Jury Report - 2018 ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture

Their Royal Highnesses and the 2018 laureates. Photo by Xander Remkes.

Their Royal Highnesses and the 2018 laureates. Photo by Xander Remkes.

"On 7 and 8 January 2018 we chose two outstanding laureates. They come from very different parts of Europe and are informed by differing cultural approaches, yet in their work—in addition to their individual excellence—we recognise a shared desire to address the complexity of the past in order to uncover the contours of a more democratic future.

Though vastly different in their methodologies—one uses architectural, aesthetic and scientific technologies to probe crime sites, while the other draws upon the realms of theatre, literature, poetry and music to create spaces of exchange and togetherness—both help redefine the ways that we jointly see, understand and relate to the interconnected world in which we live.

Their art revolves around making sense of the social, political and cultural realities that frame our lives. Yet rather than taking this interconnectedness as a given, they furnish a broader conception of what it means, culturally and politically, to reconfigure the very possibility of a public sphere. Both laureates courageously equip citizens and communities with the power to act and speak together against forgetfulness, the power to reclaim the way in which very local, personal stories—always entangled within the cartography of our global condition—are told.

Forensic Architecture is a research agency based at Goldsmiths, at the University of London, and consisting of an international team of architects, artists, filmmakers, scientists, political theorists and ordinary citizens. Their multidisciplinary practice is unprecedented. They draw on architectural knowledge, but they do not build buildings. Instead, they use advanced imaging techniques to painstakingly rebuild sites where abuses of power have occured: sites of trauma, oppression and injustice. They do this by analysing and recombining an extensive matrix of media and memories. Like archaeologists, they excavate and assemble data that bear witness to the ways in which conflict transforms social, urban, and natural environments.

Thanks to their meticulous investigations, a coherent story emerges from a ceaseless current of media and virtual representations: all facts and facets are combined to create a more complete picture. Often gathered at the request of and together with affected communities and with entities from across society, Forensic Architecture’s findings have served as decisive evidence in a number of legal cases in national and international courts, in citizen tribunals and human rights trials, and have prompted military, parliamentary and United Nations inquiries. ‘Forensics’ stems from the Latin forensis: ‘pertaining to the forum’. True to these etymological roots, the group presents its investigations of cases in various judicial, political and legal forums. Forensic Architecture’s work has also appeared in cultural and artistic venues, redefining aesthetic practice as a way of intensifying the possibilities afforded by what is witnessed and who is witnessing. As such, the work courageously undertakes a ‘counter-forensics’ where communities, survivors and a broad base of civil society actors become part of a collective transformation, sparking an incandescent flare of hope in this ‘post-truth’ era, that ethical, narrative, cartographic and cultural expressions of truth—and resistance to its manipulation—are what matters.  

Borderland is both an independent organization, founded in 1990, and a local centre for cultural encounters, creation and reflection: the Centre Borderland of Arts, Cultures and Nations, which was established a year later in 1991.  Borderland—Pogranicze in Polish—is based in the Sejny- Suwałki border region of northeast Poland, a rural area far from the country’s big-city museums and tourist destinations. It is an area that has been formed by many ‘borderlanders’—people whose lives show traces of intersecting cultural pathways: Lithuanian, Polish, Jewish, Russian Old-believer, Belarusian, and Roma. An area whose heritage is rich in diversity. Yet repeated political efforts to homogenize this diversity—or to destroy it altogether— have only served to draw attention to ethnic divisions. This fabrication of forgetfulness has led to a troubled legacy of deportation, destruction and decay.

For nearly three decades the foundation has researched, revitalized and nutured a model of community-building informed by diverse cultural imaginings and by the art of working critically with memory. Using a wide range of artistic and cultural vocabularies, the foundation involves the entire community in co-creating exhibitions; in writing, translating, publishing and debating literature; in lively hands-on workshops and ongoing theatre and research projects with local young people. The foundation also has an internationally renowned and intergenerational Klezmer orchestra, bringing back to life the musical tradition of Ashkenazi Jews, and it organizes symposiums on cross-cultural dialogue for scholars and cultural practitioners from around the world. Borderland works over a long period of time to build invisible bridges that can span many generations, languages, world views, professions, life experiences and above all, art. These bridges are composed from a more complicated and accurate story, a collective memory, based on recollections of the past, in which there is room for the best and the worst, for atrocities and liberations, for anguish and joy. Connecting these multiple perspectives, between the past and the future, towards a tangible sense of a culture of solidarity for tomorrow. The Jury were moved by the fact that this is a  region in north-east Poland that had a tangible heritage that was destroyed by the war and became an intangible heritage. And thanks to the courageous work of Borderland now the intangible once again ahs become tangible.

