Our first festival was tested as a design assembly during a Postgraduate Program in Communication Design at Central Saint Martins University of the Arts in London. The first event constitutes a social experiment, created as a means for building community identity, social cohesion and cultural resilience through creative practices. We do practice DIY culture practices and bring together teachers, artists and community members in a self-organized celebration.
Founded in 2013, Xarkis works with cultural agents and communities, involving people from diverse educational, disciplinary, professional, generational and ethnic backgrounds. We are a nomadic, millennial non-profit organization based in different parts of Europe and travelling across communities in rural and urban contexts. We deliver site-specific projects that are inspired by the experience of everyday life in specific localities, employing socially engaged practices in each instance.
Xarkis was first conceptualised as a social experiment, during the course of a Masters project as part of the Communication design program at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London (2012-2014). It was originally intended as a design assembly organised in a rural community of Cyprus (Arsos village, 2013), and was tested as a means to build a communal identity, community cohesion and cultural resilience through creative practices. In essence, this was a creative reaction against the economic crisis which was taking its toll in different parts of the world, including Cyprus. Taking the form of a Festival, we used DIY cultural practices and brought together a range of stakeholders into one big self-organised celebration. The Festival evolved into a transnational exchange, with cultural actors, including residency coordinators, visual artists, musicians, designers, performers, researchers and educators coming from all over the world to engage with the local communities, and participate in its realisation.
Having started with limited assets and with an interest in working with existing opportunities, our mission became the use of local, found resources, skills, desires, needs of people in each given region.
This was achieved through a matchmaking mechanism, which nurtured collaborations between creative practitioners, educators and ‘ordinary’ residents from various walks of life, in cities and rural communities. We are proud to say that we hold these same values today and apply them in all our projects.
As an interdisciplinary team of NGO members, Xarkis specialises in community engagement, creative direction, project management, research, education and practice in the fields of communication design, social design (incl. service design, co-design and design activism), architecture, visual arts (incl. fine art, performance art) and experiential dance), cultural heritage and social psychology, with a strong interest in humans and the environment. We offer design and co-design services as well as curation, production and facilitation of cultural, participatory and socially engaged initiatives.
We organise, curate and manage interdisciplinary art festivals, multi-artists’ residencies, exhibitions, workshops, talks, lectures, communication design initiatives such as communication strategies, campaigns, films, print publications and oral history initiatives, to foster inter-communal dialogue and activate public engagement on different topics.
Yearly activities include Xarkis Festival, (est. 2013) which has been happening for seven consecutive years and roams rural mountainous villages in Cyprus. The Festival assumes its shape through Xarkis Multi-Residency Arts program (est. 2016) that precedes it. In this context, artists in residence come together in a communal environment, and are connected with local and former residents of a selected area to collaborate on their practice-based enquiries and generate site-specific projects in ways that make use of the skills, desires and resources of persons and locations in the region.
VISION / GOALS / VALUES
Envisioning an active and participatory culture, via knowledge sharing, co-creation and socially engaged practice.
Xarkis aims to realize this vision through these goals:
- Cultivating a participatory culture, through a network of people in the sphere of social practice, including and not restricted to socially engaged art and design. By this we mean nurturing dialogue and collaboration between artists, designers, musicians, academics, researchers, activists, and other socially active people.
- Including people from diverse backgrounds, such as different age groups, social classes, disciplines, ethnic origins and professions, to facilitate the constructive and fruitful collaboration on topics that affect and concern us.
- Revisiting concepts such as ‘education’, ‘culture’ and ‘entertainment’ both through academic and practical inquiries. These are set within arts festivals, workshops, interventions, platforms, educational programs and other events via socially engaged and participatory practices, while creating multi-sensory experiences through contemporary means of expression, that stimulate, engage, and entertain.
- Reviving, rejuvenating and critically exploring aspects of local culture, including cultural heritage and seeking novel ways for expression and development in terms of customs, traditions, crafts and other arts in local communities and beyond. In this regard, we are interested in exploring what elements, values, and lifestyles could be redefined and adapted to the present, that can constitute cultural heritage.
- Raising awareness and strengthening ‘communal identities’, in order to enable further understanding, appreciation and interaction of people with local culture, history and the environment to promote ‘resilience’.
- Highlighting the value of socially engaged and participatory practices, in a learning framework created with wider publics. This framework will encourage study and experimentation in terms of related methodological axes, applications and innovative ideas.
- Creating self-initiated projects bottom-up, independent initiatives in arts and the commons that promote gentle activism and which nurture feelings of care, expanding the circle of agents for culture.
