Cultural rights in public space

The FAI-AR, the European network IN SITU and Réseau Culture 21 have joined forces to create the new MOOC “Cultural rights in public space: living, cooperating, creating”. This MOOC is an initiative of IN SITU, the European platform for artistic creation in space, as part of the (UN)COMMON SPACES 2020-2024 project co-financed by the European Union’s Creative Europe Program.

The lessons and themes proposed in this MOOC are an adaptation of the “Habiter l’espace public” research-action project run by Réseau Culture 21 from 2020 to 2023.

Free and bilingual (French-English), this MOOC is a valuable resource for artists, producers and organizers of artistic events in public spaces. It enables them to draw on cultural rights to build, analyze and develop their approaches to creation, programming and support initiatives.

Public spaces are never neutral: the narratives and representations attached to these places, as well as political power relations at play, influence their use and appropriation. These dynamics create physical or symbolic boundaries, which can restrict mobility, access to places and interactions between people. This MOOC aims to raise awareness of issues that go beyond artistic creation alone among creators and players in the sector, to help them take part in public spaces with an awareness of the wider issues at stake.

The MOOC offers theoretical content, testimonials and accounts of experiences in a variety of formats: lessons, interviews, sound bites and related resources. Its seven chapters present a diversity of viewpoints: those of cultural operators, artists, researchers and players in the field of public space.

This MOOC offers you the opportunity to explore 7 themes that highlight the tensions and issues encountered in public spaces, allowing you to consider them in your projects.

Each chapter is structured in 3 parts:

  • An introduction to the chapter’s theme in the form of a brief audio clip.
  • A lesson (video format) to put the theme into perspective from the artist’s or organizer’s point of view.
  • 2-3 first-hand experience stories related to the theme, in the form of interviews

Complementary resources “to go further” will complete each chapter.


Coexistence and conflicts of use

The adage “one person’s freedom ends where another’s begins” leads to competition between liberties. This idea limits the idea of a shared space and establishes prohibition and obligation as the foundations of communal life. On the contrary, if we change this adage a little, to say: “one person’s freedom begins where another person’s freedom begins”, it emphasises the interdependence of our liberties and reaffirms rights as principles rather than exceptions. Rather than trying to put a stop to uses of public space in the interests of “peace and quiet” or “safety”, how can the public authorities prioritise the need for democracy over the neutralisation of public space? There are few places where people can meet and debate, except when conflicts have already crystallised. Living together means being able to talk to each other, get organised and discuss together what the rules of communal living should be.


Policymaker commissions and citizen participation

Elected representatives are calling for citizen participation. There is a call for public policy to be co-constructed: the aim is to “involve” local residents.  However, the methods used are fraught with contradictions: although this participation is being sought, it is only as part of a “commissioned” framework. Self-organised initiatives lack support and legitimacy. Is it possible to foster citizen participation via commission from policymakers? Is this the role of local policymakers? Shouldn’t it be more a question of listening to and serving citizens? Don’t these participatory processes all too often assign local residents a certain image and a role that has been created for them, not by them, at a time the policymaker chooses and within the limited timeframe of the “project”?  Participatory democracy continues to be immature in practice, and is used mainly to legitimise political action.

Borders and mobilities

Public space is criss-crossed by physical and symbolic boundaries that constrain or shape its uses and interactions. These boundaries, on which public policy is often based, can act as a barrier to the exercise of fundamental rights and citizenship. They can generate or reinforce conflicts, hinder freedom of movement or limit the opportunities to take ownership of one’s living environment and develop social relationships. How can public policy promote ways of living together, of creating common ground across borders, rather than reinforcing them? What kind of porosity and circulation can it encourage, between communities, between public and private spaces, between landscapes?

Narratives, fiction and reality

Territories are made up of stories that may or may not be told. Inherited from long ago or more recently, these stories open the doors to fiction as a way of communicating reality: they are narratives. These stories make things visible, enable people to get to know and recognise each other, and tell the story of customs and ways of living. But what stories do we want to tell? Who is the rightful author of these stories? What does fiction do to reality? How can a wide range of voices be heard, including those that remain silent? How do they enter into conversation? Producing or sharing stories about a place and its inhabitants can have a major impact on their living conditions. These narratives can establish and maintain representations or fantasies, as well as breathing new life into places and their inhabitants.

Interdependent relationships and governance

Public policies are interdependent but the way they are implemented remains compartmentalised. Public spaces are powerful indicators of these structural dysfunctions and highlight the need for coordination between stakeholders. Who decides what goes on in the public space, from how it is laid out to what happens there? Who does it belong to? How are conflicts and disagreements handled? How do rights and responsibilities fit together? Encouraging the cross-fertilisation and synergy of knowledge, skills and expertise, as part of a cooperative approach, would enable us to develop more democratic forms of governance for these areas and take a more holistic view of all the issues that affect them.

