Collective creative practices for transformation: first lessons learned

2022.12.08

Juliette Grossmann, Daniel Kaplan, Chloé Luchs-Tassé, Plurality University Network.

A Google Doc version is available for download, and to receive your comments.

Assuming we do need “new narratives” to change the world, especially in the face of climate change, are certain conditions necessary for these narratives to play an effective role in transforming reality?

In 2020 and 2021, we collected over 250 “narratives”, stories and other artistic works focusing on the ecological and social transformation of our societies, as part of the Narratopias project. However, we figured out in the process that the transformative power of a story depends less on its content than on the conditions of its emergence and its reception. Who produces it? For what purpose? Using what method? Who can it be discussed and commented with? Can we picture ourselves in this story, continue it, make it our own?…

A story can only play a transformative role if it changes collective representations. Therefore, we started searching for collective projects that mobilise tools from art, fiction and speculation to bring about changes in representations, so as to facilitate the transformation of reality. Some projects focus on shifting perspectives and challenging the status quo. Others explore radically different futures, (re)create dialogue between groups that do not talk to each other (anymore), or try to give a common meaning to a myriad of concrete yet seemingly unconnected actions…

The purpose of this project called “Collective creative practices for transformation” is to create dialogue between people who design and implement such practices throughout the world. By collectively discussing methods and formats, by learning from their failures and successes, we hope to contribute to the development of a field of practices and to help those who design them grow together.

In this context, we sought to identify as many practices as possible and we brought them together in a shared library that everyone can contribute to. During the “Agora” sessions, we experienced some of them (at least partly). We also immersed ourselves into other projects thanks to a series of interviews. The reports from the Agoras, interviews and other articles are available online. These publications help define, problematise and delimit the edges of a field of collective creative practices.

We are now almost a year into the project: What have we learned so far? The three articles that follow are the result of discussions within the Plurality University Network team. They aim to share the first lessons learned, as well as our questions and the topics we feel are important to explore in the near future.

In the first article, “What do narratives want?”, Daniel Kaplan questions the intentions of the projects we have observed and reflects on what they aim to transform.

In the second paper, “Politicrafting”, Juliette Grossmann looks into the ethics of these practices and underlines their deeply political nature, one that is not always easy to define and claim as such.

Lastly, in “Sailing the archipelagos of collective practices”, Chloé Luchs focuses on the concept of collective: why do people take part or participate in these practices? What is the relation between the desire of transformation from people who initiate these practices and the reality of their reception ? Ultimately, what can we expect from the field of practice we are trying to create with this project?

The lessons we share through these articles are tentative and fragile, as fragile as most of the collective creative practices we have identified. We hope that these articles will make you want to comment and enrich them, so that the practices of collective imagination they describe and analyse become always more substantial and widespread.

This paper is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.