The Golden Balance- Between Artistic Expression and Cultural Heritage Preservation

Yesterday Intercult in collaboration with Batumi House Argani in Georgia broadcasted an international webinar on the subject of art encounters in public space and heritage preservation. Ana Riaboshenko, Art Curator – Contemporary Art Space Batumi, remembered Intercult visiting Adjara region in Georgia with Seas and Corners, and now again with Memory of Water again connecting Georgia to European collaboration. An opportunity to observe how things changes through the time with a new generation of artists setting up interventions in public space. Same methodology but new subjects, new challenges of Batumi heritage sites and a new understanding of how to make a statement with art and lead it further to the contact with the society. Are artists able to be in charge of the entire process? Do we use heritage as scenography for arts or is it really arising certain questions at certain places?

Intercult is a lead partner in Memory of Water project co- funded by Creative Europe – building upon collaboration of 6 partner cities, based on local, digital and international participation and co-creation. Memory of Water explores post-industrial cultural heritage on waterfronts in the context of urban planning and community development. Over two years, the participating partners: Intercult in Sweden, Stad Ostend in Belgium, the Municipality of Levadia in Greece, BSCC Poland, Fablevision in Scotland, and Ormston House in Ireland collaborated on twenty-three interconnected activities like city labs, international residencies, filmed documentaries and 8 disseminating events we call Disseminating Labs. The question when we started 2018 has been: what is the future for waterfront industrial heritage, do our cities need it or can we use the waterfronts for other needs of the communities? Can artists influence the process of preservation?

In 2019 thanks to Swedish Institute, we connected a 7th and 8th place, the city of Batumi in Georgia and Mariupol in Ukraine to make a bridge between the same challenges in Baltic Sea Region, Black Sea Region and Europe.

We believe that the best way to face common challenges is through collaboration. By connecting  several institutions and organisations from the civil society and public governance in the BSR/Black Sea Region /EU coming together in different locations and using methodology of City Lab we opened for a discussion about how we can reimagine cities for the best of their citizens,  culturally, socially, economically and environmentally. Comparative dialogue with Batumi added a new city dimension to MOW. In Batumi as in other involved cities, sharing European experiences and influencing the perception of dealing with cultural preservation of city history, could result in influencing the preservation of cultural heritage and use it for art/cultural purposes. The collaboration of organisations and artists, even if in many different ways, has been mutually beneficial for both sides as we all belong to the same Europe, sharing European values and challenges.

Connecting Georgia to MOW brings in added value to the european  project. We are interested in sharing methodology that has to do with urban development through culture initiatives as a driving force and cultural heritage as macro regional asset. We want to discuss real challenges and working processes on how urban planners, public decision makers and the professional culture sector collaborate with the civil society to build sustainable cities. One tiny intervention may not change the planning policy, but the acupuncture point has been a very important element of a much bigger, wider program of debate, learning, and gradual war of attrition, like the famous one drop that erodes the stone. Summarizing, we all feel like a part of European community, empowering each other and our partners. Once taken into our circle, we eagerly exchange experiences and join given opportunities.


The main focus of activities has been strengthening co-operation between artists and local stakeholders like cultural organizations in the context of urban planning and to influence the urban policies. Methodology used in the MOW was also used for Connecting Georgia. Each artist undertook a challenge to give an own eye-view on the present and the future value of the chosen site in focus.

How does it work?

By creating interventions in the landscape of the cities, artists start an exploration of what’s next for waterfront industrial heritage and support community activism, together with local stakeholders uncovering alternative approaches to regeneration and citizen-led planning. Questions are asked around bridging the gap between people dreams and possible implementation; how to avoid gentrification and whether or not artists are being able to undertake a challenge of visioning a different future for places threatened by vanishing. Memories threatened by vanishing.

 Artists worked with citizens and community groups to create local, inclusive events and artistic interventions. We worked with more or less strong communities, invited policy makers, city planners, architects, and local stakeholders to take part of our work and talk about the dreams and challenges. Artists take place and make places, transform places from different perspectives, less materialistic and more existentially past- future- oriented. A huge demand and a huge burden. A mirror on the wall.

We were in Ostend, Levadia, Gdansk, Govan and we bought flight tickets to Batumi – then it all stopped and had to be revised to local-international-digital programs. Looking at the photos of artistic works, it is amazing how Covid did not succeed in putting down artistic creativity, on the contrary, it continued all 2020!

Digital change is brilliant and innovative, however, really challenging especially for involved artists but even for the cities like Batumi to be visited digitally.

Communicating the project towards the society and dialogue towards the society was extremely difficult to establish keeping at the same time the Covid-social distance. The learning is that the artists themselves, even if creating magnificent works, need assistance in a dialogue with the audience on the statement the arise, otherwise the artwork will just be an artwork and not a statement connected to the subject of preservation-or any other subject of the project in question.  It usually is a very limited period of time, for artists to develop a project that especially addresses the issues so the frame and the prolongation to a dialogue must be taken care of by a supporting structure. It is a responsibility of partners to build up communication with the society with art as a tool to open up a dialogue. For the continuation, the project tool was an Urban Lab, with meetings of stakeholders. The methodology straightly implemented virtually is however a substitute of real meetings and achieving a real impact is difficult. That methodology has still to be defined.

We still hope that we can one day visit Batumi and with both ours and artists eye view explore what we have learned digitally. We really want to sit with our hosts from House Argani and feel the smell of Georgian coffee in one of the Italian yards. To establish a real relation with both people and places.


Photo by Jonas Myrstrand @Studio Jox

With Iwona Preis, Helen Riise, Jonas Myrstrand, Katharina Landwehr & Ebba Falkman in Beckholmen in Stockholm.