, 2023-2024

Figure it Out: The Art of Living Through System Failures explores practices and phenomena in which systems and institutions fail specific communities and populations. Trapped within constraining situations, these people are starting to develop strategies of lying, cheating and stealing to counter their limitations and powerlessness vis-à-vis these systems.

From the position of the dispossessed and excluded, actions and practices that would be condemned in the mainstream, assume a different ethical and political connotation. In popular culture, these practices are frequently celebrated as a cunning and crafty reworking, often poetic or humorous. They have also expanded into the digital sphere as well, where they are getting recombined in interesting ways facing new kinds of algorithmic power structures. Figure it Out will explore the use of these practices as forms of resistance and tools for bypassing rules, as attempts to obtain access to key rights that remain foreclosed for certain groups. The aim is not to indiscriminately celebrate personal gain through illicit behavior, but to acknowledge the ingenuity that comes in finding a way out of an impossible situation. Possible examples come from a broad variety of practices – such as the avoidance of internet censorship by transformation of entire websites into image formats or the camouflage techniques of migrants adopting a ‘western’ look to fool surveillance algorithms.

The project will explore similar practices that enable disenfranchised groups to overcome barriers established by administrative and algorithmic regimes. The focus is on the strategies of rural women, eco-commoners, LGBTIQ+, migrants, etc. in conflict with corporate or state rules.

Figure it Out involves partners from Croatia, France, Greece, Malta and Serbia who will work with and engage different communities sharing their stories through art productions, exhibitions, a radio festival, bonfire events and web-zines.

Public Events

Bonfire event in Mošorin, Serbia:
Live storytelling session and collective reading

17th September 2023

Organised by: research team of the Figure It Out project (Valeria Graziano, Mara Ferrari, Tomislav Medak, Marcell Mars),  KIOSK team (Ana Adamović, Jelena Mijić, Branislava Stefanović and Milica Pekić) and Centre for Earth Architecture Mošorin (Dragana Kojičić)

Figure It Out is an investigation of forms of ingenuity that people with little or no power devise when systems fail them. They tap into the electricity network, they build a shack without a permit, they divorce to claim benefits. Public usually condemns such behavior as an illegal act. We want to understand it positively as acts that allow people with little or no power to reclaim the conditions under which they have to live. People with no power become protagonists in the story of failed systems.

This bonfire, a first of many across Europe, enabled us to share anecdotes of ingenuity in hardship we have already documented, to document new things from the experience of our participants, and to discuss about getting by.

Collective reading and discussion which followed were a celebration of this practices as a veritable form of live art, a craft and skill of living well, of living better despite adversity that characterises the subaltern condition across the world, art of living and finding agency beyond mere survival, of finding hidden surreptitious joys in quotidian acts, and use one’s intelligence in a world that more often demands obedience.

Drugo more (Rijeka, Croatia) |,

Kiosk (Belgrade, Serbia) |

Labomedia (Orléans, France) |

Unfinished Foundation (Malta) |

Vektor (Athens, Greece) |

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or European Education and Culture Executive Agency. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them

Project is supported by: Foundation for Arts Initiatives, Reconstruction Women’s Fund, Ministry of Culture Republic of Serbia, City of Belgrade