Groundwork for Embedded Arts Practice


The spring/summer 2021 UNIDEE Residency continues to explore facets of embedded arts practice as a tool for uncovering, understanding and helping build and develop new realities. In 2020 the then-emerging conditions of the pandemic invited a revisiting of the fundamentals of these practices. What does it mean to commit to a sustained intervention into a place or community? How does it start? Where and when does it end? How do we plot the journey and what can we collectively share and learn from the challenges and obstacles met along the way? How do we do it together?

The pandemic context for the residency was a reminder that embedded practice is built on a solid foundation of trust and deep understanding of a place and people. A necessary first step in building this foundation is to create a connection. The residents' diverse practices demonstrated innovative modes of connecting in challenging times through: listening and observing, growing, living, communicating, caring, learning, exploring, dreaming, building and even burning. Among the many shared questions we had at the end of the 2020 residency was ‘How can we create sustainability, for ourselves and our worlds?’ (note 1)

The UNIDEE 2021 spring/summer program aims to pick up from where we left off last December: continuing to explore - through the sharing of our situated practices and contexts - methods, strategies and approaches for identifying, creating and developing the foundations necessary for embedded arts practice to thrive. What new ecologies of practice exist or can be formed? In which spaces and places can this grow? What are the ideal conditions? What groundwork is required, and how do we get started here and now? In this sense we also draw inspiration and knowledge from the recent past such as freethought collective’s large-scale investigation into infrastructure for the 2016 Bergen Assembly (note 2), and Valerio Del Baglivo’s ‘Modes of Instituting’ UNIDEE programme from 2019 that was dedicated to imagining the role of art organisations in times of perennial crisis. (note 3)

The specificities of the global COVID-19 pandemic may have been unforeseeable but it was not an unprecedented ‘event’. (note 4) Rather the pandemic can be understood as symptomatic of a failing, outmoded, dead-on-its-feet ’zombie’ politico-economic system. (note 5) Today we find ourselves caught in a clash of tempos. From politicians and experts on television we hear how the pandemic has locked, ‘frozen’ or seized the cogs of economy and society. At the same time local businesses explain how it has accelerated existing trends in work, commerce, and technology. Likewise the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs acknowledge within their Sustainable Development Goals that the pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated existing inequalities (note 6); revealing and widened the cracks in an unevenly developed system.

As artists in this frictious and fractured landscape we can help reveal, understand and contribute to the new social and organisational forms that propogate in the shadows - the ‘other’ ways of being and acting together based on co-production, collective agency, mutual aid, care, commoning - and that offer alternative narratives to endless productivity and growth. As Dr Susan Jones from the Rewild The Arts campaign (note 7) has put it ‘place-specific activists and interest groups in arts and culture spheres perceive the pandemic’s exceptional circumstances as opportunity to imagine a radically different, fairer, inclusive arts ecology’. (note 8) Through the UNIDEE 2021 spring/summer program we will together explore the groundwork for a more sustainable future under the banner of Cittadellarte’s holistic and interconnected understanding of art and creativity as a catalyst for social change. (note 9)

Key Words
Groundwork, Infrastructure, Arts Ecology, Socially engaged and Embedded Practice, Post-pandemic Futures, Slow Art and Sustainability, Art and the Everyday, Tools and Technology fro Social Change, Site and Context Responsive work, Invisible Art/Dark Matter, Participation and Co-production, Grassroots Organising, Self-organisation and DIY collective agency (Demopraxy/Pandemopraxy), Co-operatives, Socially Applied Practice, Diverse and Community Economies, Cultural Dark Matter, Postwork Futures, Postcapitalism, Universal Basic Income, Transition to Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm (Third Paradise), Building the new (Digital/Virtual) Commons.


Andy Abbott
UNIDEE residency programs Visiting curator


1 - https://unidee2020.hotglue.me/
2 - http://2016.bergenassembly.no/en/freethought/
3 - https://issuu.com/cittadellarte/docs/web_unidee_notebook_2019_def_pagina_singola_compre
4 - https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/4608-on-the-epidemic-situation
5 - https://socialistworker.co.uk/art/17914/Zombie%20capitalism
6 - https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal4
7 - https://www.rewildthearts.org/want-to-contribute/
8 - https://corridor8.co.uk/article/reset-or-rewild-perspectives-on-future-arts-infrastructures/
9 - http://www.cittadellarte.it/unidee/info.html

Embedded Arts Practice in a Post-pandemic Future


The global Coronavirus pandemic is an event that had created new conditions for arts and culture. Amongst the many disruptions are irrevocable changes to how we relate to space, place and one another. We have experienced a severe contraction in the physical space in which we can operate accompanied by an explosion in the possibilities and technologies for remote collaboration. In this disorientating hybrid space, artists and those involved in cultural production – particularly those who wish to effect social change through their practice - are left with questions: "What can we do from here?" and "What future can we help to build?".

