Photo by Lorenza Salati Slowing Down Time Lorenza Salati from R84 associazione in Mantova has worked with Aida Kalender from AKCIJA Sarajevo during their Tandem Europe collaboration. Now that this second round of the programme came to an end, Lorenza shares some thought-provoking ideas on how to continue building spaces to continue gathering, sharing, learning, working and thinking. Photo by Lorenza Salati “An Art Festival in Ai Stratis? Are you kidding? There is nothing in Ai Stratis. Are you sure you this was the name of the island?” the incredulous theatre teacher who gave us a car ride from the empty and dark Lavrio port asked us. She was our last chance to reach Athens at one o’clock at night, at the end of our journey to the remote island of Ai Stratis. Photo by Lorenza Salati “Remote”: the true meaning of this adjective can only be understood by living this experience first hand. Through very simple things: there is no pharmacy, no laundry machine, no motorbikes or bikes or cars to explore the island. There’s only one beach, two tavernas and one bar. But there is more to it than that. Photo by Lorenza Salati “Which kind of art festival?” the curious teacher went on asking. Ai Sea Art was a project by Tandem partners Catharina from Dominio Vale do Mondego (Portugal) and Stella from the Municipality of Agios Efstratios. What we experienced was more an “Open Air Art Residency” than a “festival”. In every corner, you’d find someone busy playing with sand, wool, flower, colours, golden papers, cardboard, crochet. You could cross paths with any kind of artist, from a Tunisian filmmaker and activist to a group from the Salonicco Academy of Art. Photo by Lorenza Salati We were in the best position to explore this special event. We had nothing to do. This was the point. A place where to go when in need of nothing. A nothing full of emptiness. But even nothing is something, and it is actually a lot. From Athens airport to Lavrio port, we finally boarded on a boat to slowly reach our destination. Once you reach this small remote island, you feel that you are here, in the place and the moment. In such a place, time goes much slower. Anything you need is a maximum of 5 minutes away. So there is more time to think, to empty your mind, to lighten up. In this empty space, you find a white page where to write on, with no noise from the “chaotic” society. This is definitively something artists, intellectuals and change makers appreciate a lot. Photo by Lorenza Salati Photo by Lorenza Salati So: why not to try to build something answering this need, and, at the same time, to think about something after the Tandem programme? Why don’t we try to take the next step? For collaborations it’s important to spend time together, we know that. A long time and, a good time. There are lots of projects that connect Cultural Managers of different towns, but what happens after the projects are done? What happens after final reports are filled? Do people develop long-term exchanges, peer to peer learning? Or everything stops? My feeling is that there is a need for a more structural, long-term vision on how to let people interact in the long run. It shouldn’t be just on projects but on people and their needs. I’m dreaming of an “alliance” between organisations that could lead to the creation of “Cultural Hotspots”, where cultural managers can just go and work on their projects and, while living with people from other countries, feel like home. The only way to get closer to a cultural scene is to spend time there: weeks or months. Photo by Lorenza Salati Each Cultural Hotspot could be a place where Cultural Managers would go and spend long periods of time (from 10 days to two months) living and working in their temporary headquarter. Not a network but an alliance, based on common goals and on sharing common values. Not a Festival but a Work Residency, where to live everyday life. A free flow and movement of workers. Not a big gathering: a one to one exchange. I do not know if we will be able to avoid a beach bar in the remote Ai Stratis but I hope that we will be able to build a system that allows us to establish permanent relationships and collaborations between interstitial remote places all around the world. This is something cultural managers, activists, social innovators who have been participating in Tandem Europe deserve.