: Make Room for the Untold Stories

In September 2022, we will launch the exhibition We are Neighbors, About Genocide and Crimes against Humanity. The exhibition will highlight personal stories from Botkyrka residents, among others, and is part of a broader project by Botkyrka’s municipality, which also includes program items and a themed conference in the spring of 2022.

Migration and flight due to genocide and crimes against humanity are both a local, national, and international issue. Many Swedes live with these experiences, and carry inherited traumas from previous generations. Many people have a great need to remember together events that they themselves have experienced or inherited, even if these events took place outside of Sweden. Therefore, we are now collecting personal stories about genocide and crimes against humanity, and hope that many of those who share these are also interested in letting parts of the stories find a place in our upcoming exhibition. With the exhibition, we want to increase the mutual understandings of others’ experiences of genocide and crimes against humanity, and also share knowledge about the mechanisms that can lead to these types of crimes. By highlighting personal stories and testimonies, we shed light onto the ways that crimes against humanity have a lasting impact on contemporary migration in general and specific kinds of migration in today’s local communities.

10. Educate Others: Especially the Ones with the Power to Change

For us, education is about creating processes where learning becomes critical, reflexive, and pleasurable. We therefore take our starting point from MKC’s previous and ongoing research as well as norm-critical perspectives. Through creative and interactive workshop methods, together we increase our understanding and broaden our perspectives. Through theoretical input and joint reflection, our goal is to create nuanced discussions, twist and turn these concepts, and contribute with useful and proven methods.

What is meant by everyday racism and how is it expressed? What is Swedishness and who can call themselves Swedish? Does segregation mean that people with different ethnic and economic backgrounds meet less and less? We illuminate the norm of whiteness and the social structures, hierarchies of power, and the histories that enable and reproduce these norms. Based on MKC’s research and practice, we discuss what differential thinking looks like in today’s Sweden, and what we can all do to change these patterns and actions to achieve a more inclusive and equal society.

1. Shaping Solidarities: From Audiences to Publics, From Publics to Accomplices

BAK, basis voor New Women Connectors (2019)

BAK, basis voor . . . (2019–ongoing) is a project that serves as a base for collaborative gatherings with collectives, groups, and organizations assembled on the ground of shared urgency to think about, imagine, and actualize a socially and ecologically just future.

As part of BAK, basis voor . . . , New Women Connectors—a platform led by migrant and refugee women to promote the involvement and engagement of migrant and refugee women in the policy making process—co-organized multiple events with BAK to communally discuss what an inclusive future would look like.

2. Anticipatory Learning: Toward Other Knowledges

Training VIII: Decommodifying Housing: How to Get There? (2019)[1]

During Training VIII, several communities, such as refugee collective We Are Here and Migrante Utrecht, in collaboration with the basic activist kitchen (the b.a.k.), came together and shared experiences and knowledges about housing and the city while cooking and making banners.

[1] Trainings for the Not-Yet was an exhibition as a series of trainings for a future of being together otherwise, convened with a multitude of collaborators by artist Jeanne van Heeswijk and BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht.

3. Becoming Public: Art, Proposition, Mobilization

Matthijs de Bruijne: Compromiso Político (2018)

A large part of the exhibition Matthijs de Bruijne: Compromiso Político was dedicated to the cooperation of artist Matthijs de Bruijne with the Union of Cleaners of the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV), happening since 2011. Together, the artist and the Union bring together art and social struggles, and search for connections between artistic practice and grassroots political organizing in the underlying commonalities of precarity, forms of representation and protest, and the shared desire for new images and imaginaries that work toward social justice.

4. Deep Listening

Here We Are Academy (2016)

Convened by We Are Here in collaboration with Campus in Camps, Here We Are Academy (2016) took place in the framework of the project Unstated (or, Living Without Approval). It featured Campus In Camps’ Collective Dictionary, a series of publications containing definitions of concepts considered fundamental for the understanding of the contemporary condition of Palestinian refugee camps. Written reflections on personal experiences, interviews, excursions, and photographic investigations constitute the starting point for the formulation of more structured thoughts, which serve to explore each term. Multiple participants developed each publication, suggesting a new form of collective learning and knowledge production.

5. Invite Publics to Change the Rules of Participation

Community Portal

The Community Portal is a practice in development, convened by BAK in collaboration with artist Jeanne van Heeswijk and working with various community actors as accomplices. Understanding BAK as a Community Portal that “makes publics,” BAK and its accomplices develop and propose protocols and methods for durable relationships between BAK and other collectives, groups, and organizations that assemble through urgencies to think about, imagine, and actualize socially, culturally, and ecologically just futures.