THE SEASON OF DARKNESS: Being Civil in an Uncivil Society

THE SEASON OF DARKNESS: Being Civil in an Uncivil Society

OFF-Biennale Budapest, Symposium

Date: May 24–26, 2023

Venue: Nyolcésfél, Budapest 1084, Német u. 16.; 7 th floor

The event will be streamed via Facebook


When the season of darkness comes, not all hope is lost, nor should it be. It is the darkest times—a time defined by multiple crises—when we (re)discover the importance of solidarity, care, and empathy. It is the war that reminds us of peace; it is the darkest deeds that emphasize human rights; it is the propaganda that makes us strive for clarity; it is the excesses of power that teach us to value democratic procedures; it is the corruption that accentuates the need for social justice; it is the bigotries that make us work for a more tolerant society; and it is authoritarianism that highlights autonomy. In a season of darkness, we formulate our civil responses and responsibilities; we create networks, finding new ways of collaboration. 


OFF-Biennale Budapest’s three-days symposium circles around the newly (re-)emerged urgencies in the region broadly understood as “Eastern Europe” that were brought forth by the ongoing full-scale Russian military invasion of Ukraine. The three-day event is organized as a way of preparation, and—based on the “lumbung experience”—it intends to open up the organization and participation process of OFF’s fourth edition in 2024.


The symposium’s discussions aim to assess the viability, sustainability, and possibilities of an often forced civilship in the East of Europe: when self-organized civil initiatives take on higher stakes, working under ever worsening (or even threatening) conditions, partly taking over responsibilities of the state, and partly hindered by it to continue their independent operations. If the societies in the Eastern part of Europe have never actually been modern, democratic, and free—in the Western notions of these terms—how are civil initiatives to act with integrity and autonomy, especially in times of war? How can civil initiatives and communities work together in the region, also on an institutional level? With the symposium OFF-Biennale would also like to connect with the methodologies and practices of the lumbung inter-lokal that OFF was a part of at documenta fifteen.


The symposium will be held in a hybrid form. 


Supported by Goethe-Institut Budapest; European Commission – Creative Europe programme; Foundation for Arts Initiatives




May 24, 2023, Wednesday 


Lumbung in the Easts of Europe: the East Europe Biennial Alliance and Other Networks


Lumbung—a concrete practice adopted by ruangrupa on the path towards documenta fifteen in 2022 and beyond—enables an alternative economy of collectivity, shared resource building, and equitable distribution. Lumbung is anchored in the local and based on values such as humor, generosity, independence, transparency, sufficiency, and regeneration. But how can the lumbung practice be translated/adapted/paralleled to already existing networks in the Easts of Europe, such as the East Europe Biennial Alliance, and used by organizations in the region facing new and old emergencies caused by the ongoing war in Ukraine? And what futures does the lumbung practice offer in the Easts of Europe?


4:00 pm

Greetings and introduction by OFF-Biennale Budapest


4:15– 5:15 pm
Lumbung: Experiences, Lessons Learned, Visions for the Future

Roundtable discussion with lumbung members 

Participants: farid rakun (ruangrupa, online), Matthias Einhoff (Z/KU – Center for Art and Urbanistics, Berlin, online), members of OFF-Biennale Budapest

Moderated by Luca Petrányi


5:15 – 6:15 pm 

How to Lumbung in the Easts of Europe? 

Negotiating the Tensions between the Precariousness of Self-organized Biennales and a Desire for Regenerative Cooperation

Roundtable discussion with members of the East Europe Biennale Alliance

Participants: Tereza Stejskalová (Biennale Matter of Art, Prague); Bartosz Frąckowiak (Biennale Warszawa); Serge Klymko (Kyiv Biennial); Laima Ruduša (Survival Kit Festival, Riga); and Eszter Szakács (OFF-Biennale Budapest)

Moderated by Katalin Erdődi


Coffee break


Networks of Solidarity – presentations

6:30 – 6:55 pm  Kateryna Aliinyk: What was Planted? What has Sprouted?

6:55 – 7:20 pm Daša Anosova: Artist Collectives and Cultural Networks for the Reconstruction of Ukraine

7:20 – 7:45 pm Matthias Einhoff (Z/KU – Center for Art and Urbanistics, Berlin): Networks of Mutuality—Trust and Resource-sharing in the Berlin Eco-system (online)

7:45 – 8:10 pm  Zsolt Miklósvölgyi: (An-)archiving Easternfuturist Movements (online)


Coffee break


8:30 – 9:45 pm

Solidarity Screenings: Moving Image and War in Ukraine

Introduction by the Solidarity Screenings’ curator Serge Klymko

The films will be available online between May 23 and June 11, 2023 in the Verziótheque,
the online film library of Verzió Film Festival. The Solidarity Screenings program is a series of
fundraising events in the framework of the initiative ESI – Emergency Support Initiative,
supporting members of the artistic and cultural community in Ukraine finding themselves in



May 25, 2023, Thursday


11:00 am – 1:00 pm


On Violence


Curatorial Guided Tour with curator Lívia Páldi at Budapest Gallery (Budapest 1036, Lajos u. 158.)


