Tradition anew!
Biennale of Western Balkans, Ioannina, Greece

Biannual festival and year-round project that draws connections between intangible cultural heritage, art and technology.

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Explaining Art Pluriverse.

Towards a deeper understanding

BoWB - Intangible Culture

[A living document]

Art Pluriverse is a community science series for arts and culture that envisions a boundary spanning approach to intangible cultural heritage (ICH) through art and open knowledge. Art Pluriverse is inspired by the concept of pluriversality as expressed in the recent publication “Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary” (Kothari et al., 2019), where traditional knowledge is extended to eco-cultural relations of locality, biocultural memory and grassroots collectivity.

The programme intends to situate ICH in an intercultural applied context, drawing on the anthropological theory of Manuela Carneiro da Cunha that brings a deeper understanding on the concept of reflexivity when diverse cultures coexist (da Cunha, 2009). It actively follows the development of the Declaration on Open Access for Cultural Heritage (Heidel & Wallace, 2020), which aims to inform towards equitable and consistent practices around open access, including emerging questions in areas such as decolonization, indigenisation and ICH. It is further motivated by the call on a community-centred approach for ICH’s continuity (Aikawa-Faure, 2009) and inspired by Aboriginal new media art research as published in “Transference, Tradition, Technology” (Claxton et al., 2006).

Art Pluriverse seeks to uplift cultural knowledge systems identified as traditional, local, indigenous or folk, aiming to draw attention towards diverse epistemologies of knowledge co-production. ICH describes living cultural practices that are community-based and collectively experienced, e.g. from shared aesthetic traditions to communal resource management. ICH’s multivalent manifestations often deviate from object-centred approaches and materialities, allowing the mapping of more processual, affective and symbolic ensembles. Through the community science series we envision to further explore ICH and its ecosystem of related concepts, as cultural expressions, collective memory, living heritage and ephemera, up to digital folklore, genetic resources (WIPO, 2020) and living paradigms of commoning through alternative movements and livelihoods that value traditional social systems (Varvarousis, 2019).

We acknowledge that processes of globalisation and cross-cultural hybridisation can often revive rather than endanger cultural heritage, allowing it to respond to contemporary multifaceted social and cultural environments (Alivizatou, 2016). In this context, we aim to foster convivial spaces of digital co-existence that bring together past and contemporary intangible cultural practices, while advocating for inclusive community participation of regionally active groups and small collectives, including LGBTQ, BIPOC, diasporic, cross-border and common interest or common needs communities. Art Pluriverse is conceived as a field in the making, a critical apparatus for the slow exploration of intangible culture within the interdisciplinary art and cultural discourse.

Textile Month.

1st Edition Art Pluriverse 2020

Historically in the Balkans, ‘spinning turned into strolling’ in the hands of the weavers, while the stroll of craftspeople weaved paths across wide regions, knitting together nodes of trade. Whether around the spindle or along geographical routes, craftspeople have always created communities and networks around textiles.

The first edition of Art Pluriverse, Textile Month, aimed to weave together networks of practices that foster and raise awareness around the textile artistic heritage of the Balkan region. The programme supports the co-creation of research-based artworks through artist-community synergies and the development of digital community archives drawing on the FAIR, CARE and OpenGLAM principles, addressing the rights and interests of communities for self-representation and ethical preservation of their cultural knowledge and heritage as a means of empowerment.

Textile making has a shifting agency from the individual to the collective and into community making (Robertson & Vinebaum, 2016). Deeply rooted in local cultures and everyday life, textile making largely involves knowledge production based on intergenerational women communities. Its social, artistic aspects and cultural expression in the public realm (Hui/ Jefferies, 2018) can be now seen through the prism of Community Science.

Community Science projects organise scientific knowledge through processes of open, collective experimentation and research. During the Textile Month, we developed such processes, by raising awareness towards textile crafts as community building and socially engaging practices, where Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions are valued and safeguarded as a critical part for the development of sustainably aware cultures (Burcikova, 2011).


Aikawa-Faure, Noriko. “From the Proclamation of Masterpieces to the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.” Intangible Heritage. (2009): 13-44.

Alivizatou, Marilena. Intangible Heritage and the Museum: New Perspectives on Cultural Preservation. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press, 2016. 

Claxton, Townsend, Stephen Loft, Melanie Townsend. Transference, Tradition, Technology: Native New Media Exploring Visual & Digital Culture. Banff, Alberta: Walter Phillips Gallery Editions, 2005.

Cunha, Manuela C. “Culture” and Culture: Traditional Knowledge and Intellectual Rights. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press, 2009.

Heidel, Evelin & Andrea Wallace. Declaration Draft. Open GLAM. 2020.

Kothari, Ashish, Ariel Salleh, Arturo Escobar, Federico Demaria, and Alberto Acosta. Pluriverse: A Post-Development Dictionary. New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2019.

Varvarousis, Angelos. “Who is Afraid of Change?.” Consider Journal Issue No1, Societe Publishing New Zealand. (2019):56-65. (Ιllustrations by Sir John Tenniel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865. Artwork and Graphic Design by Christina Biliouri.) 

WIPO, Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions. Switzerland, 2015/2020.

Arrigoni, Gabriella. Artistic Prototypes: From Laboratory Practices To Curatorial Strategies. Doctoral Thesis, pp. 35-36, January 2017.

Burcikova, Mila. “Craftivism 2000: Utopia of Socially Engaged Craft?.” Malcolm Ferris (ed). Making Futures: The Crafts as Change-maker in Sustainably Aware Cultures. Vol. 2. pp. 8-14, 2011.

Jefferies, Janis & Hui Po Keung. “Why does Community Matter? What are we Weaving?.” Janis Jefferies (ed). A Reader TECHSTYLE Series 2.1: Fabpublic! -Talking about Textile, Community and Public Space. Mill6 Foundation, Hong Kong, 2018.

Parker, Rozsika 1984 The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine. London: The Women’s Press; New York: Routledge (1989).

Robertson, Kirsty & Lisa Vinebaum. “Crafting Community.” Textile: Cloth and Culture. 14:1 (2016): 2-13.