Key themes and areas of research will include: embedded and socially engaged artistic methods; innovative models for facilitating and broadening conversation through dialogic practice; the role of creative intervention and aesthetic rupture in community development; and what sustainability and resilience might mean in a post-virus world. We will explore the histories, present landscapes and potential futures for cultural activity with a close eye and ear to the ground for under-represented, overlooked, under-appreciated and underground practices that blur art and the everyday; what Gregory Sholette has called the hidden mass of "cultural dark matter" that underpins the visible art world. What new possibilities for social engagement are afforded by new technologies and the digital commons. What new ecologies, economies and forms of social organisation are experimented with through artistic activity and how might they shape the new realties that are emerging?

The residency aims to collectively and collaboratively address these and other key questions, challenges and themes in the area of embedded and socially engaged art practice offering perspectives, case studies and mentoring opportunities from practitioners, curators/arts organisers and theorists that will enrich and help frame their own practice and projects. Through the lens of a "post pandemic" future, participants will gain practical and theoretical knowledge about the past, present and future landscapes of art for responsible transformation of society that they can then apply in both the postindustrial context of Biella and their own locale.

Cittadellarte’s director Paolo Naldini has outlined in his "Pan-demopraxy" manifesto that we may take this moment as an opportunity for rebirth. As he puts it: "If we still don't know where exactly this virus came from and how it spread, we can decide where it will direct us." Concurrently the network of Ambassadors for Michelangelo Pistoletto’s Third Paradise begin to tackle questions for the post-virus world such as: How you will live? How you will learn? How will you communicate? How will you express yourself? How will you do everything you do?

Key Words
Socially engaged and Embedded Practice, Postvirus/Post-pandemic Futures, Slow Art and Sustainability, Art and the Everyday, Site and Context Responsive work, Invisible Art/Dark Matter, Participation and Co-production, Grassroots Infrastructure, Self-organisation and DIY collective agency (Demopraxy/Pandemopraxy), Socially Applied Practice, Postwork Futures, Postcapitalism/Alternative Sustainable Economies, Transition to Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm (Third Paradise), Building the new (Digital/Virtual) Commons.


Andy Abbott


Webzine (digital fanzine) of the end of the UNIDEE 2020 residency: https://unidee2020.hotglue.me/




When Michelangelo Pistoletto founded Cittadellarte in 1998, he questioned the social and political role of artists and the function of art organizations in society, with the aim of conceiving an institution fully dedicated to promoting sustainable social changes. How can we inspire the raising of a self-critical art institution that intervenes in the current political debate? And how can we create organizations where people of different class, gender and race interact to find possible solutions to improve civic society? These were some of the main questions that animated the founding of Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto. Today, the foundation coordinates eleven International Rebirth Forums where a network of civil organizations implements the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in several local-scale community projects. 

After twenty-one years from the establishment of Cittadellarte, the political, economic and social conditions that motivate artists constituting art organizations have changed drastically. We are experiencing times of profound and rapid transformations, whose impacts cannot be in any way addressed on a one-person scale. Particularly, a sense of anxious urgency pervades our lives when confronting two of our major (and interrelated) current concerns: the apparently unrestrainable phenomenon of global warming and the increase of uncontrolled migration flows towards the West. 
Perhaps the art field, in spite of all its contradictions, still represents today one of the agoras where to actively promote collective debates on current political disputes.

The Fall Term titled Modes of Instituting aims to investigate how artists are currently engaged in stretching the very notion of artistic practice beyond the dominant model of art making (Jason E. Bowman, 2016), to invent new organizations that expand art’s intervention into society. We refer to this methodology as instituting - i.e the process of building institutions as a cultural and critical act. At Cittadellarte, the act of instituting responds to four principles: engaging in long term projects, promoting social critique, favouring collective participation on local scale and endorsing multidisciplinary discussion.

