Representation, is there such a thing?

Published on Oct. 8, 2023

Representation, is there such a thing?

During TEH Camp Meeting 96 in Tbilisi this October, an engaging knowledge roundtable workshop under the Cultural Transformation Movement (CTM) project illuminated key takeaways.

CTM project is a dynamic 4-year project where TEH participating members craft new strategies and methodologies hand-in-hand with under-represented communities (URCs) to transform cultural organizations from within. CTMP partners are: Brunnenpassage (Austria), VIERNULVIER (Belgium), Zo centro culture contemporanee (Italy), IZOLYATSIA. Platform for Cultural initiatives (Ukraine) and TEH, in a coordinating role.

The topic of representation was the central one spurring discussions on its various aspects – the theme, the concept, the context, as well as participants' personal and institutional reflections. The discussion was led by Israel Aloni – a dance artist and choreographer, artistic director and co-founder of ILDance, and also CTM project researcher.

So, what were the major insights?

  • Acknowledging various filters, particularly the lingua franca – English, that we use for communication, emerged as a critical aspect. When approaching the complex topic of representation, we must first recognize and acknowledge these and other filters that we use to categorize the social world because some experiences can be very much lost in translation.
  • The workshop encouraged the participants, both CTM project partners and other TEH members, to seek the less obvious and move forward with care, as well as question: "What are we NOT seeing when we are looking?". Talking about representation is about being aware and attentive to what lies beneath the surface, to what is not being visible from the first sight.
  • Moreover, language and terminology were scrutinized. Words like "out" and "under" were identified as potentially exclusionary, leading to discussions about other, alternative, inclusive language. Belonging to "under-represented communities" reinforces the same power structures and does not bring us any closer to social justice.

The workshop marked the debut of the CTM project's knowledge roundtables - a vital component of our 4-year journey. Next knowledge roundtable will take place during TEH meetings in 2024.