Our project is spontaneous to its core, which means we often don’t have enough time. And if we’re pressed for time we often have to choose between developing an idea so that it has substance or publicising the idea so that we get people to come. In this choice, we choose substance every time.
Sometimes this ends up with situations in which we don’t get a large group of people participating, like Friday’s Night of Philosophy at Pakhuis de Zwijger, when two New Europeans staged a Break Out Session, the aim being to bypass the constraints of the semi-institutional setting, get outside, and talk about the philosophy of praxis (putting your ideas into action). But even so, this also has some pretty nice unexpected outcomes.
We gave two tours for the session, each with two people. For our first group we had a mother and daughter and for our second a mother and son. It was nice to get a brief slice of the family dynamic where both mothers initially deferred to their children, but quickly realised we wanted them to engage as well. We had time to listen to each person and to explain exactly what we were doing ourselves, which gave them the space to think. We posed the question, “What do you think about Europe?” and got, at first, silence and then a really interesting discussion each time about how difficult it is to define Europe and how vague the subject of our project is.
We talked with the mother and daughter about the experience of developing a fluid identity due to spending time in places and with people outside your home culture. We talked also about how you will always change your self, no matter what, and that the best thing is to accept this. The daughter wished for borders to disappear because she and her partner from Guatemala could not easily live together. It left us in high spirits and a real desire to repeat the tour in the same way, with just two people.
With the mother and son the rhythm was slightly different, at first we talked about proper philosophy (the son was a first year undergraduate in philosophy) but then we got on to more specifically personal views about art’s role in philosophy. The mother said that somebody (a writer) should write about how our project is a metaphor for big Europe, since there are so many ideas and agendas, everybody communicates past each other and both the people and the officials have no way of engaging with each other. She said that the Goddess Europe project could be a way of making contact and overcoming the mutual sense of disempowerment. Because the people behind the wall probably also feel like they cannot make contact with those on the other side.
In an institutional framework, the success of a cultural pursuit is measured in results (visibility, attendance, money earned etc.). As such, this Break-Out Session would be deemed an abject failure. “Only four people! Pathetic.” But the intimacy we achieved was quite unlike anything we would have gotten from a large group. And we engaged with each other on a level that really shaped our thinking. This is what it has been really difficult to express about the New Europeans project, the value of small human connections which have been made throughout the project. A value that is always impossible to measure.