The question of the neighborhoods we encounter daily is one that is just as important as it is complex. In a space in which varying and unequal power relationships unfold – as in the present-day cultural and economic space – neither a clearly defined place nor a community, much less a local cultural tradition, can simply be regarded as given. They no longer exist as fixed frames of reference. Places are the result of cultural, economic, ethnic, technological and media constructions.
Culture scholar Arjun Appadurai introduced the concept of »neighborhood« into the discussion in relation to the idea of »localities.« Neighborhoods in this sense are the virtual or currently existing spatial realization of locality by means of social relations.

Neighborhoods are created not only in reaction to the given ecological and economic conditions, but above all as a way of contrasting and distinguishing themselves from others. Appadurai’s ideas about the social construction of locality are the result of pondering the consequences of a »global cultural flow.« Despite what many people think, locality, according to Appadurai, is actually quite a fragile social achievement.

In this connection, we are interested this winter semester at Kunstraum Lakeside in exploring questions as to our neighbors – asking, for instance, to what extent initiatives striving at a counter-culture, counter-public or simply social free space are able to assert themselves in Klagenfurt and environs. In a joint discussion in December, representatives of self-organized political or cultural spaces will examine strategies for their assertion and realization.
How the social setting, the locality, can change over time is demonstrated by a long-term research project conducted by Karen Andreassian, which began in 2002 in a town of which little is known in Austria, in Eriwan, the Armenian capital, at the Institute of Art History there, and that was completed this year. Tracing this locality and the sociopolitical landscape of Armenia, and carrying the figure of the »political walker« into the country as a consequence of the resistance against the manipulated presidential elections of 2007, »changed the lives of those involved and gave them a feeling of personal dignity, of collective solidarity and readiness to defend their own opinions.«

In the course of our research in the wider geographic space of the Alpine-Adriatic region, we came upon the »Isola Neighborhood Project« in Milan, which the curator and art critic Marco Scotini will describe in a documentary exhibit at Kunstraum Lakeside. This installation shows the activities undertaken by the residents of the Milan district of Isola, who joined forces with artists, philosophers and urban planners to protest against a city development project, demonstrating how the Isola Art Center has proven its value as an important force for reinforcing the community.

The exploration of cultural differences between West and East finds expression in the concept devised by the curators’ group WHW from Zagreb for an exhibit taking place in January at the Kunstraum: »Ground-Floor America.« During the two years spent preparing for this year’s biennial in Istanbul, which WHW directed, the collective was underway primarily in the regions of the Middle East, Central Asia, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, in which »all (countries) to varying degrees have to contend with the ‘marginal standing’ that is imposed on them, and/or which they have internalized, in relation to the modernist project of the West and the Soviet Union.« Looking back at its curatorial activities, WHW will ask questions as to the »discrepancy between the local and international reception of art and whether, with the worldwide conditions under which cultural production takes place today, it is still possible to create knowledge at all.«

Christian Kravagna, Hedwig Saxenhuber