Due to their temporary nature, festivals can often be distanced from the life of the cities in which they are held. Yet, it is precisely their temporal dimension that can offer opportunity for festival producers and participants to experiment, test ideas and negotiate change in the city.
In 2020, I took up the first research residency in the history of Vienna Design Week. This residency for curators from the United Kingdom was the subject of a call that formed part of the Design Connections Programme of the British Council. I used my appointment to investigate how architecture and design festivals can act as agents of positive change in a constantly changing world.
25 leading curators, designers, architects, writers, educators and spatial activists have been invited to contribute to the project through a new glossary of terms showcasing a series of fresh visions for the role of festivals in the city. From Kochi to Kampala, Doha to Lisbon, each participant put forward one term or concept for the glossary and was invited to record a 2-minute video on their nomination.
Produced in a time of three unprecedented global emergencies, one of Covid-19, one of climate change and another one of protests against racial discrimination, the project stressed importance of new relevant formats, alternative frameworks for collaboration and further engagement of festivals with the city and its residents. The proposed concepts prioritise collaboration, dialogue, learning and action in response to the real material and social conditions of the ever-changing city fabric.
In the context of the 2022 festival theme of ‘Act’, this video series is an important reminder to all, whether we are festival producers or participants, to act now.
To view all the videos head to the collection.