Looking back at the Conference "Rethinking structures" 21/22 September 2021, Gessnerallee Zurich

Keynote Jo Verrent

Transcription of the Keynote from Jo Verrent


Looking back at the second reflexion format audio description / may 2021

As of now, Swiss cultural institutions rarely offer audio description for dance performances. Audible descriptions of visuals for blind or visually impaired audiences are missing. In collaboration with IntegrART, BewegGrund.dasFestival organised a workshop on audio description in dance: 15 participating cultural workers from institutions of the free scene, as well as future audio describers, received insights and impulses.

Audio description expert Michael Vogt and dancer Jürg Koch showed how inclusive teams work on the creation of audio descriptions in dance, using their audio description of the IntegrART piece «Helliot» as an example. Visually impaired artist Sophia Neises discussed the artistic potential of audio description in her impulse input.

For Corinne Maier, who’s in charge of mediation at Kaserne Basel, those inputs were especially interesting: “Neises shows, how the aesthetic and political layers of audio description intertwine”. Isabelle Bischof, producer and dramaturge for Tanz am Konzert at Theatre Berne, was affirmed by the workshop “that a touch tour opens up a dance piece to visually impaired and blind people in a completely different form. This audience needs to be involved in the planning and implementation”.

This workshop in Berne was part of the IntegrART reflexion format: On September 21st and 22nd the IntegrART conference takes place in Zurich. In October, the postponed module on “educational structures” follows in Lugano.

Looking back at the first in-depth reflexion format module / march 2021

At the end of March 2021, four webinars, organised by the Christoph Merian Foundation and IntegrART partner festival Wildwuchs, dealt with questions of sustainability and the commitment to inclusion. Over 50 representatives of public and private funding institutions discussed the chances and challenges of supporting cultural participation with different experts. The main question, “how can cultural participation be established in sustainable and committed ways?” lead to inspiring and thought-provoking impulses.

The throughout positive reactions of attendees show that the awareness for change is high. Existing processes and structures need to be thought through and reconsidered – the drive for concrete action is there.

There are numerous proposals for funding practice which can be implemented immediately:  Include people with diversity competence based on lived experience as part of an advisory panel, pay attention to accessibility in communication or make it possible for applicants to submit a video instead of a written funding application. To Mariana Noteboom, head of culture division of the Beisheim foundation, attending the webinars showed that “cultural participation only works when the audiences in question are being included from the very beginning, whether as artistic participants or as an audience. Participation should be understood as a process where the page of the script is empty in the beginning and content only gets generated based on the requirements of the target groups.”

Many attendees are interested in a continuation of the format and the discussion. The webinars have shown that the engagement with the topic leads to many further questions. The Christoph Merian foundation and Wildwuchs now strive to evaluate the findings of the webinars, to share them and to continue the dialogue. Only in mutual dialogue with cultural workers, disabled people and other funders can the boundaries, possibilities and chances of cultural funding be addressed sustainably. The in-depth module in Basel was part of the IntegrART reflexion format: On 26th May the in-depth module on audio description takes place in Berne, on 21st/22nd September the IntegrART conference takes place in Zurich, and, following this, in October the in-depth module on arts education structures in Lugano.