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Exhibition project "The Conversation Before the Conversation" / Symposium "The Beauty of Not Understanding"

Understanding, comprehension, and agreement in international cultural exchange

An initiative in the context of the Robert Bosch Cultural Managers Network.

A project by Kathrin Hartmann, Jessica Laignel, and Susanne Weiß.

October 2012 to January 2013 (exhibition) and December 2012 (symposium), Heidelberger Kunstverein (Germany)

The aim of this project was to reflect on the requirements for international cultural cooperation and cross-border dialogue and to confront this issue based on the participants’ experience and knowledge. The goal was not to draw up a binding plan of action for a better practice. Instead, the goal was to use an open dialogue to collect suggestions for the participants’ own stances in international cultural work and to challenge personal perspectives.

Starting from the concept of “cultural translation,” theorists and practitioners accompanied the process of questioning official rhetoric of intercultural/international dialogue and discussing conditions for successful cultural exchange.

The project consisted of an interdisciplinary exhibition and an international symposium. The exhibition was curated by the three organizers. The selected works by Hannah Hurtzig, Bouchra Ouizguen, Serhij Zhadan, and Roland Fürst represented subjective experience and encounters with artists from their time as Robert Bosch Cultural Managers. These works - from the fields of literature, performance, artistic research, and photography - evidenced the way that art can act as a translation tool in international cultural exchange and, on the other hand, demonstrated the challenges that this entails.

Before the symposium, there was a call for participation in the Robert Bosch Cultural Managers Network. Under the heading “When is cultural exchange successful?” cultural managers were asked to outline their experiences briefly. Contributions from network participants ensured that the symposium was free. Participants were invited to share their experience in international cultural work openly in the discussion.

Another objective was to strengthen cooperation among cultural managers, both within the network and beyond. A forum to promote exchange among alumni was offered in which they had the opportunity to reflect on their experiences as Robert Bosch Cultural Managers together and discuss these experiences with other practitioners and theoreticians from related fields.