Across the fluxes of time, Borderland is an active model of dialogue in the organic process of personal and community development, a model that makes us acutely aware that the modern borderland is not only a distant geography straddling countries. Instead, it connects what national, social, economic and cultural borders are intended to separate. In cities just as much as in rural towns, the Borderland is the space in which different people live together across differences yet in proximity to each other. So rather than allowing borders to continue to divide communities, Borderland cultivates the imagination we need in order to navigate complex and changing paths through the borderlands that we all jointly inhabit. "


“Space is an optical device that helps us to make sense of the present”

In this Featured People interview, we talk to Eyal Weizman, Professor of Spatial and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths University, London, and founder of Forensic Architecture. This international multidisciplinary research group is one of the 2018 laureates for the ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture. 

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“Culture means solidarity”

In this Featured People interview, we talk to Krzysztof Czyzewski, one of the founders of the Borderland Foundation and Centre. The group is one of the 2018 laureates for the ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture for their work in Sejny – a small community in North-Eastern Poland close to the Lithuanian border. Revitalising lost memories and building bridges between the past and possible futures plays a central role in Borderland’s work.

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Press Release and press invitation: 10 years ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture

How do courageous citizens make a difference through culture? That is the theme of the 10th edition of the ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture, which the European Cultural Foundation will be hold on 16th May 2018 in the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam. During the ceremony Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet of the Netherlands will present the 2018 awards to Polish cultural platform and foundation Borderland and international multidisciplinary research group Forensic Architecture, which is based in the UK. Her Royal Highness Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, president of the European Cultural Foundation, will hold the opening speech.

Invisible Bridge.  Borderland Foundation,  The Village of Bridge Builders , Krasnogruda 2015, The Mystery of the Bridge. Courtesy: Borderland Foundation. Photo by: Cezary Nowak.

Invisible Bridge. Borderland Foundation, The Village of Bridge Builders, Krasnogruda 2015, The Mystery of the Bridge. Courtesy: Borderland Foundation. Photo by: Cezary Nowak.


The European Cultural Foundation presents this annual Award to artists and thinkers who inspire change in the way people shape societies – pioneers who are contributing to a more open and democratic Europe through culture. This year Borderland and Forensic Architecture were recognised by the Award’s independent jury of experts for their outstanding work. Both laureates see art as a way of exposing injustice in our communities, to help us recover and rethink the past in order to change the world. They also teach us the importance of working critically with memory and tangible matter to create a common story and a means to be able to tell history in new and different ways.

The ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture will be presented on Wednesday, 16th May 2018 in the Stadsschouwburg in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in front of a large international audience. Each laureate will receive a prize of EUR 25,000 and a unique Award, designed by Dutch artist Jan Rothuizen. More information on the European Cultural Foundation, the laureates, the prize and the independent jury can be found on www.culturalfoundation.eu/pma-2018 


Tenth edition

ECF will also publish a book commemorating the 10th anniversary of the ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture. Entitled Courageous Citizens. How Culture Contributes to Social Change, the publication contains various reflections on ten years of advocating for the change-making capacity of culture and for culture as a source of inspiration for renegotiating our understanding of a more democratic Europe. The book will be launched during the Award ceremony on 16th May but copies can be pre- ordered via Valiz Publishers: http://www.valiz.nl/en/publications/courageous-citizens.html


The European Cultural Challenge

Prior to the festive award ceremony the first European Cultural Challenge will take place. It is a two-day advocacy retreat that brings together laureates from 2008-2018, grantees, partners, researchers, foundations, media-makers and policy-makers to work on tangible cases that fuel positive change through culture.

Through this challenge ECF will connect European change-makers and contribute to rethinking and building Europe as an open, inclusive and democratic space. Outcomes of the European Cultural Challenge may vary from exploring cultural solutions to imagining campaigns and developing concrete advocacy proposals. The European Cultural Challenge is by invitation only and will take place at Hotel Arena, Amsterdam on May 15th and 16th.

More information: http://www.culturalfoundation.eu/european-cultural-challenge-2018/


Note for editors

You are warmly invited to attend the ceremony on Wednesday 16th May in the Stadsschouwburg, Amsterdam. The programme will start at 17:00 hrs. Press must be present at 16:45 hrs.

For accreditation, please send an e-mail before Monday 14th May 2018 to kjochems@culturalfoundation.eu, mentioning your full name, date of birth, the media you will be representing and telephone number.