Bringing together a plethora of international experts, the Fall Term will be dedicated to discussing how we can establish ethical principles to shape art organizations not only as centres of power, hierarchy, control and discipline. Specifically, on the traces of Michelangelo Pistoletto’s methodology, we will be discussing what are the ways in which art institutions can (un)learn from artistic practices that engage and create communities around issues of concern. And how to shape organizations where audiences are not considered as passive receivers of predefined contents, but as active members of a constituent body, from which to be provoked, getting inspired and learning, in order to bring those same issues of concern to public attention.


The Fall Term is dedicated to imagining the role of art organizations in times of perennial crisis, and to discussing what their future(s) in the next twenty years would be. A group of eight international applicants will be selected to follow a two-month programme of workshops and conferences. Artists and curators that have given life to emergent institutional models and art organizations will be invited as Visiting Professors to share their experiences and concerns. 
The final aim of the term will be to write, all together, an ethical charter on how contemporary art organizations should work as places for political agency, community building and social change.

8 – 10 November
by Kobe Matthys (Agency)

11 – 13 November
by Annette Krauss and Yolande van de Heide

16 – 18 November
by Janna Graham and Valeria Graziano 

19 – 21 November
By Bik Van Der Pol
The whole Modes of Instituting Fall program is entirely supported thanks to our historical partner illycaffé S.p.A., also with a workshop exclusively dedicated to young creatives and designers conducted by the duo Cooking Sections. Entitled “Climavore” the duo proposed to work on the production and consumption of foods that react to climatic events induced by man and landscape alterations. 

26 – 29 November
By Cooking Sections


We are living in a time in which the human impact on our planet is having irreversible dramatic consequences on the decline of the natural world. Rather than the soft definition of climate change we should refer to the current situation as a climate breakdown, as artist Brett Bloom deliberately points out. In fact, the living conditions of modern Western society are based on forms of ferocious land and people exploitation that penetrates our bodies, minds and ways of being in the world to remain dependent on oil-based infrastructures without considering the effects. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of teenagers are demonstrating all around the world in an unprecedented protest against global warming and pollution, vowing to miss school until the governments of their countries take action. 

Since 2003 Michelangelo Pistoletto and Cittadellarte have had on their agenda an ongoing discussion on environment sustainability, also promoting the Rebith Day since 2012: an annual international event dedicated to rebirth, change and the responsibility that each one of us should take in order to build a balanced relationship between nature and artifice. The Rebirth-day represents the celebration of the Third Paradise, a concept developed by Pistoletto to describe the start of a new phase for humanity (in the first paradise humans were fully integrated into nature, while the second is the artificial paradise), promoting a balanced connection between artifice and nature and the potential for social change.

Starting from these premises, the 2019 UNIDEE Summer Term is organized around the summer camp Climate Action, led by three different artists, to respond to the global warming and consider possible actions. During the camp the participants will discuss their relation to fossil sources, experiment in agroecology techniques and discuss climate agency to formulate alternative ways of living in relation with our landscape and the other organisms. Artists Brett BloomFernando Garcia–Dory and Luigi Coppola are all committed on various levels to promoting different practices that re-examine our dependencies from energy exploitation and how we might begin to de-industralise our individual and collective sense of self. Through the recovery of old rural traditions, participatory processes, collective control of the means of production and art, their practices propose alternatives to address how humans relate to nature.

8 – 12 July 
Brett Bloom

8 – 12 July 
Luigi Coppola

8 – 12 July 
Fernando Garcia Dory



How do we shape the reality of our living and acting together? Since 2014 Cittadellarte coordinates the International Rebirth Forums connecting different civil organizations with the aim of promoting social change. Each Forum gathers together a diverse range of formal and informal groups (such as associations, foundations, enterprises, governmental organizations, non profit spaces, committees, etc) to implement a collective one-year concrete plan discussing the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are in an urgent call for action by all countries. 
In a global partnership with different participants, Cittadellarte has promoted more than 235 meetings worldwide and coined a new word defining its method: demopraxia. Mutuated by the word democracy, the neologism replaces the term cratòs (power) with the word practice (in Greek praxis), converging its meaning on collective agency and co-operation. 

