Tucked away in a leafy residential street in Neukölln, Agora Collective is a contemporary arts platform and co-working space dedicated to the development of social art practices and the collaboration of interdisciplinary processes. ‘Agora’, which means ‘now’ in Portuguese, refers to the way in which Agora Collective was founded, as a place to think about the urgencies and questions of the present day. Initiated in 2011, Agora Collective has been conceived not only as an art space, but as a meeting place for the multidisciplinary sharing of ideas and resources. Agora Collective is described as a prototype for a utopian community and was founded with the four pillars that constitute a community (work, education, art and food) firmly rooted at its core. The notion of nourishment is particularly central to the structure and concept of Agora, which is evident in the extensive artistic program of classes, workshops, lectures and panel discussions offered. Located in a spacious five-story building, Agora Collective features a series of bright and airy artist studios, both silent, individual and vibrant group co-working spaces, a community lab, a café and and an outdoor garden area. Ultimately, Agora Collective functions as a friendly, dynamic and supportive space where creative minds can come to work, meet, share and create.
Agora has an extensive arts program which encapsulates a dynamic schedule of workshops, classes, panel discussions, presentations and social events. A particular highlight in the arts program is AFFECT, the third instalment of Agora Collective’s Program for Collaborative Artistic Practices. Created as a hybrid educational program and project-based artists’ residency, AFFECT consists of a curriculum of seven topics that arise from the research and practices of seven international Berlin-based artists and curators. Each of the topics forms the focus of a month-long participatory workshop, facilitated by the chosen artist or curator, and supported by an exciting program of collective exercises, urban explorations, site visits, readings and discussions. The AFFECT workshop series also includes one module that is facilitated by the recipient of Agora Collective’s three month residency program. The fully funded residency enables an artist, curator, collective or project space the opportunity to develop research-based work that explores themes related to the city of Berlin and to shared the insights gained with the local community.
In addition to their main co-working space, Agora Collective is currently in the process of developing a second venue, Agora Kindl. Described as the complementary “rock n’ roll sister” of the original Agora Collective site, Agora Kindl was founded in response to the need for a dedicated space for artist studios and production-oriented practices. While the original site is highly successful, the cosy community atmosphere of the space can be complicated for artists to work in given the proximity to residential inhabitants, the needs of co-working users and demands on limited space and resources. Located nearby on the site of a former Kindl brewery, Agora Kindl has been conceived as an experimental project space that will feature exhibitions and events in the spacious ground level warehouse and artist studio spaces underground.
Through their expansion to Agora Kindl, Agora Collective has made a commitment to ensuring that the space has the ability to support the creation and development of art practices from a wide range of disciplines. The subterranean level of Agora Kindl has space for ten individual artist studios, a wood workshop, music studio and movement studio for contemporary dance and choreography. Agora Collective are also planning to use the movement studio to provide yoga and pilates classes for the public as part of their community engagement initiative. The old brewery site that Agora Kindl occupies will also be home to a number of different arts and cultural institutions in the near future, making the space a valuable new cultural hub for the Neukölln district. Renovations will continue until the first artists move into the space in August.
In 2017, Agora Collective plans to further expand their program by developing an artist-run media centre where curators and artists can produce television and radio shows, publish magazines and run online classes on a range of topics. In the midst of a period marked by considerable change and transformation, Agora Collective’s vision continues to be grounded by their love of the city of Berlin and their unwavering drive to create utopian spaces to nurture the local arts community.
Applications for the Residency Programme close on Friday, June 24, 2016.
For more information about the AFFECT program, please visit Agora Collective’s website.
Caitlin Eyre is an Australian freelance arts writer living and working in Berlin.