Arts Collaboratory is an ecosystem of twenty-five like-minded organisations situated predominantly in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, all of whom are focused on collective governance. The organisations engage in expanded artistic and curatorial practices for social change, as well as sustainability practices in their respective contexts, with the aim of being effective in and beyond the field of art. The network operates as an active ecosystem, where knowledge and strengths are brought together and harvested in processes of collective organisation. It is a radical experiment in exploring the potentiality of art and social transformation when the experiences, dreams, and critical reflections of cultural practitioners from across the globe are allowed to meet.
The network strives for horizontality among members. Each of the participating organisations commits to common ethical principles and contributes to the ecosystem’s health by way of translocal triangles made up of three organisations. An annual assembly for collective decision-making and knowledge exchange is hosted in a rotatory basis by the members. Otherwise the ecosystem regenerates itself through collective projects and small-scale meetings called Bangas, which are based on a ‘call for gathering’ for friendship, reciprocal support, collective study on a particular subject/issue, and tooling. Arts Collaboratory is a place for self-care and working in common across territories to form a community of solidarity based on mutualism, empathy, and vulnerability. The aim of unlearning capital- and productivity-driven working methods is central to the way the network thinks but also lives. Instead of filing reports, members participate in collective and consistent study practices that prioritise process and openness over success.
Arts Collaboratory was established in 2007 by two Dutch foundations, DOEN and Hivos, as a funding program and as a platform for knowledge-sharing supporting the growing number of artistic organisations providing alternatives to the oft-lacking / inflexible arts scenes in their local context, and to strengthen the South–South connections between these initiatives. Following the 2015 Senegal Assembly, they developed ‘The Future Plan’ to negotiate self-governance and mutual accountability that values transparency around struggles and failures instead of dressed-up reports that satisfy trajectories of progress, selection, and evaluation. In light of the paradigm shifts, the position of DOEN and Hivos were revisited. DOEN becoming member of the ecosystem and Hivos remaining as an observer. In this process, key areas of enquiry are the rethinking of funding models; methodologies of working with art locally and transnationally while unlearning the current modalities of working; and, most importantly, devising a self-sustainable and open system of translocal collectivity.