The exhibition is dedicated to investigate the arts-based approaches to gender-based violence from the perspective of women and queer people. The Russian invasion and the ongoing war in Ukraine have brought into closer proximity the brutality of war-related sexual crimes, the traumatic and disorienting loss and vulnerability. Given the permanence of a great number of conflict zones and violence experienced by women and children, the discrimination directed towards the LGBTQI+ people, the ongoing struggle for bodily autonomy, equality, and reproductive health and a worldwide increase in domestic violence, the exhibition brings together various positions and explorations into the complex nature and nuanced operation of violence.


Kateryna Aliinyk, Artists’ Campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, Rachel Fallon, Olia Federova, Jelena Jureša, Elektra KB, Hristina Ivanoska, Anikó Lóránt (1977–2020), Milica Tomić, Dominika Trapp, Selma Selman, Anna Zvyagintseva


4:00 pm


Civil Insituting: Roma and Minority Communities’ Instituting Endeavors


Roma cultural organizations have evolved and operate in a constant dichotomy of community-based immediacy (given their grassroots character) and a desire of a more formal institutionalization (given their claim for national acceptance and support). At the same time, this dichotomy, as well as the often hostile and exclusionary attitude of the state apparatuses towards them has led these organizations to develop specific operating models (through direct contact with their communities and their interconnectedness) that can serve as an example for majority institutions, as long as they are open to a less exclusionary approach that recognizes and includes other voices. This section investigates how civil organizations relate to institutionalization, and how larger institutions consider the complex tasks related to the representation of and working with different minority communities. In the meantime, it also raises the question of how artists play with institutional exteriority / interiority and how these actions (or the discourse itself) can feed back into the institutional structure.


4:00 pm 

Greetings and introduction by OFF-Biennale Budapest


4:15 – 5:00 pm
Practices of Change in Communities of Today and Tomorrow: Towards Institutions of the Future

Roundtable discussion

Participants: Arman Heljic (online), Lara Khaldi (de Appel, Amsterdam, online), Payam Sharifi (Slavs and Tatars, online), Natali Tomenko (online)

Moderated by Marina Csikós


5:00 – 5:30 pm
Performance: Luna de Rosa: Jaćh opràlë lë làvë miré – (trust me)


5:30 – 5:45 pm
Coffee break


5:45 – 6:30 pm
Decolonizing Institutions: The Responsibility of Representation

Roundtable discussion

Participants: Angéla Kóczé (CEU, Romani Studies Program), Renan Laru-an (SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin), Dr. Zsolt Sári (ICOM Hungary), Tímea Junghaus (ERIAC, Berlin)

Moderated by Eszter György


May 26, 2023, Friday, from 10.30 am


The Borough: Civil Networks on a Local Level


The borough, the hood—the terms used to describe the immediate neighborhood in a city—are considered in this section as complex webs of urbanistic and interpersonal relations, where the built environment and the communities that live there interact and affect each other. This section presents a series of case studies about smaller-scale (neighborhood-size), community-based urban interventions and collaborations that use a lumbung-like working method on a micro-level, embedded in the different local contexts, which are always exposed to different historical and social storms, and which are nevertheless the primary terrain for everyday solidarity and cooperation.


10:30 am
Greetings and introduction by OFF-Biennale Budapest


Presentations by 

10:40 – 11:05 am Recetas Urbanas: The Crazy Army Rebellion

11:05 – 11:30 am Katalin Erdődi: Learning from the Rural: Watermelon Republic and News Medley

11:30 – 11:55 am Kata Oltai: The TANGÓ project: Building a good neighborhood

11:55 am – 12:20 pm Artemisszió Foundation: Building an Intercultural Community and Active Civic Participation on the Level of Local Communities


12:20 pm – 1:00 pm
The Borough: Culture on the Scale of Site
Closing roundtable discussion with the presenters

Moderated by Krisztián Török


Closing remarks



Date: May 24 – June 3, 2023

Wednesday – Saturday,  4:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Venue: Nyolcésfél, Budapest 1084, Német u. 16.



Supported by Goethe-Institut Hungary; European Commission – Creative Europe programme; Foundation for Arts Initiatives and Instituto Cervantes de Budapest