no cabin fever. Photo by Eduardo Cassina
no cabin fever. Photo by Eduardo Cassina

We Are Not an Island — Tridem Networking Mobility

Eduardo Cassina is based in Athens, and participated in Tandem Ukraine 2016-17, partnering with Tetiana Tsybulnyk from Kyiv. Together they worked on 14th District. Eduardo is now sharing some reflections and insights on how the partnership started, but moreover, how it grew and moved beyond the Tandem programme to find new partners, friends and develop a... boat residency. Read Eduardo's story to learn more.

I am not sure how it was for other Tandem rounds, but for the Tandem Ukraine 2016-2017 round, the first time we all got together was like The Lobster – yes, the film. We were in a beautiful resort in the middle of the woods in Northern Ukraine. We all came on our own, and we all knew that after a few days, we all had to come out ‘paired’.

There was speed dating, walks in the forest, more speed dating, common meals, and nights in the Sauna. We were all looking for our partner (among other things). Whenever a possible Tandem happened, the whole thing stopped, and, much like in the film, the new couple would announce the project they had in common and we would clap. It was stressful and fun and brought us all closer together.

I was very lucky, and managed to find a great partner, Teta, who has since become a very valuable friend, and work colleague on other projects that go beyond our Tandem Collaboration. But until I was paired with her, I had time to discuss ideas and projects with other participants, some of whom were on ‘the same side’ (EU) as me -. This was the case of my lobster-mates Ségolène from European Alternatives and Flavia from Hablar en Arte, with whom back then, in the midst of all this pairing-race, we were able to concoct a new project, that would have to take place after our Tandem collaborations – a boat residency (the former went on to collaborate with Oxana from VCRC, and the latter would find her tandem half at the Tandem Turkey programme).

I had just come from a failed boat residency, but being for three weeks at sea to go nowhere, showed me the tremendous potential that a little shell of wood could have in bringing people together… An experience that can only be compared to putting strangers in cottages in the forest, and asking them to partner up.

Between our speed dates, and brainstorms, Flavia and I would get together to discuss how this residency could take place. The format was intuitive (it had to be on a boat) but we were still very much lost at sea when it came to purpose and framework. Ségolène joined us, and we decided we could use the vessel as a carrier of post-national idea(l)s; a ground zero for a new understanding of Europe.

After our final meeting in Odesa, we all agreed that we would have to meet to seriously discuss the idea, and make it happen. But trying to keep our heads above water with busy schedules, living in opposite sides of the continent, and intense travelling, we were literally sailing against the wind (pun intended). We applied for a Tandem Network Mobility Grant, and we went to see Flavia, in Madrid. We were joined by my studio partner – Liva-, as well as Flavia’s colleague Carmen.

Much in line with out idea of isolation, and closeness to nature as triggers for closer bonds and forging team, we decided to rent a cottage in the mountains in Madrid for two days, followed by some more in-city work.

So there we were, back where it all started: in a little cabin, surrounded by nature, and with time pressure to come up with a project. No need for speed-dating this time, but lots of brainstorming, of putting forward intentions, goals and skills. And an ever growing google document where, we are translating into some form of sailable vessel our ideas for emancipating ourselves, all of us, from ideas of nationalism, ‘legitimate’ territorial bonds established through genetics, and invisible, yet very palpable, country borders. Water, we thought, bypasses all that.

After a few days together, we assembled a draft on which we are currently working, to move the project forward and bring it to good harbour. With all the overlapping crisis that the world is facing at the moment, it is a good time to start looking for new forms of establishing bonds between humans, and a boat residency that looks at shaking many of the structures created to separate us, seems like one of the many good ways to start.

Of course, this residency project is nothing but a drop in the ocean, but it is exactly of drops like these that the ocean is made out of. Stay tuned to more news coming through here from Hablar en Arte, European Alternatives and METASITU. And Safe Winds.