Democracy Needs Imagination: campaigning, voter turn-out and keeping it complex

In the run up to the European Parliament elections many Europeans have understood that Europe is under attack from both inside and outside its borders. From the inside, the attacks come from those who would re-nationalise Europe, seal it off and turn it into a copy of its former self, when hostilities between nations so often almost destroyed it. Those attacking the continent from the outside have long regarded a united, supranational and cooperative Europe as a thorn in their side, because it sets a potentially utopian post-modern example to the rest of the world.  Our director labelled this the ‘Battle for Europe’ and claims it is being fought not with tanks and missiles, but with ideas, narratives, bots and social media.

No wonder thus, our #DemocracyNeedsImagination Action Grants supports campaigns that defend the future of an open and democratic Europe and get Europeans to vote. Here we present a few of them:

Hart boven Hard
As part of an international action day under the banner of #notohateyestochange which saw thousands of people in 52 cities in 13 countries show their support for an European Union that respects human rights and takes climate change seriously, the Dutch platform ‘Hart boven Hard’ organized a manifestation in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The platform – representing a wide range of Dutch NGO’s [ActionAid, Amnesty international, ASKV, BothEnds, CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, Code Rood, Collectief tegen Islamofobie en Discriminatie, Comité 21 Maart, Cordaid, Dance4Life, DeGoedeZaak, Dokters van de Wereld, Euro-Mediterraan Centrum Migratie & Ontwikkeling, Fossielvrij NL, Foundation Max van der Stoel, Greenpeace, Green Cross Nederland, H.I.J.O.S., Humanistisch Verbond, Internationale Socialisten, De Kunstenbond, KIT Royal Tropical Institute, La Benevolencija, LSVb, Milieudefensie, Nederlands Helsinki Comité, Nederland Wordt Beter, PARTOS, PAX, Pride Amsterdam, Prove Them Wrong, RNW Media, Solidaridad, Stem op een Vrouw S.P.E.A.K., Stichting Meld Islamofobie, Transnational Institute, Vluchtelingenwerk Nederland, Vluchtelingenwerk Pauluskerk, Wilde Ganzen, and Women Engage for a Common Future] – has published a manifesto, available in English too  – and attracted a huge crowd to their event on May 19.

Me for You
Stefan Prohorov from Bulgaria initiated a performance parody of what actually Bulgarian political rallies consist of;  free food, a concert and some intimidating security. With his social media account he mocks traditional campaigns and invites Bulgarians to think over what really is at stake in the European Parliament elections in his country. Follow their facebook account for updates!  

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Keep it complex – Make it clear
Keep it complex - make it clear starts conversations about #everyday #art #politics. “Keep It Complex is about making clear what we want, without simplifying discussion: a peaceful, caring, anti-austerity, factual, DIY, transnational, struggling, messy, family-friendly, queer, inclusive, intergenerational, generous, diverse society.” Keep It Complex gives you easy things to do in a difficult world. At the moment it might feel like you’ve got too many tabs open in your brain: Brexit, Trump, climate change, male violence, cultural hegemony, islamophobia, terrorism, right-wing populism – the list goes on.

Keep It Complex is a collaborative and evolving organisation which confronts political issues through ideas and action. It’s about using art to have conversations with people you don’t usually talk to. It’s about not giving in to fear and apathy. With their campaign they call to “Save a Europe that allows, encourages and embraces critical and controversial discussion.” Vote now, argue later!

Another Europe is Possible
Another Europe is Possible is a civil society organisation founded in 2016 to promote a positive case for the European Union within the British public sphere. Their mission is to challenge the xenophobic aspects of the UK Brexit debate, oppose the exit of the UK, while articulating positive proposals for how the European Union should be reformed in the years ahead. They organise public events, produce research on European questions, promoting a positive reform agenda, and run a fortnightly podcast under the same name.  

Vote Together
Vote Together is a project encouraging voters to participate in and spread awareness of the European elections 23–26 May 2019. The foundation behind the project – Between Bridges -  was founded by artist Wolfgang Tillmans in 2017 for the advancement of democracy, international understanding, the arts, and LGBT rights.

In their own words: “Let’s celebrate these elections as a moment where we can come together. Voting is a privilege and never a singular act. So go with your friends, your family and your neighbors to the polls.” Vote Together. On the website of the project you can download a series of posters, videos and images to get your friends and family join you to the ballot box!