Starting from these premises, the 2019 UNIDEE Spring Term invites artists of different generations to map out the issues surrounding collaborative art from a practitioner's perspective. Exploring the potential of collective action as art work, the invited artists develop working relations with other producers, extensively collaborating with groups and communities to facilitate the creation of different infrastructural conditions and assist them in taking control of their futures. Advocating solidarity and peer-to-peer relationships to develop new ways of regulating everyday life, the artists initiate community-embedded projects combining together discussions, performances, pedagogy and forms of self–organization. In response to the political, social and economical conditions of post-capitalism, the invited artists experiment with community forms of resistance and participation to organize alternative ways of living.

20-22 May 
Adelita Husni-Bey

May 28-30 
SELF-ORGANISATION AS METHOD - the case of platform Chto Delat 
Chto Delat

Here you can read our publication of the 20th anniversary of UNIDEE: Notes from the 2019 UNIDEE residency programs



(in order of appearance):
Andrea Caretto and Raffaella Spagna with José D. Edelstein and Marco Giardino;
Amy Franceschini and Lode Vranken (Futurefarmers) with Livia Cahn;
Alessandra Saviotti and Gemma Medina Estupiñan (Arte Útil).






Read the 2017 statement (pdf)

Key words: Revolution, Desire, Mediation.

Mentors and Guests in 2017 (in order of appearance):
Etcetera (Loreto Soledad Garìn Guzmàn and Federico Zukerfeld) with Franco “Bifo” Berardi;
Ayreen Anastas and Rene Gabri with Carla Bottiglieri;
Riccardo Fassone and Juan Esteban Sandoval (el puente_lab) with Gabriele Ferri;
Diego del Pozo Barriuso with Julia Morandeira Arrizabalaga;
Andrea Caretto and Raffaella Spagna with Ernst Zürcher;
Gianluca and Massimiliano De Serio with Luigi Fassi;
Attila Faravelli and Enrico Malatesta with Adam Asnan;
Aria Spinelli for the EU project "Trauma & Revival";
Petra Köhle and Federica Martini;
Adrian Paci with Leonardo Caffo and Zef Paci;
Assemble (Amica Dall) and John Bingham-Hall with Efrosini Protopapa;
Rick Lowe with Elpida Rikou.


Read all the UNIDEE NOTEBOOKS 2017



Read the 2016 statement (pdf) 

Key words: Research, Gift, Alteration.

Mentors and Guests in 2016 (in order of appearance):
Expodium (Nikos Doulos and Bart Witte);
Jason Waite with Adelita Husny-Bey;
Lara Almarcegui with Marco Giardino;
Cesare Pietroiusti with Aldo Spinelli;
Martino Gamper with Matteo Lucchetti and Judith Wielander (Visible project);
Giusy Checola with ‘L’Italia che Cambia’ and ‘Transition Town Biella’;
Maddalena Marciano with Claudia Losi and in collaboration with the Fashion Office of Cittadellarte/ B.E.S.T;
Attila Faravelli and Enrico Malatesta with Nicola Ratti;
Luigi Coppola with Daniel Blanga Gubbay;
Antoni Muntadas with Alessandra Messali;
Daria Filardo with Fatma Bucak;
Adrian Paci with Edi Muka;
Aria Spinelli with Núria Güell;
STEALTH.unlimited (Ana Džokić and Marc Neelen) with Erik Jutten and Piet Vollaard.

Read all the UNIDEE NOTEBOOKS 2016


Read the 2015 statement 

Key words: Temporality, Responsibility, Participation.

Mentors and Guests in 2015
(in order of appearance):
Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico;
Silvia Franceschini with Stefano Rabolli Pansera (Beyond Entropy);
Aria Spinelli with Tullio Brunone (Laboratorio di Comunicazione Militante);
Massimiliano Viel;
Emilia Telese with Richard Shields;
Giulia Grechi with Fiamma Montezemolo;
Saioa Olmo Alonso with Sabel Gavaldón;
Giusy Checola with Thomas Gilardi;
Alessandra Donati with SMart Belgio/Italia;
Beatrice Catanzaro;
STEALTH.unlimited (Ana Džokić and Marc Neelen);
Santiago Reyes Villaveces with Manuel Ángel Macia;
Andrea Caretto and Raffaella Spagna with Attila Faravelli;
Federica Martini with Anne-Julie Raccousier;
Omer Krieger;
Monica Narula (Raqs Media Collective) with Rasmus Nielsen (Superflex).

Read all the UNIDEE NOTEBOOKS 2015