I was just googling for an image of Casa das Caldeiras in São Paulo where I have a short upcoming residency to continue planning the Lanchonete project. As I was googling I came across VCU.br, a project that I helped to plan and kick off when freeDimensional‘s mobile office was at Casa das Caldeiras (CdC) in 2008-09. VCU.br is a collaboration between Casa das Caldeiras and Video Volunteers (which works primarily in India). I was selected as an Architect of the Future by the Waldzell Institute the same year as the founder of Video Volunteers, and attended a conference in Austria where she asked me if I knew how to help her project in Brazil. I knew exactly how because of my understanding of the desire of CdC to create an audiovisual laboratory for marginalized youth to gain technical skills, which was close enough to the goals of Video Volunteers (for which they already had a grant to replicate their model in Brazil from Freedom to Create). What I was most interested to see (or be reminded, rather) is that no where in the description of the project is my involvement or that of freeDimensional mentioned.
This led me to look at the sites of two other projects that I lent considerable energy and time to during formative stages of their emergence. One is the Rwanda Film Festival, which is now in its 8th year. The co-founder of the festival and I met at the Zanzibar International Film Festival when I was working there in 2003. He told me about a desire he had to start a film festival. A year or so later, I found that I was going to Rwanda due to my then partner’s work. I rang up the filmmaker and said, ‘let’s do it’! In the course of time between August 2004 and March 2005 we whipped up a two-week multi-site festival that spent a week in Kigali and a week traveling through all 6 provinces as well as to the Kiziba refugee camp on Rwanda’s border with the DRC.
Another project is Tadamon, the Egyptian Refugee Multicultural Council in Cairo. When freeDimensional had its mobile office at the Townhouse Gallery, this was the project that it attached itself to believing that the value added by Townhouse to the creation of this council was worth supporting and could be a model for other art spaces in the freeDimensional network. I wrote a grant on behalf of a freeDimensional-Tadamon partnership to the Open Society Institute. At the end of the day, the grant was halved and Tadamon’s operations were prioritized over freeDimensional’s. Nonetheless, I was able to work on the project because I was already in Cairo and with the help of a then new colleague, Jakob Myschetzky, we created the Living Together CAIRO initiative as a revitalization campaign for Tadamon. Tadamon went on to receive additional grants from OSI.
I guess another project would be with Studio Gad – The Archive Project. Here I talk about how my work with Studio Gad was the beginning of freeDimensional. Of course, I don’t take full credit for the levels of success these projects have attained, but I am interested in how important infusions of energy, time and social capital at early, key moments in a project’s lifespan can be erased or not mentioned. I think there is something to learn therein about horizontal, trust-based networks and accountability. I’ll keep thinking on it …