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Spaces of Tolerance

3 August 2023

Culture Hub Croatia (CHC) is a non-for-profit organization based in Split. Since January 2017, the organization has been dedicated to using education, culture and creativity for development of local Croatian communities through transmission of knowledge and European expertise and through promotion of art practices. Through listening to the needs of the community, designing innovative educational programs in the field of culture and continuous exhibition activity emphasizing participation, CHC’s mission is also to empower and build the capacity of workers in the cultural and creative sector, especially young people, and to encourage and promote creativity, contemporary art and intercultural dialogue.

Since July 2021, CHC manages a creative hub called PROSTOR located in the ground floor of the famous, and one of the two largest modernist apartment buildings in Split, in the Spinut neighbourhood. PROSTOR consists of a gallery, workspace, studio for artists and workshops, living room and artist residency. Wide range of educational, creative programs and meet-ups are organized on a weekly basis and the residency is almost continuously occupied by interdisciplinary artists both from Croatia and beyond.

CHC is using art and culture to address many important challenges in their immediate environment. This is also the case of the Spaces of Tolerance (SPOT) project supported by the Minority Rights Group Europe and PILnet, in the framework of the MARIO project funded by the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (2021-2027) of the European Union.

SPOT is a creative program being implemented from March to November 2023, in collaboration with QueerANarchive and Jutro association. The project is addressing the issue of discrimination and hate against migrants and LGBTIQ+ persons in the city of Split, but also at the level of Croatia. By using the “soft power” of art to address important issues of discrimination and hate and combining artistic interventions with educational programs we are not only interpreting, emphasising this problem and raising awareness at the local level but also encouraging people to take action and transform them from “observers” to “defenders”.

A holistic eight-month SPOT program includes an artist residency: open studio and an artistic intervention in the public space; creative workshops for youth and adults led by inspiring invited refugee rights defenders and refugees themselves (from Syria, Iran, and Ukraine, living in Zagreb). Through a creative communication campaign and exhibition the aim is to further highlight this topic from the point of view of illustrators.

What creates a sense of belonging?

The focus of this article is the artist residency and the intervention in the public space which recently took place in Split. A young artist, Katarina Đurđić, selected through the open call, is a queer, contemporary, visual artist and graphic designer who lives and works in Zagreb. She was born in the city of Rijeka, and grew up in Zagreb, where she graduated from the High School of Graphics, while studying singing and drawing. For several years, she studied fashion design at the Faculty of Textile Technology and at Algebra where she obtained the title of Graphic Designer/Digital Publishing Specialist. She currently works at the Zagreb Dance Center as a graphic designer, cashier and receptionist. She is the author of the zine ‘Spletka’, numerous illustrations and sculptures. Katarina studies trends in design and art, and translates them into her own visual language being motivated by positive changes and the need to capture touching moments. Her topics of interest are queer identity and life, interpersonal relationships, emotional ecology, life itself and our actions that shape it. She enjoys painting old phones, photos and toys with the intention of preserving pieces of the past, using memorabilia as a canvas.

Katarina spent ten days in Split doing her artistic research among and in collaboration with queer people, exploring the ways in which they build their homes, havens, and space for themselves. The research was guided by the question of “What creates a sense of belonging?” and is part of her own project “Anatomy of my Temple”. Through encounters and conversations with queer people, she collected stories about families, friends, communities, and acquaintances and how these relationships affect their sense of belonging and building their own home.

During her stay in Split, Katarina was living and working at the residency in Prostor where she was finalizing the installation materials. The installation was made of materials collected and produced during the research: illustrations, photographs, sculptures, and other objects. Out of all of these collected materials, she created an installation in the form of a tent in a public space. The tent was set up in the park of Emanuel Vidović on July 19, 2023 from 5 to 9 pm. The form of a tent is a direct association with a home, a safe space filled with love, acceptance, and openness. It welcomes everyone to a place where you can hear the voice of those who are often silent and marginalized. The installation was free and open for everyone, so in addition to people joining the setting up of the artwork in a collaborative process, they could also come and see the created works, join the informal gathering in the park, have conversations with others and talk with the artist.

The roof of this tent was used as a canvas for thoughts, feelings, and images, revealing art from both sides. The collected and produced materials for the installation hung on the edges of the tent, forming the “walls” and decoration of the home to tell the stories. Each work was individual and told its own story, its own thought, in its own way. Katarina collected these thoughts and documented them in a form of interviews, which were then translated into illustrations and collaborative drawings.

On the sense of belonging, one of the participants said: “I get thoughts and conclusions that I cannot explain in words of any language, because I just feel the meaning of them. But in my created community, I can talk about those things, and others can help me to describe or expand those thoughts.” (translated from Croatian).

Some participants didn’t feel that drawing was their way of expressing themselves, so they used other methods. Sometimes feelings and thoughts require creative expression and in this installation they were expressed visually – with paintings, pictures, illustrations, words, letters, colours, signs, shapes, letters, numbers, etc.

The installation aims to encourage people to think about including and understanding queer people and minorities in our society. It invites us all to be more present in our daily lives and to be more aware of the small actions we can take to make the world a better place. Ultimately, the artistic research “Anatomy of my Temple” is an invitation to develop empathy and sensitivity.

This content is a guest post from one of our partner organizations about their work as part of our ‘Minorities, Accountability, Rights, Independence and Organisational Development’ (MARIO) programme. Learn more >

MARIO is funded by the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (2021-27) of the European Union (ref: 101091387).