Licit and illicit appropriations

Ownership of public space varies from place to place, gender to gender, age to age, time to time… Taking ownership of a place means feeling at home in it, investing in it by using it and looking after it. The legitimacy of being a stakeholder in a location is built on this sense of belonging.

Regulatory frameworks are most often based on the idea that prohibiting something or imposing rules safeguards everyone’s freedom. But sometimes you have to dare to break the rules to make a place your own. Impromptu uses of a space can quickly be considered illegal if it has not been authorised beforehand by the public authorities. Certain forms of expression in these uses are nonetheless necessary if public policy is to evolve. How can we recognise and support these without distorting them?

Representations and power relations

The public space is a place where people who have not chosen to live together. It is the scene of power struggles fuelled by representations that also feed into the dynamics of regulatory public policy. These power relations lead to inequalities in people’s access to and use of spaces, with certain lifestyles considered less legitimate in terms of the dominant social and cultural norms that set the agenda. Who sets the standard? How can we deconstruct these representations and assignments? How can we encourage diversity rather than standardised lifestyles? The public arena is a political space in which everyone’s views on life should be expressed and debated, so that everyone has their own part in it, while respecting others.

Overall coordination

Christelle Blouët, coordinator – Réseau Culture 21
Rosalie Gonzalez, Coordinator – IN SITU
Loïc Magnant, Director – FAI-AR
Wafaâ Mesbaoui, Communication officer – IN SITU
Théo Millet-Ursin, Coordination officer – IN SITU
Aline Présumey, General secretary – FAI-AR
Fériel Rahli, Communication officer – IN SITU

Content expertise

Anne Aubry, Project Manager – Réseau Culture 21
Christelle Blouët, Coordinator – Réseau Culture 21
Matina Magkou, Cultural management consultat
Barbera Visser, Video producer


Christelle Blouët, coordinator – Réseau Culture 21
Vania Lugeni, Sound designer
Barbera Visser, Video producer

Design and communication

Léa Franceschini, Graphic designer – Studio Granite
Samantha Giordano, Communication officer and digital project manager – FAI-AR
Fériel Rahli, Communication officer – IN SITU
Paul Timon, Motion designer – Ahway


Loïc Magnant, directeur – FAI-AR
Patrice Meyer-Bisch, Philosopher, Coordinator of Fribourg Group
Anne Aubry, Project Manager – RC21
Christelle Blouët, coordinator – RC21

Interviewed persons

Matt Adams, Co-founder – Blast Theory (UK)
Gabriella Cserhati, Artistic director – GK Collective (FR)
Elisa Dumay, Founder – De l’Aire (FR)
Anna Giribet i Argilès, Artistic Director – Fira Tàrrega (ES)
Maëva Longvert, Fondatrice and stage director – Compagnie Le Polymorphe (FR)
Laëtitia Mandacos, Responsable artistique – Compagnie l’Entaille (FR)
Mikey Martins, Artistic director – Freedom Festival 2015-2025 (UK)
Thor MacIntyre-Burnie, Artistic Director – Aswarm (UK)
Fanni Nánay, Artistic Manager – Artopolis / PLACCC Festival (HU)
Fabienne Quéméneur, Co-coordinator- Au bout du plongeoir (FR)
George Sachinis, Coordinator – UrbanDig Project (GR)
Nana Francisca Schottländer, Artist (DK)
Zelda Soussan, Director and stage director – Laboratoire Urbain d’Interventions temporaires (FR)
Marine Thévenet, Director – CIFAS (BE)
Marion Vian, Co-director – Pronomade(s) (FR)



FAI-AR is a unique school in Europe devoted to artistic creation in public space. It offers a 22-month specialised training course for students coming from higher education arts training institutions and experienced performers of all nationalities who have decided to assert their position as artistic creators and organisers of projects in public space. The FAI-AR’s function is to provide them the knowledge, skills, and professional know-how and to assist them in their artistic approach.

A one-of-a-kind school, the FAI-AR also meets a demand for continuous training and educational engineering: it offers short courses, workshops, and master-classes for artists and professional technicians. Some of these activities have an international dimension and are part of partnership agreements linked to developing the sector of art in public space in partner countries.

A project specifically funded by the Ministry of Culture



IN SITU was created by programmers passionate about new aesthetic trends and the issues around public space, who joined forces in 2003 to work together across Europe and support artists working outside of conventional venues.

