About the project

“Pause/Play: Culture under Pressure” is an international laboratory for artists, cultural practitioners and other professionals, passionate about digital technologies as vital tools in their artistic endeavors. The title captures the intricate dynamics of the contemporary art and culture scene in the (post)pandemic era, interwoven with political repressions in Belarus, the ongoing war in Ukraine, the post-war crisis in Armenia, and the turbulent situation in the South Caucasus. The project started in 2022 in Tbilisi, Georgia and will continue in Yerevan, Armenia in November 2023. It also incorporates the preparatory online programme, including lectures and mentoring sessions.

The heightened insecurity within the cultural sector forced many institutions and individuals to suspend their regular activities indefinitely or transition them to digital formats. On the other hand, the digital environment opened up new perspectives and dimensions, facilitating international collaboration beyond political boundaries and institutional hierarchies. Consequently, this nurtured the growth of decentralized communities and horizontally structured initiatives.

The laboratory offers lectures, presentations and discussions on digital technologies and trends, such as AI, VR, Metaverse and Blockchain, and their use and impact on art and culture. Special attention is given to socially oriented and activist media art, as well as to the strategies of formation of self-organized initiatives, based on the principles of decolonization, social inclusion, solidarity and active interaction with the local context and community.

The participants of our project are artists and cultural practitioners currently living in Armenia, Georgia, Germany, Poland, and various corners of the world. Through their critical art and activist initiatives they speak their mind to resist wars, political repressions, neo-colonial and imperial ambitions of authoritarian states and dictatorships.

The selection of Tbilisi as the initial project location was motivated by several reasons. First of all,  after the political repressions in Belarus, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it emerged as a focal point for refugees from Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. Secondly, it portrays the transition of Georgia from its Soviet past to Europeanization/Westernization.The complex geopolitical dynamics within the South Caucasus, where Russia wields substantial influence and political pressure, give rise to cultural transformations, intensified polarization, and increased colonial, political and social conflicts.

The successful conclusion of the first laboratory revealed the need for the project to extend and expand. Our commitment to project expansion led us to choose Yerevan, Armenia, as our next destination. While the Second Karabakh War in 2020 and the ensuing post-war crisis presented considerable challenges for the country with a young democracy, they also served as the catalyst for transformative breakthroughs. Furthermore, in the wake of the war in Ukraine and the military operation targeting Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia has witnessed a substantial influx of migrants. These ongoing developments exert a profound impact on the socio-cultural fabric, which we aim to undertake within the framework of our program.

Alongside an initial preparatory online program consisting of a series of sessions with experts in the fields of art, digital technologies and decentralised project management, the laboratory will incorporate visits to local cultural institutions in Yerevan, discussions with cultural practitioners, contribution on projects, and the curation of a pop-up exhibition with a series of public events, including podiums and artist talks that address the topic of the existence and development of art and culture in the face of political pressure and a migration crisis.

The project is curated and organized by Kulturschafft e. V. and CSN Lab, in partnership with Untitled Tbilisi, with financial support from the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs.