A year of AtWork. Between Africa and the rest of the world

Contart 2014, artist notebooks exhibition at mARTadero, Cochabamba. Courtesy of MARTadero.

Our initiatives are always born out of a vision, out of something new that we want to disseminate and expand, out of a dream. When we really believe in an idea, from the first moment we can already envision the way we want it to grow. 2014 has been the year in which AtWork, the project conceived from the ‘artist notebooks’ collection, has unfolded the way we always imagined it.In fact, on top of the new chapter implemented by us in collaboration with our African partner, other organizations around the world have embraced the format, adapting it to their own identity and context. In spite of the almost oneiric premises the name of the format is solid, concrete, to the point: AtWork! We are talking about passionate, artistic, creative, cultural work. But it’s still work. Concrete, physical, material. Yet at the same time metaphysical, immaterial, imaginative. Almost intangible, yet real and solid. So resilient that it is able to influence entire communities and people’s social lives, because knowledge and education might seem unworldly and hardly measurable; but they share the ephemeral power of beauty: they are eternal. Today we want to re-live with you the journey that AtWork completed this year, each time transforming and enriching the reality around it.

The year started with AtWork Abidjan taking place in the Ivory Coast capital in collaboration with Fondation Donwahi. The chapter has unfolded in the form of a virtual exhibition of the artist notebook collection that could be navigated on a tablet, and an exhibition of the notebooks produced during the workshop that the visitors could flip through physically. “My identity and my story”: this was the theme of the workshop conducted by the artist Jems Ko Ko Bi, who became a guide and a maestro for the 29 students of the local academy, pushing them to get to know themselves, their history and their country. A part of the workshop in fact happened outside of the foundation’s walls, touring the villages and the countryside around Abidjan. The pages of the notebooks contain the portraits of people met, landscapes seen and children’s drawings. The notebooks have been donated by the authors to lettera27and have become a part of our artist notebook collection. But the personal and professional growth of the participants did not finish with the workshop, it continued with the exhibition: they worked on designing a site specific display, and for many this has been their first occasion to showcase their work. AtWork Abidjan is narrated in a digital catalogue curated by Katia Anguelova and in a video produced by Foundation Donwahi. The materials transmit all the energy and richness of ideas of this new chapter concluded on the African continent.

From Africa to Europe, AtWork reached Watou from July 5th to August 31st, a small village in the Flanders, which for the last 34 years has been hosting  Kunstenfestival Watou, an annual international festival that mixes literature and visual arts. For the 2014 edition titled About Small Happiness in Time of Abundance and visited by 15.000 people, the organizers have held the on-line exhibition and adapted the AtWork format, conducting a workshop in collaboration with Creatief Schrijven, a local organization that specializes in creative writing. The participating artists and writers have played with the images and words on the pages of the notebook, opening the format for the first time to poetry and literature. AtWork was also a protagonist through Pascale Marthine Tayou’s notebook, one of the works from our collection, exhibited in a solo show dedicated to the famous Cameroonian artist, and chosen as a key visual for the entire festival communication.

The AtWork tour around the world finally moved to Cochabamba (Bolivia) for the Conart festival, organized by a cultural center mARTadero, from September 26th to November 20th. Here the workshop format became a travelling process: 20 international artists have in fact crossed the country equipped with Moleskine notebooks that served as their travel diaries, which have reflected their personal point of view on the country and its inhabitants. At the end of the journey the notebooks have been exhibited for a month at mARTadero’s headquarters, together with the on-line collection. You can flip through the digital versions of the produced notebooks on the festival’s website and see the videos that tell the artists inspirations behind the notebooks on a dedicated Youtube channel.

The AtWork journey, sustained by Moleskine, continues in 2015 towards new destinations:  it keeps inspiring people from different latitudes and cultures, contributes to stimulating a critical debate and developing self- awareness in the participants. AtWork is a format, a chimera, an intuition and an educational tool. The communities that embrace it always choose how to best adapt it to their own context. We share the rules, but then everyone plays their own game. In their own way, but always with the same goal: to learn and to share something, on the pages of the notebook.