UP joins international Octopus Programme arts initiative as network partner

Posted on April 22, 2021

The University of Pretoria (UP) is proud to announce its inclusion in the Octopus Programme, which functions as a support mechanism for emerging artists, and encourages artistic research and collaborations.

The initiative was piloted in 2019/2020 by the University of Applied Arts Vienna and the Kamel Lazaar Foundation in Tunis, and is described as a “guided research-based educational programme that encourages artistic research and production-based collaborations across academies and art institutions; students and professionals; diverse presentation modes; and processes of research and documentation in different geographies”.

The Octopus Programme seeks to combine elements such as social, geopolitical, educational and ecological factors to produce “experience-based collective and creative output” that will provide support to artists and develop processes of artistic research and practices by merging the perspectives of contemporary art institutions.

UP joins the programme’s network of partners, which include, among others, Konstfack, University of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm; Centre for the Less Good Idea in Johannesburg; the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center in Ramallah; the Palestinian Museum in Birzeit; and the Saastamoinen Foundation in Helsinki. The partners joined the main phase of the programme in April this year after completion of the pilot phase, in February 2021.

The pilot phase kicked off in 2020 by inviting applications from artists, who were then short-listed and interviewed by a selection committee. The committee consisted of several prominent panellists such as Barbara Putz-Plecko, Vice-Rector for Research and Diversity at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, and Prof Basak Senova, a visiting professor from the same institution. Vice-President of the Kamel Lazaar Foundation, Lina Lazaar, also sat on the panel as did Rachida Triki, a professor of Philosophy at Tunis University. The panellists selected four candidates to proceed to the Octopus Programme in 2020.

During the pilot phase, participants were led by Prof Senova in collaboration with curators from partnering institutions and organisations. They engaged in peer-to-peer educational sessions, virtual classes, field trips for research purposes, workgroups that met in Tunis and Vienna, production-based workshops and lectures. All trips undertaken for this purpose were paid for by the University of Applied Arts Vienna and the Kamel Lazaar Foundation. 

For the main phase of the Octopus Programme in 2021, 10 participating artists from Europe, the Mediterranean region and Africa were selected. Each of the partner institutions from these countries made their own selections in collaboration with Prof Senova. The first phase of the course, which will last 10 weeks (April to June), will be presented by the University of Applied Arts Vienna and the Kamel Lazaar Foundation. The second phase will commence in October 2021 and end in February 2022. The programme will conclude with presentations, exhibitions and book launches in June 2022, and all participants will receive certificates.

A separate but related project, ‘A Research of Doing’ – supported and by funded by OeAD Africa-UniNet and BMBWF (Austria’s Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research)

– was initiated this year by the University of Applied Arts Vienna, UP and the Centre for the Less Good Idea. This sister programme will provide further scholarly input to the Octopus Programme by way of guest lectures, workshops and joint forms of artistic production.

- Author Makone Maja
Published by Xolani Mathibela

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