Il canale Podcast di Melting Pro

URBAN STORIES N. 1 Bitamine Faktoria

June 29, 2022 Melting Pro Season 1 Episode 1
Il canale Podcast di Melting Pro
URBAN STORIES N. 1 Bitamine Faktoria
Show Notes Transcript

Urban Stories: Practices of urban and social innovation in Europe promotes good practices of grassroots, culture-led urban and social innovation processes across Europe. All cases are members of the Trans Europe Halles Network, representing Europe as a whole – from North to South and from East to West – and with different lifespans.

Each practice is explored through research realized in 2021 under the project Eureka -European Urban Regeneration Knowledge Alliance, funded with the Erasmus plus programme.

 The good practice of this episode is  Bitamine Faktoria – a unique approach halfway between artistic processes and cultural management, with a high impact on the community.

More about the project: https://www.eure-ka.eu

 

Urban stories
Practices of urban and social innovation in Europe.

 ***

Urban Stories promotes good practices of grassroots, culture-led urban and social innovation processes across Europe. All cases are members of the Trans Europe Halles Network, representing Europe as a whole – from North to South and from East to West – and with different lifespans.

Each practice is explored through research realized in 2021 under the project Eureka -European Urban Regeneration Knowledge Alliance-, funded with the Erasmus plus programme.

 ***

The good practice of this episode is  Bitamine Faktoria – a unique approach halfway between artistic processes and cultural management, with a high impact on the community.

 ***

 Irun is a town in the Basque country on the Spanish border with France and it is here, in 2011, that Bitamine Faktoria was set up by Helga Massetani and Patricia Gomez Rojo. They have worked together since 2006 in Arteleku (a contemporary art centre in a nearby town) , and this gave rise to Artitadetó, an artists’ collective that produced performances throughout Europe. They rented a space in Irun with other artists from the region and In 2011, Helga Massetani and the Artitadetó association partnered with Elke Roloff on the other side of the border, leading to Bitamine Faktoria - a cross-border cultural production and creation factory. This innovative, experimental and interdisciplinary project was dedicated to the promotion and internationalisation of culture, design and contemporary art, and is still active to this day.  

It consists of a diverse group of artists and designers who come together to propose interventions and actions, site-specific projects and installations, preferably in public spaces, which challenge the audience through irony and self-criticism. They also lead cultural projects through all stages and phases from ideation to management and final implementation. They believe that cooperation and collaboration are vital, giving agency to both the projects and the people involved in them.

The location of Bitamine Faktoria in the region of Bidasoa is fundamental to its identity, activity and development. Bidasoa is a region that spans the Spanish-French border, and thus has a very rich cultural and linguistic landscape combining elements from both sides. Some interviewees consider that this cross-border nature has historically meant that the region and its people have been open to other cultures and places, which is key to understanding this initiative. 

Through the arts and its artists Bitamine Faktoria has involved society in the development of the city and specifically of the neighbourhood. 

Local communities (including children and the elderly) have been given the chance to take part in the development of their local context, largely thanks to the activities that Bitamine Faktoria has developed in public spaces.  

From the very beginning, Bitamine Faktoria has shown commitment to social needs and desires and to the need to work collaboratively through processes of co-creation, with all agents of the territory, be they public authorities or influential citizens, making everyone responsible for the transformation of their environment. 

The potential of these arts and culture initiatives is to activate citizens’ awareness of their surroundings, thus helping them to appreciate and take care of it.

The engagement with local communities led to some important processes:

-       Decentralisation: the projects and events took place not only in Irun’s city centre, but also in the more suburban neighbourhoods of the city, which normally do not receive much attention in relation to cultural programming. This has enabled the visibility and activation of peripheral areas of the city.

-       Proximity: Bitamine Faktoria’s activities have put art and artists on the streets and into public spaces, so that citizens can directly relate with the interventions and artists, in an informal way, thus reducing the distance between art and citizens

-       Re-functionalization: Bitamine Faktoria has created a new way of using public spaces in Irun for arts and culture. Before it had only been used for more common cultural activities, such as concerts, festivals, and so on.

-       Internationalisation: in the words of one interviewee, by having international projects, Bitamine Faktoria has put the city of Irun on the cultural map..

-       Localism: bringing contemporary art to Irun and its surroundings has enriched the local as well as the regional art and culture scene 

-       Awareness: promoting people’s appreciation of their neighbourhoods is a first step towards a more conscious, just and sustainable society

-       knowledge generation: local institutions recognise that having local agents such as Bitamine Faktoria, is a fantastic opportunity for the municipality, as the knowledge acquired results in a deepening of expertise and an enriching of the community.

However Bitamine Faktoria is facing many challenges.

The first of these is the question of sustainability. The precariousness of the culture sector has heavy consequences in terms of income uncertainty. This is particularly the case where people are relying on public grants –which are increasingly competitive and difficult to find. But even those directly replying on contracts from public and private entities are in a precarious position, as these short-term contracts come and go according to the current needs of the different entities. However, the area in which Bitamine Faktoria is located has made things even more difficult: a major percentage of the public funds for artistic and cultural initiatives go to the main cities in the area, such as Bilbao or Donostia-San Sebastian, as they have larger populations.

The second big challenge is the legacy in terms of the recognition of the value of the processes involved in doing the activities. Either from the societal point of view, when people minimise the initiative in a superficial way and don’t understand its deeper rationale, such as those that dismiss the projects as “making little paintings”; or from the side of local government, who are afraid of the consequences of certain actions and the need to obtain permissions for the activities. The creative team therefore needs to be able to operate within this framework of possibilities and limits.

Last but not least the commitment to a long term perspective. Most people are happy to be engaged in the initiatives in the here and now. However, most of the time they last for months and this level of commitment is not something many citizens want to give. Therefore, creating a timetable for a long-term project that suits everyone becomes complicated. 

But the key successes of the Bitamine Faktoria can be found in:

-       The cooperation and alliance with different local agents and institutions. Since its inception, the Bitamine Faktoria started weaving together a network of contacts and collaborations. However, the cross-border character of the initiative has been very important in defining its cultural openness. 

-       Taking the projects to public spaces is also a clear factor in Bitamine’s success. Public space, considered as a social space that is used and shared by the whole community, is a key area in which arts and culture can directly engage with the community, and used as a tool to interact with them, thus creating consciousness and agency about their surroundings and its possibilities.

-       Bitamine’s third sign of success is that events that were created as temporary have been repeated. The will to move toward more permanent solutions demonstrates the value of the initiative.

Bitamine Faktoria is a clear example of the potential that the arts and culture have in promoting social and urban innovation. Bitamine Faktoria is committed to identifying social needs and desires, and through processes of co-creation, has collaboratively developed projects to address them. 

Over the years, Bitamine has engaged in a long reflective process of adapting its activities to the perception of their utility and their capacity to contribute to society. 

In 2016, Bitamine Faktoria moved to a new space in Irun, in which they stayed until 2021. In March of that year, in part due to the coronavirus pandemic, the space closed, and since July 2021, Bitamine Faktoria is located in a local entrepreneurship centre, as a social innovation project. After some internal reflections on the role of Bitamine Faktoria in the local and regional context, the team decided to move to a new phase of the project, focusing more on the ‘backstage’ of cultural projects and initiatives, rather than in their production and realisation. It is in this area that Helga Massetani feels Bitamine can contribute best to society and to the needs of local and regional agents. As one of the interviewees put it, it is “a process of ‘deconstruction’” and “‘reconstruction’ of the activities and services that they want to offer from now on”. 

Bitamine Faktoria has learnt from its experience, and has adapted itself to what was best to do at each time. 

There was nothing accidental about it, everything was slowly built from the ground up. Whether that is the structure and capacity of Bitamine Faktoria itself on the one hand, or the local initiatives, on the other. The Faktoria which has gained skills and knowledge, has built up a network of contacts through a nurturing process. And the initiatives are built around the local spaces and citizens, not taking anything for granted. 

Bitamine has clearly shown the potential provided by acting in public spaces, in contrast with acting in closed cultural spaces, whether they be public or private. Public space links different groups of people and individuals, it is a space of everyone and for everyone, and brings topics such as arts, culture and urban innovation, to citizens’ everyday lives. Being in public spaces makes visible and demystifies urban innovation and transformation, and makes citizens feel that they are part of the process of urban innovation. 

And finally, the most relevant success factor for Bitamine Faktoria has been the many collaborations it has nurtured throughout the years. Collaboration with public authorities, other public institutions, private companies, not for-profit associations and citizens (local And international), is crucial for building constructive processes that open up new possibilities for the future of the city and neighbourhoods. 

***

This episode is based on the research carried out by Nerea Aranbarri Kortabarria and Geana de Miranda Leschko at the University of Deusto.

Urban Stories is edited by Melting Pro for the European Urban Regeneration Knowledge Alliance project, funded under the Erasmus plus programme.

Sound Design by Simone Colaiacomo and Fabio Zona

Audio recording by Joshua Weinstein

***