The Congress for the Defence of Culture

in collaboration with Idit Nathan and Ali Smith

The original Congress for the Defence of Culture was held in 1935 in Paris in a European landscape shocked by the rise of fascism and the failings of communism and social democracy to counter this phenomenon. Artists and writers came together from across the continent to start what was often an uneasy dialogue about the possibilities to resist this movement.

In 2016 we are again confronted with a careerist and careering political trajectory based
in division and hatred. This is what we want to counter. Dialogue is always a good place to start so here at The Congress for the Defence of Culture what we’re imagining is a series of pop up events – screenings, talks, happenings, exhibitions and performances that can offer space to articulate alternatives, question current truisms and encourage creative and generative dialogue. The Congress will be at once playful and serious: an artists’ think tank mediated through arts practice to enable the sharing and analysis of our current position and to imagine alternative futures.

This is the moment to open up ideas not close them down. Valuing Cambridge’s history
as a city that stands for interdisciplinary and international thought we invite proposals
and contributions to the Congress as a focus for thought and action that can have impact
way beyond the city’s limits.

– Launch statement (June 2016)

Since our launch the Congress has established a group of associate artists (approximately forty artists from the Eastern Region so far), curated two exhibitions, hosted three artists’ meals, produced text interventions and collaborated with local organisations such as Cambridge Festival of Ideas, the New Hall Art Collection, Cambridge Literary Festival and national groups like Refugee Tales and Unite Against Dividers. Please join us