Persbericht en persuitnodiging: 10 jaar ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture

Hoe maken moedige burgers via cultuur het verschil? Dit thema staat centraal tijdens de tiende editie van de ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture, die de European Cultural Foundation op 16 mei aanstaande organiseert in de Stadsschouwburg te Amsterdam. Tijdens de ceremonie reikt Hare Koninklijke Hoogheid Prinses Margriet der Nederlanden de prijzen uit aan het Poolse culturele platform Borderland en de internationale en multidisciplinaire onderzoeksgroep Forensic Architecture, gevestigd in het Verenigd Koninkrijk. Hare Koninklijke Hoogheid Prinses Laurentien der Nederlanden, president van de European Cultural Foundation, zal de openingsspeech houden.   


Invisible Bridge.  Borderland Foundation,  The Village of Bridge Builders , Krasnogruda 2015, The Mystery of the Bridge. Courtesy: Borderland Foundation. Photo by: Cezary Nowak.

Invisible Bridge. Borderland Foundation, The Village of Bridge Builders, Krasnogruda 2015, The Mystery of the Bridge. Courtesy: Borderland Foundation. Photo by: Cezary Nowak.

De ECF Prinses Margriet Award for Culture wordt jaarlijks door de European Cultural Foundation toegekend aan inspirerende kunstenaars en instellingen, pioniers die met cultuur een bijdrage leveren aan een meer open en democratisch Europa. Borderland en Forensic Architecture ontvangen dit jaar op voordracht van een onafhankelijke en deskundige jury de prijs vanwege hun bijzondere werk. Beide laureaten zien cultuur als een middel om onrecht in de maatschappij aan het licht te brengen, om het verleden opnieuw tot leven te brengen en zo een bijdrage te leveren aan een open samenleving. Tegelijkertijd leren ze ons hoe belangrijk het is om kritisch om te gaan met herinnering en tastbare materie. Daardoor kun je immers de complexiteit van gemeenschappelijke verhalen en verborgen geschiedenissen op een andere manier belichten.

 De ECF Princess Margriet Award for Culture wordt op 16 mei 2018 in de Stadsschouwburg te Amsterdam uitgereikt, in aanwezigheid van een groot internationaal publiek. Iedere laureaat ontvangt een geldprijs van EUR 25.000 en een unieke Award die dit jaar door kunstenaar Jan Rothuizen is ontworpen. Meer informatie over de European Cultural Foundation, de laureaten, de prijs en de jury vindt u op www.culturalfoundation.eu/pma-2018


Tiende editie

De Award wordt dit jaar voor de tiende keer uitgereikt. Ter gelegenheid van deze viering publiceert de European Cultural Foundation het boek Courageous Citizens. How Culture Contributes to Social Change. Hierin zijn reflecties gebundeld van tien jaar op de bres staan voor cultuur als bron van verandering en inspiratie voor een meer democratisch begrip van Europa. Exemplaren van het boek, dat tijdens de prijsuitreiking op 16 mei wordt gepresenteerd, kunnen nu al gereserveerd worden bij Valiz Publishers: http://www.valiz.nl/en/publications/courageous-citizens.html


European Cultural Challenge

Voorafgaand aan de feestelijke prijsuitreiking vindt de eerste editie van de European Cultural Challenge plaats, op 15 en 16 mei in Hotel Arena, Amsterdam. Met deze tweedaagse advocacy bijeenkomst brengt de European Cultural Foundation verschillende groepen samen: laureaten van de ECF Prinses Margriet Award van 2008-2018, partners, onderzoekers, stichtingen, ontvangers van een ECF beurs, mediamakers en beleidsmakers. Zij gaan aan concrete casussen werken die positieve verandering door cultuur ondersteunen. Met de Challenge verbindt de European Cultural Foundation changemakers uit heel Europa met elkaar en levert daarmee een bijdrage aan een open, inclusief en democratisch Europa. De resultaten van de bijeenkomst variëren van het bedenken van culturele oplossingen en campagnes tot het ontwikkelen van advocacy advies. De bijeenkomst is alleen toegankelijk voor genodigden.

Meer informatie: http://www.culturalfoundation.eu/european-cultural-challenge-2018/




U bent van harte uitgenodigd om de ceremonie op 16 mei aanstaande bij te wonen in de Stadsschouwburg te Amsterdam. Het programma start om 17:00 uur. U dient om 16:45 uur aanwezig te zijn.

Deelname is uitsluitend mogelijk bij vooraanmelding, tot uiterlijk maandag 14 mei 2018 12.00 uur, per email aan kjochems@culturalfoundation.eu onder vermelding van volledige naam, geboortedatum, medium en telefoonnummer.