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(De-)Construct Gender! Urban Culture for Equal Rights and Sexual Diversity
Start date: May 1, 2015, End date: Jan 31, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Urban Cultures in their various forms are the cultural home base for a large part of European youth, especially in the big multicultural cities. While fostering values like mutual respect and appreciation of cultural diversity, they still have blind spots related to gender issues and sexual orientations. The current worldwide development concerning LGBTI+ rights and discourses shows on one hand doors opening for change, while on the other hand, there's a seemingly growing pressure on young people to stay within a gender conformity zone, coming from peers, society and media. In this project, we worked on the topic of how gender definitions affect us, can give privileges or can limit freedom; and how we can try to share those privileges and get that freedom back. The participants reflected and exchanged (if they wanted) own experiences in a safe space setting. Starting from there, they got together in small transnational and transdisciplinary working groups that could be either gender homogenous or heterogenous, and they created creative productions reflecting gender issues and sexual diversity. They produced audio and video recordings and small live performances; guided by professional artists and culture pedagogues who supported personal and artistic growth of the participants. Thus we provided a framework for self-empowerment, for defining the own gender in a way that didn't limit the own freedom or the freedom of others. The project brought together 50 young people (including group leaders) from 9 European countries. Target group in all partner countries were young people from 16 to 30 years; including young people from families with migration background or belonging to minorities. We also addressed young people with less access to education, especially to education in culture/arts. Participants arrived on Nov 9th in Cologne and were shuttled to the Northsea island Baltrum on Nov 10th. In the first days, there were workshops in artistic disciplines (music, film making, dance/performance/theatre ...) as well as topical sessions on gender issues and group games to create common grounds and a positive, inclusive working athmosphere. Ideas for creative productions / performances on the project topics were collected. Based on that idea pool, internationally mixed small project groups were formed. These groups worked on their ideas guided by professional artists and the project crew. The groups didn't stay isolated, but cooperated in various ways. Also, there were regular whole group meetings and activities, such as group games, walks on the island, topical movie nights etc. Nov 22nd we organized an open jam session to which the islander and especially musicians from the island Baltrum were invited. The participants presented their results and played music together with the visitors. Nov 23th was the day to finalize all productions. On Nov 24th, the group left in the morning, taking ferry and bus back to Cologne, where the project results were presented and performed live to the public at the Motoki Wohnzimmer. In the morning of Nov 25th there was a final evaluation session with group discussions and individual feedback on big posters. After that, participants departed back home. After the exchange, project results were published on the project website and on Youtube and disseminated via Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools. There was a crew evaluation meeting in Cologne. Also, project and evaluation results were discussed with the international partners. The group stayed in contact through a closed Facebook group.

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