KONTRA Labs #1

Tackling inequality in the Rotterdam(se) creative scene

visual design by Berksun Çiçek 

Progress has been made when it comes to inequalities, yet we are far from an actual equal and inclusive society. Discrimination related to gender, race, and age are still a big issue in today’s society, a much problematic fact considering also the current situation which the world is facing- yet again, a global scale socioeconomic crisis. In such periods the danger of stepping backwards is somewhat heightened and with the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, we risk the already achieved progress when it comes to closing the gap of societal, economic, and political inequalities. 

The European Union calls for significant change aiming to a gender-equal Europe by 2025, with a strong focus -already in the past decade- on the workplace and especially on sectors such as the Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and the Arts (STEMA) and the Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI). However, percentages like the below-mentioned and the lack of sufficient research related to inequalities and the LGBTQ+ communities remind us how much we still have to achieve. In Europe, womxn in the music sector earn 30% less than their male colleagues (https://ec.europa.eu/culture/policies/selected-themes/gender-equality). In UK, 40% of womxn and 18% of mxn -because this is something that concerns everyone- have experienced sexual harassment at work (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jan/17/sexual-harassment-victims-views-uk-policy). In The Netherlands 55% of job seekers have experienced discrimination (https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2020/08/jobs-market-discrimination-a-major-issue-but-many-employers-dont-see-it/) and womxn artists are still underrepresented constituting only the 13% in Dutch museums (https://www.mamacash.org/en/women-in-arts-and-culture-severely-underrepresented).

For KONTRA, inequalities and any type of discrimination constitute our main focus of action. As womxn, queers, expats, cultural workers, and most of all humxns, we consider it essential to overcome such issues in order to be able to move forward, towards an equal, inclusive, and sustainable society where everyone is free, access equal treatment not only in public life but in their professional endeavours. We believe that a bottom-up approach as well as generating awareness are the key elements for this achievement. We also believe in positive societal transformation through the arts and in the power of socially engaged art projects of communal creation. Thus, living and working in Rotterdam, we take steps aiming to fight these issues within our local communities hoping to contribute to the globality of these issues. 

Acknowledging the situation around us and in an effort to stimulate awareness on a local level towards societal and economic inequalities in the Creative and Cultural Industry of Rotterdam (CCIR), KONTRA is teaming up with the WORM Pirate Bay (WPB) to engage in a community-based research residency -KONTRA Labs #1. WPB residencies are moments for artistic groups/ artists to formally (and informally) explore the topics and ideas that they are curious about. These residencies give audiences the opportunity to meet and engage with creative groups while they are researching, and to make the process of art production and artistic research less intimidating.

KONTRA Labs #1 will take place between January and February of 2021 and aims to catalyse positive societal transformation by reflecting on the current situation within the Creative and Cultural Industry of Rotterdam (CCIR). It also aims to push towards the necessary change by bringing to light the struggles experienced and by narrowing the gap between the sector and its policymakers. To achieve that, KONTRA Labs #1 assembles a group of 15 participants -individuals or representatives working in the CCIR, who together with KONTRA’s team and through a series of events, in which the group will have the chance to think, talk, and share personal experience will re-imagine the future and map proposals in order to create a small publication aiming to contribute substantially to the transition towards a more equal and inclusive sector. The publication will be the chronicle of the residency portraying the main objectives and it will be shared with the wide audience via KONTRA’s socials and be printed as a limited series.

Dinner Conversation

Difficult times -as such- needs creative solutions. Thus, in the formation of an online dinner, the participants and KONTRA team will get together in order to meet and have the initial conversation on the topic of Inequality within the Rotterdam(se) creative scene. The conversation will be guided/moderated by KONTRA and the topics of discussion will refer to sexism, sexual harassment, the glass ceiling, and gender, race, and age discrimination all related to the Creative and Cultural Industry of Rotterdam (CCIR).

The conversation will be initiated by personal experiences and observations of inequalities and discriminations in the CCIR. The aim is to conclude on the central discriminative issues the CCIR is ailing in order to address them publicly and later on be able to come up with eliminating proposals. Hence, the outcomes of the dinner conversation will form the main topics of the Think tank. Finally, the dinner conversation will be documented as an animation short story which will be included in the publication.

Think tank

KONTRA will organise a Think tank so the participants further examine the aforementioned issues, focusing on the key objectives arising from the dinner, aiming to discuss eliminating proposals and further actions. 

Trauma Healing Webinar

KONTRA will invite an instructor to provide knowledge and effective ways one can deal with and overcome trauma arising from inequalities related to gender, race, and age in the working environment. This serves as a way to facilitate healing & promote self-care within the participants. 

KONTRA Labs#1 Publication Release & Closing Event

KONTRA will organise an event to complement the release of the publication which will be based on the dinner conversation and the think tank. The event focuses on providing the wide audience with the ability to access the publication via a reading and be engaged in a dialogue with the participants; a selection of representatives will be made. In this way a deeper understanding of the situation will be succeeded as also greater awareness will be generated. The event will be complemented and finish with a live act.