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“De-Westernizing” Europeanness with European Lab Budapest

The European Lab forum is heading to Budapest next month for a one-day event dedicated to European youth and the future of activism. Taking place on Saturday, February 5, at Auróra, with Kafkadesk as its official media partner, the innovative forum will bring together climate activists, journalists, and other civil society actors from all over Europe for a series of debates and workshops.

One of the panels will tackle the issue of “The shape of the media for future generations” with Kafkadesk contributor and Lazy Women co-founder Zsofi Borsi among its speakers. As we gear up towards the event, Zsofi met with Laurent Bigarella, one of the brains behind the event, to find out more about its mission.

Hi Laurent! Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and what your role is at European Lab? 

Hi Lazy Women! Thanks a lot for the invitation to answer your questions. I’ve been working for Arty Farty for 5 years now, and I’m one of the curators of European Lab, a platform for debates and new ideas. Basically, we organise events, or “forums”, throughout Europe where we gather a new generation of cultural actors, to discuss various topics: from climate crisis to new forms of citizenship in Europe, democratic renewal, the role of new media in today’s society, etc.

My role here is to select, together with my beloved colleagues Anne-Caroline Jambaud and Juliette Josse, what we are going to discuss during these forums, and who we shall invite, depending on the topics.

How did the organisation start? What were your first couple of events like?

Arty Farty was born in 1999! Everything actually started with Nuits sonores, an electronic music festival, based in Lyon. Since then, this major event has been showcasing and promoting emerging and independent culture, with international artists and also local talents. In 2011, our NGO decided to develop a new project: European Lab – which was actually initially called ‘the European lab for festivals’ as it was aimed to explore the festival ‘object’, by gathering professionals who were attending Nuits sonores.

11 years later, the project evolved and is now definitely more open to civil society – not only professionals from the festival and music industry. We have been organising European Lab forums each year in Lyon since 2011, but also in Paris since 2015 and in Brussels since 2017. Besides, we organised a few one-shot European Lab editions; in Frankfurt (2017), Delphi in Greece (2018), Cluj-Napoca and Madrid (2019)… and we can’t wait now to organise the first-ever edition of European Lab in Budapest!

As far as we know, you’re a primarily French team?

Arty Farty is based in Lyon, so most of the team is indeed French. However, we also created a Brussels-based NGO called ‘Arty Farty Brussels’, where we also have some colleagues. This is because we organise Nuits sonores and European Lab there.

But besides Nuits sonores and European Lab (Arty Farty’s two main projects), we are very much involved in other European projects. Indeed Europe has always been Arty Farty’s playground and in its DNA: its natural horizon one could say. For example, we have been involved in a Creative Europe cooperation project called We are Europe since 2016, gathering eight festivals-forums across Europe. Thanks to this project and to European Lab, we have been able to create strong connections with many independent cultural actors based everywhere on the continent. That’s how, one year and a half ago, we were contacted by our friends from Cafébabel, another great European media project, who asked us to join them in a new exciting project: Sphera.

And what is that?

The idea was to develop a new platform dedicated to Generation Z, with nine other independent media. We accepted to join the project as the 10th partner, and have been asked to organize five “Sphera Days” to promote this media platform. That’s how we found ourselves co-organising some events with partners we were already working with, in Lyon during European Lab, in Graz during Elevate festival, in Thessaloniki during Reworks Agora and in Kraków together with Unsound festival.

The last event of the cooperation project will take place in Budapest on February 5 at Auróra, because we had some connections with this venue, as we invited its coordinator, Zsuzsa Mekler, during the last edition of European Lab in Lyon! So, long story short: European Lab is coming to Budapest thanks to our European connections, friends and partners!

Here at Lazy Women, we think it’s really important to give voice to people with different agendas and lived experiences. Is the diversity of participants was also something you paid special attention to when selecting panellists for the event?

I totally agree with you and this is exactly what European Lab is all about. Our forum is a place to gather different profiles, from groundbreaking activists, forward thinkers, new philosophers, researchers, new media, architects, designers, photographers, movie makers, authors, cultural and creative actors and, of course, artists. Diversity is at the core of the European Lab spirit. 

During each edition, depending on our main themes, we really pay attention to selecting a diversity of panellists. Mixing approaches, crossing points of views and narratives, bringing diversity on various topics: this is all about Europe actually! Also, we really try to welcome speakers from different European countries, and not only from Western Europe… We do our best to decentralize and to “de-westernize” our curation approach throughout our activities.

For us, it is also really important to create connections with people from Eastern and Central Europe, as there is often some kind of misunderstanding and underrepresentation of this part of Europe in France or in other Western European countries, especially when we are talking about cultural events. Which is a pity as there are actually lots of great cultural and artistic initiatives with amazing people behind these projects. 

So what are you the most excited about regarding the programme of the Budapest Forum? 

The event lasts only one day, so it’s very hard to select just one thing. In total, we will have four panel discussions, two workshops, one exhibition and a whole night of concerts and club music. What we are really excited about is the fact that we will welcome a strong diversity of speakers from Eastern and Central Europe, with people from Kosovo, Poland, Serbia, North Macedonia… and of course from Hungary!

Also, this edition will be the occasion to feature young profiles, a new generation of activists, new emerging media shaping new narratives from an Eastern European perspective. We are really looking forward to meeting all these people, including the Lazy Women team!

Registration is now open to European Lab Budapest. If you’re curious to hear what Lazy Women and others have to say about the future of media platforms, want to meet like-minded individuals, or simply just get inspired, come join us on the February 5 in Auróra, Budapest.

Interview conducted by Zsofi Borsi and originally published on Lazy Women.

Lazy Women is an inclusive platform by a team of international young writers, challenging and reclaiming the concept of femininity and laziness, amplifying the voices of women all over the world.

Coordinated by Ábel Bede, Kafkadesk's Budapest office is made up of a growing team of freelance journalists, editors and fact-checkers passionate about Hungarian affairs and dedicated to bringing you all the latest news, events and insights from Hungary.