(Kemê’s speech 47:00 – 57:50)
The following text is a speech presented by Globe Art Point’s supporting member Kemê Pellicer at the Avaus Seminar that was held in Ateneum on 14th of September 2020. The seminar was organised in collaboration with the Culture for All service aiming to create models that support employment possibilities of arts and culture professionals with migrant background in Finland as well as enable their better inclusion into Finnish society.
I believe I am here today because of both my multiple identities and my transversal connection with this report and it’s process, which I feel, has been a growing opportunity and a journey of discovery for all people involved.
As you know, this research is part of the more extensive project: “Opening. Becoming an agent in the field of arts and culture in Finland” implemented by Cupore, Culture for All and Globe Art Point, where I was the coordinator.
I dropped it as I applied myself to receive formation as a “diversity agent” by Culture for All, which I achieve. And nevertheless, the report deals with the status of my peers and me here in Finland.
I am much more than a target group; I am the sum of my multiplicities, and I am a professional able to combine many hats. I am a visual artist and a poet, And I am culture agent who believes in social justice* and therefore tries to act accordingly.
*(justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society)
On a personal level, some discoveries of this research are emotionally taxing. Make no mistake: When my peers and I must exist in rooms where we are the topic or referred to as if we wouldn’t be there already, it is always onerous, luckily we are incredibly over skilled and resourceful.
As a cultural agent, I almost feel good today. I choose to see those findings as something almost cartographic—> an actualised map on which to draw a route that will move us towards justice.
I use the term justice even though it might sound too big for some, because even if “cultural diversity was viewed in the project only from the perspective of foreign-born arts and culture professionals”. We must consider that the same structures in our institutions that produce discrimination regarding languages or nationality are perpetuating discrimination about gender, sexual identity, etc..
I understand that talking of more blurry concepts, like diversity, accessibility or equality is less uncomfortable than addressing concrete problems by their name; like racism, ableism or unearned privilege. However, we just can build a fairer system by addressing them.
And I say OUR institutions and WE with capital letters as I believe that separating ourselves we just hinder our efforts.
It worries me when I read that indeed ”cultural diversity was mostly visible only in the specific areas of the institutions’ operations where they could benefit from it.”
That confirms my own experience where I am often asked to help an institution to work with diversity, But what I am really asked to do is to work with audience development.
I have worked with little and large structures, in Finland and abroad, and I never found a way of doing efficient, diverse audience outreach and programming without doing first at all a process of ”learning and adapting” at the core structure of the institution and its personnel .
The challenge never is to reach or increment cultural diversity, we already live in a rich varied culture, diversity is everywhere, the effort is how to stop living in a denial status and embrace reality on our institutional level. To do it together.
I agree with Martina Marti when she says ”the resistance was not towards cultural diversity itself but towards a change in the ways of operating as an institution.” so I believe one essential step in our roadmap is to normalise change, from the individual practice to the system. Hold our hands and jump.
I repeat: It’s time for action! Let’s move.
As Ceyda Berk-Söderblom writes “We know that the implementation of cultural diversity and inclusion is a long process.” so we have no time to lose.
Let’s focus on the HOW.
As an artist, you learn to work with the materials you already have, I would say as a culture worker you do too.
Can “our field” do it?
I want to challenge the structure, gatekeepers and decision-makers, to do so.
The good news for them field is that we have an overstock of supplies to work with:
-people: experts (and I include myself and many of you here today)
-physical and online spaces
We have already created several sets of recommendations to implement and tools to do so.
Also, many of us have already been working together and/or with official structures producing:
– Solid foundations on top to build, so others don’t need to start all over.
– Intersectional bridges and meeting points, multidirectional access.
– Priceless specific knowledge on the ethics, methodologies and practicalities, of both, cooperating and implementing.
– Experience, and by trying, failing and trying again, the opportunity for others don’t commit the same mistakes.
These are the “materials the field has.”
I am extending an invitation to use them efficiently, if you are not,
work with us:
– Allowing us to affect the structures in which we are located.
– Penalising tokenisation as much as tailor-made calls.
– Allocating the necessary money during all the required time, to those who are already delivering.
– Centring and supporting the experiences and asks of people most affected by oppression.
– Pulling out from those who are not meeting the standards that our actual diverse society demands.
– Stopping those who still work under the premise of diversity, equality and accessibility as their theme or project, instead of internalising it in their core structure.
We are not supposed to know what we don’t know, yet culture is plural, we chose this field, and we are duty-bound to learn or update our practice to be able to function in the reality we live in. NOW WE KNOW.
Thank you, for both confirming my assumptions and to make me confront them. We have actual data asking us to grow our capacity to learn, shift, change and respect each other, to do social justice. We have the means, we are already here and connected.
So, How are we doing it?
Kemê is a primarily a visual artist based in Helsinki who works with photography, performance, Installation and text, often hybridising them, In a process that explores our nature and artificiality, the complexity of our construction and the constructions we inhabit, our role in it, not predefined or static.
She investigates concepts like memory, representation, symbols, mutability, the unconscious and its shadows., fascinated by the use of art as an Alchemy or magic tool for re-creation. Her artistic practice is currently focused on her multidisciplinary project and research “Villi Akka’s calling”, based on the wild woman’ archetype within the frame of tales, myths and storytelling tradition. Which addresses contemporary life, challenging the negative image given historically by the binary opposition’s system.
Kemê also cooperates in several initiatives regarding cultural diversity and best practices in arts and culture such as the group Critical Friends, by the Nordic Council of Ministers (project: “An inclusive cultural sector in the Nordics” led by Arts Council Norway) or the Independent Center and association “Globe Art Point.” in Helsinki.