What is ARTos?
The ARTos Cultural and Research Foundation was founded by the artists Achilleas Kentonis and Maria Papacharalambous. It is a contemporary arts and science center dedicated to research and creativity: two magical worlds of adventure and discovery, encompassing sojourns into the fields of learning, chaos and imagination. Its premises, both transcendental and material, inspire the contemporary artist/creator and the scientist/creator alike, offering to both a platform, promoting them at a local as well as at an international level, with quality being the main criterion.
It functions as a multidimensional space, organizing and undertaking the production of multifaceted events from the world of theatre, music, dance, cinema, visual arts, letters and sciences. At the same time, its multipurpose spaces are available to individuals, organizations and other agencies for the hosting of events, presentations, seminars, symposia, conferences and scientific or other workshops.
ARTos is unique in its kind, harmoniously uniting, through a pre-Socratic approach, Art and Science, with the addressor, as well as the ultimate addressee, Man. Because, if civilization is essentially all those scientific and artistic achievements of Man belonging to a specific era, then it is high time for that platform to exist which will bring about the interaction of these two fundamental fields, with the aim of incorporating them into contemporary civilization. It is precisely this role which the ARTos Foundation aspires to play: to attract and challenge the contemporary artist/creator as well as the scientist/researcher, both of whom, through their eternally-inquisitive and unsatisfiable nature, question and doubt, always striving to go one step further. ARTos, in the final analysis, is that space where creative ideas will be born and take shape free of exploitation, and with the intellectual rights of the inspirers and creators being firmly and with respect established and safeguarded.
Through the Foundation, artists, thinkers, writers, scholars and researchers are able to:
- co-exist and creatively interact with each other;
- gain valuable experiences through meeting other personae of various specialties from the world of Arts and Letters from both Cyprus and abroad;
- utilize their potential and establish, improve and advance their ideas;
- participate in various cultural and research programmes (European and others);
- receive guidance as to the better presentation of proposals through the vast network of Foundation associates and contributors in both Cyprus and abroad;
- make use of the management/organizational structures and processes provided by the Foundation.
Character and Legal standing
The ARTos Foundation is a Private Law Legal Entity. It was founded on 26 October 2000 and became active immediately. Its refurbishment and the equipping of the space within which it is housed however were only completed in 2004. The entire work is a private, quality initiative marked by flexibility and efficiency. Being of a public service, cultural, research and non-profit character, it flexibly and, above all, efficiently and methodically contributes to culture, both locally and abroad, as well as greatly enhancing the cultural strength of Cyprus itself, producing measurable results and bringing about multiple short- and long-term benefits.
The Foundation is fully harmonized with European Union directives, while at the same time serving the modernization of Cyprus’ cultural policy. Within this framework, it provides a solution towards decentralization as well as the potential to unburden the Cultural Services of the Ministry of Education and Culture, acting in parallel within a civil society. In addition, it contributes to the development of the island’s cultural milieu through the production of specialized contemporary education programmes for children.
Fotos from different events that took place in ARTos Foundation.
text by Evanthia Tselika, 2014*
How a cultural and research space can be read as an extension of a collaborative artistic practice: Reflecting on the ten year anniversary of Artos Cultural and Research Foundation.
Evanthia Tselika, 2014*
“If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain. If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees. If you want one hundred years of prosperity, grow people.”
Chinese proverb. (Achilleas and Maria)
ARTOS Cultural and Research Foundation opened its doors in 2004 in a neighbourhood close to the centre of Nicosia, but outside its commercial fabric. It is the brainchild of artists Achilleas Kentonis and Maria Papacharalambous and one could interpret it as an extension of their practice, as it highlights their life philosophy where art is understood as life. One could even say that it could be considered as an extension of their own practice which has involved different arts methodologies as well as different social publics for the last twenty odd years. Artos was in fact founded, as a social sculpture initiative in 2000 aimed at developing a contemporary arts and science center dedicated to research and creativity. As an organisation it hosts a plethora of activities ranging from contemporary art exhibitions, research seminars, educational programmes for young people, performances, theatre and sound related happenings.
Artos acts as a unique space in Nicosia. When it opened its doors in 2004 it was rare in the city’s cultural landscape to encounter an independent foundation which did not act as a contemporary commercial art centre, but as a platform which could host alternative and diverse cultural practices and that presented a direct aim to support innovative research across a range of subject areas. Its location just outside the city centre integrated contemporary cultural and research dimensions into the everyday urban social fabric. The cultural landscape of Nicosia at the time was largely consisted of state museums and art foundations that were supported by banking institutions or local authorities. Artos, therefore, presented an alternative venue and venture that enabled a series of exhibitions, events, research initiatives and pedagogical manifestations to be developed in line with contemporary European cultural practices. This is demonstrated by Artos invitation and presentation in 2007 at the May Fair at London’s Tate Modern, at Art Athina, and in Venice Bienal (IUVA University) as an autonomous work for social sculpture and as a contemporary cultural organisation which promotes the culture of its country while at the same time developing powerful initiatives which it implements to the benefit of modern European culture. The cultural and research output of the organisation was awarded in 2008 by the University of Cyprus .