- To widen community engagement and attract a multiplicity of publics to deal with critically topical events, related to environmental and social justice. We hope to create a fertile ground for testing and iterating site-specific ideas that can be ecologically conscious and socially useful.
- Receiving funds, inter alia, in the form of contributions, sponsorships and grants. We see this as a transitional step towards becoming an established and autonomous organization.
Collectivity, collaboration, care, solidarity, social and environmental justice, inclusivity, equality, mutual respect and understanding, freedom of expression, playfulness, creativity, critical thinking.
Xarkis has been seen through the lens of community empowerment and was featured on TEDx (2014). Xarkis was further showcased in the UNESCO edition of Cultural Expressions and Pluralism: Aspects of Modern Creation in Cyprus (2018), where it is presented as an example of good civil society practice that promotes the objectives of the 2005 UNESCO Convention, alongside Elefsina 2021 European Capital of Culture, Greece, (2019) in the framework of Festival & City exhibition, where the organisers presented good festival practises, with an artistic program co-operating with local communities. Xarkis was also featured in the Brazilian research magazine called Revista Mesa (2021), as a case study for socially engaged practices.
CREATIVE EUROPE AWARD
As of September 2019, our team has won a Creative Europe Award and are now part of a transnational collaborative project titled Contested Desires, which includes residencies led by different partners, and will culminate with Xarkis Festival 2022, with all artists and partners from five different countries (Barbados, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus) joining us in our Xarkis Multi-residency and Xarkis Festival program. In this context, Xarkis has taken on a dual role: on the one hand as the Residency and Festival partner of the cohort, whereby the two year work generated by artists and producers will inform our 2022 Festival edition, and on the other hand leading the external communication strategies for the entire partnership, including creative direction and management of the visual identity, graphic design, branding, marketing and communication promotion tools via all the project’s communication channels.
Contested Desires co-funded by the European Union under the Creative Europe program (2019-2021)
KaFEMio women’s coffeeshop
Xarkis Festival in Arsos (2013-2014)
Participatory Design Workshops in Nicosia Pop-up Festival, City Plaza, (2014)
A new day in Cyprus event, National fair stadium (2014)
Xarkis Festival in Lofou (2015-2016)
Reformulating the museum experience workshop in Tenta Festival, Kalavasos village (2015)
Xarkis Festival in Koilani (2017-2018)
Voicing & Craft Stories at NiMAC, Nicosia, (2017)
Craft Stories: Pipilla documentary, (2017-ongoing)
Voicing Stories (2017) social entrepreneurship initiative and crowd sourced oral history library, funded by Youthopia small grants, by Europe
Xarkis Festival in Polystipos (2019)
Xarkis Multi-residency programme (2020)
Everything Flows online Arts Residency and online Festival (2020)
The Festival is promoted through the international Ted-X program. http://bit.ly/2CdLGh8
The structure of the Festival is changing and now relies heavily on the ‘Xarkis Artists Residency Program’ which precedes it. In this context, people from various artistic backgrounds are invited to co-create works on site and involve the local community from the research stage to the implementation of their actions at the annual Festival. The challenge is to develop initiatives in ways that utilize the skills, desires and resources of individuals and village locations.
Xarkis Festival is presented in the publication: ‘UNESCO Cultural Expressions and Pluralism: Aspects of Contemporary Creation’ in Cyprus, where it is presented as an example of good practice of civil society, which promotes the goals of the 2005 UNESCO Convention.
1. In May, various initiatives of Xarkis, as well as the annual Xarkis Festival, were presented at the international forum for young professionals dealing with heritage issues at the ‘European Young Heritage Professionals Forum’, with the representation of Cyprus by Christina Skarpari. In this context, one person from each Member State of the European Union was selected to promote an initiative and innovative practice related to cultural heritage. The forum took place in Zadar, Croatia under the auspices of UNESCO.
2. Partner in the European cultural program ‘Contested Desires’.
The program, in which cultural organizations and artists from six countries collaborate including (Spain, Italy, Portugal, Cyprus, England, and Barbados) was selected as a transnational project in the last round of the ‘Creative Europe award’ 2019 of the European Union.
1. In August, members of Xarkis took part in a small-scale multi-residency program in Polystypos village. The purpose of the program was to deepen field research and community involvement in contemporary arts.
2. In October - November, our first digital Artists Residency Program and digital Festival ‘Everything Flows’ was organized. The initiative was prepared during the lockdown of the coronavirus pandemic and involved an interdisciplinary program with 14 artists from different parts of Europe.
More info at: everythingflows.eu