cooperation & theme 2024
guilt & shame
In 2024, Platform TU Mariupol and bridgeworks embark on a process ofUkrainian-German cultural exchange. Together, we explore the complex themes of"guilt & shame." To do so, we initiate various transculturalnetworking and dialogue formats, as well as artistic co-productions.
In light of the despicable Russian aggresion against Ukraine, bridgeworks takes a clear stance against the aggressor and condemns the Russian invasion in the strongest terms. Bridgeworks stands in solidarity with our Ukrainian partner institutions, artists, and friends. With Ukrainian culture as our partner, bridgeworks in 2024 becomes a platform for encounters and a voice for Ukrainian voices, thereby sending a clear political signal: solidarity!
With our focus, we embark on a year-long journey of private and political exploration. Together, we examine the artistic, legal, personal, private, and political aspects of guilt and shame. We confront current, provocative, and uncomfortable questions and collectively strive to find answers. We are faced with the challenge of analyzing, understanding, and proactively translating guilt and shame in the context of the Russian aggression.
We are explicitly interested in questions related to attribution of guilt, justice, and legal proceedings in the current situation. What is the state of international law and legality? Which authorities can hold the guilty accountable? How can we artistically address the countless war crimes? Can documentary artistic work contribute to clarifying concrete facts or be used as material in future investigations? What added value can a German perspective as an "observer" of a war bring, beyond a shame-ridden sympathy? Is it not the duty of cultural creators and artists to look at this point and enable new perspectives? Or can art as a form of interpretation and estrangement in this case only be legitimate in conjunction with activist and journalistic formats? Starting from these questions, we begin our research with ourselves as the subject of investigation.
Theme for 2024: guilt & shame
Guilt and shame – two powerful and complex emotions deeply rooted in our human psyche, defining our actions, decisions, personal orientation, and our relationships with each other and the world. Both individually and collectively, it seems that this pair of emotions exerts its influence and affects us more profoundly than it may initially appear.
This focus may seem like a very psychological and personal exploration. However, hasn't the public discourse between Ukraine and Germany revealed that personally perceived differences and commonalities often originate from culturally specific values and historically conditioned sensibilities?
Exploring between collective & individual
Both the collective sense of guilt over the historical crimes of the Germans during the time of National Socialism and the shame currently felt by many Ukrainians as they follow the news about the war in their homeland from their"safe" exile can be seen as indicators that guilt and shame characterize much more than individual experiences.
In psychological research, this pair of emotions plays a central role, especially when it comes to understanding individual and group behavior, social interaction, and cultural norms. However, what is considered shameful or guilt-inducing in one culture may be seen as acceptable or desired in another. To engage in an artistic dialogue, we should question our culture-specific value compass as well as our respective historical references and political conditions.
But where do we personally position ourselves in this tension between the collective and the individual? Why do we feel shame about the guilt that others bear or have borne? If shared suffering means half the pain, does the same apply to guilt? And if it does, does this fact not obligate us to take action or at least adopt a stance?
With the theme of "guilt & shame," we confront a deeply human taboo field, a private-political gray area, and bridge the gap between seemingly profound philosophical and political questions and the biographical, personal stories of our artists. This opens up an exciting field for artistic research and debates, a starting point for collaborative artistic processes and projects. Despite all differences, power dynamics, language barriers, and inequalities, we believe that true understanding lies in dialogue and that this can lead to artistic value.
The cultural center Platform TU, affiliated with the TU Mariupol network, was created in 2016 in Mariupol, the easternmost city in Ukraine, by people who fled the war, were united by it, and began to fight against the war through cultural activities. The initiative promotes human rights and freedom through culture and contemporary art and encourages critical thinking on issues such as gender inequality, discrimination, right-wing extremism, paternalism, refugees, and totalitarian propaganda.
Prior to February 24, 2022, we held discussions with Diane Berg, the founder of the Platform TU cultural center in Mariupol. Together, we developed initial ideas on what a German-Ukrainian cooperation could look like. The events that followed from late February are known to all of us. Currently, Ukrainian artists are located in various places in Ukraine, neighboring countries, and Germany.
image credit: Diana Berg