At the moment and after completing a ten year life span Artos continues to engage in diverse local and international cultural, educational and research activities. These diverse practices developed by Artos include Hack66, which is a physical platform that engages in innovative production processes by gathering together artists, programmers and other practitioners; Innovation Gym which through its city intervention proposes and manifests a platform where local authorities, local partners, programme partners and the citizens can collaborate; and the Kids University which has been taking place at Artos since 2005 and involves children aged 6 – 12 in multi-disciplinary workshops which encourage the children’s’ creative expression, scientific knowledge as well as the strengthening of self-confidence.
The space itself and the practices which it supports reflect Kentonis and Papacharalambous spirit of creative, social and research based explorations have also encouraged the use of the space as a multi-faceted platform. By focusing on the creation of platforms that demonstrate a process of exchange between Cyprus and International cultural and research practices, issues of how social involvement is triggered and the processes of exclusion and inclusion mechanisms are raised. This social dimension of Artos also creates parallels with the artists’ own collaborative practice which involves the participation of different individuals and social groups. The artists working together as Binary Art Group create independent art interpretations and function within a network of local and international art groups, cultural observatories, initiatives, cultural movements and festivals. Kentonis and Papacharalambous indicate that through their practice they suggest and present a philosophical and socio-artistic approach, reflecting on the unpredictability of contemporary everyday life.
Their collaborative work does present a social dimension that explores the idea of collectivity through artistic practice, as well as how the path of social change is instigated through an internal process of individual transformation. It uses and simultaneously questions the notion of the public, the common and the social through art, and facilitates projects that reflect and intervene in the visibility and influence of different social groups in the public sphere. Even though this social facet of Kentonis and Papacharalbous work does not describe the diversity of their individual and collaborative practice [which includes painting, video, multi-media installations, sound explorations, and performance] it does trace a thread of connectivity between their practice as artists and the creation of Artos Foundation as a cultural and research space that involves different social groups. These multi-faceted directions, which characterise their work present a method of practice where the audience is invited to escape the role of the viewer and to be placed in the position of the participator or collaborator in disseminating a pattern of critical responses and interpretations to socio-political happenings.
To illustrate how this is manifested in their practice I will go on to refer to their project Bank of Commons which begun in September 2012 as an artistic intervention. It focused on raising reflection as to how artistic action and creative participation are presented as the medium through which dialogue and critical thought could be generated, as to how collective identities of resistance to current socio-poltical economic systems are formed. Following the sudden economic downturn in Cyprus in March of 2013 the artists initiated a social platform through the Bank of Commons framework which brought together individuals and community groups with a focus on finding the necessary social tools for communal and collective solutions to the current social, economic and political problems. Bank of Commons therefore escaped the art work and transformed into a platform which addressed issues such as patterns of alternative economic structures, the creation of jobs, new areas of entrepreneurship and local food production and sustainability; as well as questions of democratic representation, consensus building, and decision making. The artists practice therefore triggered a social response which created a community platform raising questions around how diverse collective actions in Cyprus can be consolidated so that they can be strengthened.
Bank of Commons suggests “an interactive and socio-artistic intervention in times of crisis”. It “concerns the creation of a virtual bank whose aim is to energize that part of ourselves that has to do with experiences of critical, creative, caring and complex thought, as well as concern and compassion for our fellow human beings, the environment and nature. Its value is that is not based on any type of exchange or barter but instead on just giving”. Binary Art Group
Kentonis and Papacharalmbous practices reflect contemporary international directions that envision the use of artistic practice and of cultural institutions as key within a process of social transformation. Even though their practice is not confined within what is currently described as socially engaged art, it does demonstrate a desire to implicate different social publics in a process of creating awareness, critical thinking and collective actions of resistance in relation to a diverse range of social issues. Through their collaborative art practice they instigate a process of reflection through action. And it is this process of reflection as to how art can facilitate social change through collaborative action, and a direct involvement with the community itself that has also shaped Artos into a hub of innovative cultural and research practices.
* Evanthia Tselika is a cultural practitioner and the Fine Art programme coordinator at the University of Nicosia. Her practiced based research (Birkbeck, University of London) focuses on socially engaged art and its relations to conflict, dialogue and urban structures of social division.