Same Same But Different: new cultural institutions, accessible spaces

by Linda Di Pietro

When someone asks us to explain what BASE is, we often find that a single definition is reductive, that its complexity is its beauty.
We tend to define it by antinomy, first clarifying what it is not.
It is not a museum, it is not a theatre, it is not just a meeting space, it is not a traditional coworking space, it is not a dance club. It is all these things together and much more.
Same same but different, they would say in South East Asia mocking our brand veneration.

BASE needs no definition. Let everyone give it their own. 
It is a hybrid space, a community hub, a local presidium of the second millennium, so that we know that to make culture, to make territory, we must first go back to making the world, together.

This indefiniteness in its substance has meant that over the last few years, more and more, we have become certain that this place, and not others, would be the perfect place for rethinking the very concept of a cultural institution. And to rethink it starting from the invisible bodies, those we do not usually see in the cultural venues of our city; starting from the voices we do not listen to, except when they occupy the Spotify charts; starting from our biases, prejudices, conscious and unconscious discrimination in our words.
“Same same, but different” inaugurates two years of challenging work, aimed at building a plural artistic institution through a process of decanonisation, understood as the dismantling of the hierarchical structures that produce standards and the recognition of divergences from them, the radical questioning of power mechanisms and the normalised ways of producing and disseminating knowledge (race, gender, economic conditions, etc.).

As Ilda Curti writes, it means “widening the perimeter of proximity to those who inhabit the city but are absent, sideways – because they do not share its language or simply do not have a voice and a voice to participate: people with a migrant background, individuals in transition, the very young. Those who today, in the shouting arena of the frightened cities, become the object of confrontation between care and resentment and are deprived of subjectivity and protagonism.”

After all, BASE is not a monad, it is in the city and the city is in the world and its walls are made of skin.
We cannot escape what penetrates the pores.
Except to ask ourselves how to become a boundary space, available for co-habitation and transformation. How to activate an open and real dialogue with the still marginalised subjectivities of communities̀ and societỳ?

In order to question the hegoriferous nature of institutions and make them more responsive to language and contemporary society, which is in constant transformation, we can only hope for the deconstruction, decolonisation, hacking and denaturalisation of art institutions.

We are interested in Sarah Vahnee’s call during the international forum The Fantastic Institution, “I desire a feminization, decolonising and queering of the art institutions”, institutions that do politics instead of presenting artistic programmes on politics, that care for and engage with the people who work in them, support them on the basis of an equal dialogue and lend themselves as tools.

Tools and platforms that the audience, partners and users influence its structure, forcing the institution to be in a constant and productive state of re-invention. A kind of shared responsibility with those the institution addresses.
A ‘designing with’ instead of ‘organising for’.

We have built cathedrals such as museums, theatres, festivals and weekends, which over the years have become rusty and sclerotic. There is an urgent need to reconsider the role of cultural centres, as instruments to facilitate and enhance the production of imagination and knowledge again, through new systems of alliance with civil society, through new words that are not just ‘different and equal’, but tell all the nuances of the intersectional semantic field.


IDEA stands for:

Inclusion: creating an environment in which all individuals feel welcome, safe, respected, valued and supported to enable full participation and contribution.

Diversity: taking into account the fact that each individual is unique and recognising their particularities, including: ethnic origins, gender (identity, expression), sexual orientation, background, socio-economic status, religion or belief, marital status, age and disability.

Equity: the identification and removal of barriers, especially economic barriers, to ensure the full participation of all people and groups.

Accessibility finally refers to the design of products, devices, services or environments for people with disabilities. A set of solutions that enable the greatest number of people to participate in activities as effectively as possible.

So... is this getting serious?

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