Projects will take place between October 2020 and March 2021
In 2020 we have seen many of our assumptions about society, culture and economy upturned or broken. We see in equal measure both the emergence of possibilities for rapid and transformative change, and the deepening of existing fractures and injustices. It is clear that we are inside a period of disruption that neither began nor will end with the COVID-19 pandemic, and in which the larger social-economic-ecological crises of our time become vivid and present.
For Pro Helvetia Johannesburg, we confront with renewed sharpness the question of the relevance of our central task of international exchange and collaboration in the arts during a time in which many artists on the continent are seeing their livelihoods unravelling, and in which many organisations and businesses are facing collapse. While physical mobility has been massively curtailed during this period, we have found ourselves mining more deeply the creative possibilities that inhere in the digital, not only for bridging physical distance, but also as a medium for the creation and reception of artistic work.
Against this backdrop, the Breathing Space call looked to enable modest relief, or ‘breathing space’, for arts practitioners, organisations and networks across the subcontinent to rethink ways of working and reimagine the shape and position of cultural and creative work. The call was intended to open up opportunities to experiment with new possibilities and formats for artistic production, exchange, collaboration, presentation and reception, responsive to the complex demands of the present time at both a very local and global level.
Departing from our traditional funding model, project proposals did not need to have a connection to the Swiss arts scene. The focus of the Breathing Space call was to enable local possibilities on the subcontinent that could in the future provide a basis for exchange and connection with the Swiss arts scene and cultural field more generally.
The Breathing Space call invited applications that proposed entirely new ideas and initiatives, as well as the amplification or extension of what arts practitioners were already doing in response to these changing circumstances. The exploration of new formats and approaches as well as projects that use this moment of global rupture to engage more deeply with or interrogate older methods and practices and archives – or indeed to do both – were welcome. Addressing COVID–19 at the level of theme or content was not a requirement.