The network is led by Lieux Publics, a national and European centre for creation in public space based in Marseille, France, and has developed through a number of projects supported by the European Commission. As IN SITU has grown, its expertise and activities have become clearer: it serves to identify artists, facilitate transnational artistic project laboratories and incubators, support co-productions and publicise emerging work, organise combined European and international residencies, perform artistic research, run conferences for people working in this area, operate a Think Tank and develop the first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) dedicated to artistic creation in public space with the FAI-AR.

In 2016, IN SITU launched ACT, a large-scale European project funded by the European Commission up to 2020 as part of the Creative Europe programme.

In 2020, the IN SITU adventure continues with a 7th cooperation project: (UN)COMMON SPACES 2020-2024. This large-scale project includes the creation of a MOOC, Cultural Rigths in Public Space



Founded in 2009 as an independent association, Réseau culture 21 promotes diversity and cultural rights in all public policies, based on the Agenda 21 for culture and the Fribourg Declaration. It supports local authorities in their efforts to expand the notion of culture to its broadest sense, to ensure that it is appropriated by players in all sectors, and to translate it into the actions and mechanisms of cultural, social, educational and other public policies. Réseau culture 21 also works to identify and make visible the players and approaches active on these issues in the region, and encourages cooperation and the exchange of practices. From 2020 to 2023, it carried out an action-research project entitled “Inhabiting public space”, mobilising players from ten partner areas, as part of its work on the power to act. It also carried out a research-action project on creation with regard to cultural rights, which led to the identification of tensions in the implementation of cultural rights in creative processes, formulated in the form of 10 controversies to be put to work.

The first week is online!

Publié le 9 September 2019 dans News of the MOOC

On the program : A preamble including some technical tips to easily browse throughout the MOOC and an international overview of creation in public space. You are more than 1000 registered from more than fifty different countries! So do not hesitate to share your experiences on the forum, explore those of other participants or start […]

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The second week is online !

Publié le 16 September 2019 dans News of the MOOC

One week ago, you were around 1000 participants: we’re happy to say that you’re now more than 1 700, from all over the world! Many of you have completed the first week courses and shared your ideas and inspirations on the forum. We can’t tell how stimulating it is to read you and find out […]

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The third week is online!

Publié le 23 September 2019 dans News of the MOOC

We’re already halfway through the MOOC. What did you think of this week dedicated to dramaturgy in public space? Our community is growing a little more each day: we are now over 1800! The artistic references and works shared on the forums are more inspiring than the other. So, if it’s not already done, go […]

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The last week is online!

Publié le 30 September 2019 dans News of the MOOC

This fourth week will be dedicated to the public: what place for this one? Is there a specific way to address the public in unusual places? What is the point of a mediation? We also will invite you to think about it through a webinar, an interactive and live conference, organized by the FAI-AR with […]

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Until December 9 !

Publié le 7 October 2019 dans News of the MOOC

The entire course is now available! We hope you have enjoyed to explore every monday a new topic. You are almost 2000 participants from 100 countries! Thank you for your enthusiasm, your participation and your commitment! If you have not finished, don’t worry! You have now until December 9, 2019 to watch the videos, to […]

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It’s open!

Publié le 31 March 2020 dans News of the MOOC

In the view of the health and containment situation in many countries, the FAI-AR has decided to re-open the MOOC Create in public space at least until April 30th. We hope that these resources and international projects will help you through this unprecedented period. > Practical information 🌟 The course is now fully available🌟 You can register any time during […]

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Join us for the first IN SITU talk!

Publié le 7 April 2020 dans News of the MOOC

> Next Tuesday(April 14) at 5pm (UTC+2 – French Time) Leaders of Freedom Festival and Norfolk & Norwich Festival come together to talk about their festivals and the history of street arts and outdoor arts in the UK.  They focus on how their programmes are shaped by the artists they work with, the cities they […]

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Publié le 21 April 2020 dans News of the MOOC

> Today (April 21) at 5pm French Time (UTC+2) Public space and politics in Hungary In Hungary, under the present political regime, if an artist or a festival intends to create in public space, they have to relate to an over-politicized public realm which is one of the most important platforms of the political propaganda of the government. […]

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Publié le 23 April 2020 dans News of the MOOC

> Tuesday April 28 at 5pm French Time (UTC+2) How to transform a small city into a whole theater. Behind the scenes of FiraTàrrega During this webinar, team members of FiraTàrrega will present and reflect upon their work with the city :  How to transform a small city into a whole theater? What for? And how to proceed to make this happen? Participants :Mike […]

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