An opportunity to become the citizen-commisioner of an artwork
Concomitentes is a non-profit association founded in June 2018 to promote the creation of artworks that engage with their social context. Concomitentes invites civil society groups to become the citizen-commissioners or “Comitentes” of an artwork, and then accompanies them through the ensuing process of negotiation.
The underlying methodology was developed by the artist François Hers in 1990, and has had an enormous social and cultural impact wherever it has been implemented. Over the past 25 years, it has given rise to more than 500 projects in various European countries.
A mediated negotiation between citizen-commissioners and artists
Any group of people with an idea or a wish for their community and an interest in addressing the subject through the creation of an artwork, can contact our association. The process begins with a preliminary stage in which the proposal is discussed and assessed. If the conclusion is that there is a real interest in going ahead, and an established, committed group of citizen-commissioners, a mediator joins the project and accompanies the group until the process is complete.
Together, the commissioners and the mediator work with the initial proposal to define a brief for an artist. The subsequent process of bringing together the artistic concept and the ideas of the commissioning group is the bedrock of all our projects. Once an arrangement has been reached, production of the agreed-upon work begins.
Art fosters an understanding where words are missing
At the root of each Concomitancia (this is how we denominate our co-commissioned projects) there is a proposal for work that is relevant not only to the commissioning group, but also to the context that they are part of. The finished work may or not reach many people: the crucial thing is that the initial motivation must be shared.
The process of negotiating the proposed artwork generates a new space for exchange and communication that opens up a dialogue among the various social actors. People who were strangers come together, new opinions are given a voice, and collaboration with the artist/s gives everyone involved the opportunity to consider their surroundings from a new perspective.
The processes require a high degree of commitment by all involved parties. Two or more years can easily pass between the first contact and the formalization of the artwork. But this co-creation by artists, citizens and mediators generates something truly transformative: artworks with a deeper tie to society.
All you need is an idea and the desire to make it a reality.
Anybody can commission an artwork: all you need is an idea and the desire to make it a reality. Citizen-commissioners were for example:
A group of people from Hernani that wanted to reflect on the naming of the streets in their town from a gender perspective.
A French association of pigeon fanciers that envisioned an iconic pigeon loft that should help them to promote this age-old tradition among young people.
The residents of Pritzwalk, a village in the north-east of Germany, who wanted to fight the decline of the historic town centre and to explore new prospects for its use.
A group of school-teachers from Turin wanted to re-open a former Chapel to the public and to house there an archive of local history.
To date, around five hundred citizens’ groups in fifteen countries have commissioned projects. In some parts of Europe, citizen-commissioned art has become a fixture of cultural life.
We will realize four commissions till 2020.
In our pilot phase (2018-2020), we are producing four citizen-commissioned projects:
Felipe G. Gil (ZEMOS98) is working with a group of nurses from the paediatric intensive care unit at Nuestra Señora de Candelaria Hospital in Tenerife, united by the desire to improve the emotional management of patients in their ward.
Veronica Valentini is working with a group of functional diversity activists in Barcelona on socialisation processes among diverse communities.
Fran Quiroga is working with various neighbourhood groups in Betanzos on the legacy of the García Naveira brothers, emigrants who became important patrons on their return to their Galician hometown, creating projects such as the ‘Pasatiempo’ Park, which is now in a semi-abandoned state.
And Julia Morendeira is accompanying the library staff in the Faculty of Fine Arts at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid as they reimagine this space, and at the same time reflect on the future of knowledge production, the university as an institution, and artistic research.
To ensure that everybody involved is satisfied with the process.
Concomitentes is present in the field through the mediators. They are professionals with a solid knowledge of contemporary art and a special sensibility for mediating between citizen-commissioners and artists.
They are professional listeners, familiar with the social context that the projects spring from, and they are in regular contact with the agents that operate in it, from public administrations to neighbourhood initiatives. They listen, they do research, and as a result of those inputs they choose the proposal that will be carried out.
Once the collaboration with the citizen-commissioners begins, the mediators help to refine the initial proposal, suggest artists, coordinate production, and intervene in the negotiations between the parties involved. Their goal is to ensure that all the people taking part in the project are satisfied with the resulting artwork.
Profesionals of repute who have the capacity to develop their vision in collaboration with others.
Concomitentes works with professional artists of repute who have the capacity to develop their vision in close collaboration with the group of citizen-commissioners. Regardless of their field or artistic discipline, the artists accept the commission as a springboard from which to contribute new perspectives. The methodology on which Concomitentes is based has been used to produce tangible results such as a house-museum or the renovation of a school.
But it has also resulted in awareness-raising campaigns, se han instalado public sculptures, videos, musical compositions and immaterial works that only live on in the memories of those who were present.
The appropriateness of the resulting artwork, and its social acceptance, will depend on the willingness of all parties to share their knowledge and find ways of working together.
And as the citizen commissioners own the work of art that they have commissioned, the affect that they and their community have for the artwork, determines its value and life-span.
Concomitentes relies public funding bodies, as well as on private patrons.
Thanks to the support of the Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation –the main sponsors of Nouveaux Commanditaires and promotor of Concomitentes in Spain– we begin with a solid pilot project, which guarantees core funding for four Concomitancias around the country and for the administrative structure that surrounds them.
Even so, the production of the artworks will require more financial support. During this stage of the Concomitancia, mediators play the role of producers and look for possible sponsors in local, regional, and national government, as well as possible private patrons.
The group of citizen-commissioners does not contribute funding, but it promotes the project and proposes possible partners that can contribute to the production of the artwork.