Broadening the conversation about ‘Working Internationally Sustainably’

Crossed perspectives from India, Bulgaria, the UK, Iran and the Gaza Strip

In January 2022, I was invited by Flanders Arts Institute to collaborate on the dissemination strategy of ‘A Fair New Idea: Working Internationally Sustainably’. In 2021, ten art professionals had been selected to work together through an open call for proposals for fairer, more sustainable and more equal ways of international collaboration in the arts today.

When I met the group in Brussels at the end of March 2022, they had already spent months discussing and experimenting notions such as sustainability, inequalities and international artistic communities. It was also the first time most of them met in person, because this initiative – like most initiatives born in the context of Covid-19 – took place online. For two days, the group discussed the outcome of a year of exchange and reflected on their different processes. I was in an observer position, taking notes and recording parts of the conversations. I was interested in who they were as individuals, and what brought them to take part in an initiative dedicated to the question of sustainability in the international artistic landscape.

As individual arts professionals or members of collectives, they are all equally concerned with the ethical, ecological, economic and socio-political aspects of working internationally in the arts; not only in a post-pandemic world, but also in a global context of crises and imbalances in accessing the necessary resources for artistic production (funding and touring opportunities, effective cultural policies, up to standard infrastructures, arts education, and so on). It is a fascinating group of art professionals from different generations and backgrounds, some of whom do have an artistic practice in addition to their roles as arts managers. Most of the participants are based in European countries and the UK, in addition to a Tunis-based collective.

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed and is still changing our practices. There is a new war in the middle of Europe, while what feels like never-ending wars are still tormenting less fortunate societies in various parts of the world. Climate change is the common denominator for billions of individuals around the planet, adding complications to entangled geopolitical and postcolonial contexts. From this perspective, it seemed important that the dissemination of this trajectory should include other voices from outside the room in order to see how certain notions such as ‘sustainability’ or ‘mobility’, for example, would resonate in non-Western contexts, in contexts where diversity is inherent to the cultural and artistic environment, and also in the context of limited resources and isolation.

As a matter of fact, the definition of ‘sustainability’ or even ‘international’, is very much informed by the place from which we ask this type of question. From the moment the Flanders Arts Institute invited me to be part of the reflection, I knew that the local dimension of international artistic cooperation was something that needed to be considered. Here, the question of language is essential. The language that has been incorporated and imposed over time by the main actors of the international artistic landscape (donors, foundations, big festivals, international organizations, the art market), and also the dominance of English and some European languages, such as French and German, for example, in these spheres.

Curated and conducted online, this series of conversations tries to respond to these different issues by crossing the experiences and processes of five art professionals whose geographical and political contexts, as well as their visions as artists and thinkers, could broaden the reflection on working internationally more sustainably.

By bringing views from India, Bulgaria, the UK, the African continent, Iran and the Gaza Strip, these five conversations also aim to highlight global imbalances in terms of resources and visibility, gender equality and freedom of expression, or even of accessing data and the digital sphere in some parts of the world. The conversations took place in English for a wider reach, but the different accents that you will hear in the recorded interviews are also glimpses of the different worlds that this series of conversations is trying to grasp. Heavily inspired and informed by the work that these ten participants did around the topics of sustainability, inequalities and international communities in the arts, the conversations follow the same logic and structure starting from comparing definitions of internationalism in the arts today, to a more local and personal approach to arts and culture. At the end, all participants were invited to share their own new ideas about the future of the global artistic landscape and how to make it fairer and more accessible to all.

Here, I would like to address my deepest gratitude to the participants in A Fair New Idea?! and the initiative behind it. They gave me the opportunity to dive into deep and meaningful conversations with remarkable arts professional and human beings. It was an incredible journey that broadened my own perception of internationalism and sustainability in the arts today. A journey that I’m happy to share with you all today.

Thank you.


Conversations curated and conducted by Jumana Al-Yasiri
Editing and sound design by Jérôme Devanne
Commissioned by the Flanders Arts Institute

A Fair New Idea?!

We lanceerden vier open oproepen voor projectvoorstellen die bijdragen aan een sterk, eerlijk en duurzaam kunstveld. Bekijk hier de resultaten en ontwikkelingen.

A Fair New World?!

Hoe kunnen we toewerken naar een meer inclusieve, duurzame en solidaire kunstwereld?! Tijdens het A Fair New World?! traject (2020-2022) verzamelden we ideeën, praktijken en instrumenten die mogelijke oplossingen bieden.