URBAN BOAT / PÉNICHE THABOR
A MEANDERING CULTURAL BARGE WITH A EUROPEAN SCOPE
The Thabor péniche is a Freycinet-gauged (EU Class I) canal barge built in 1966. Fully functional, it is being repurposed as a cultural and artistic toolbox. As such, it follows in the steps of Urban Spree, a multidisciplinary art space in Berlin dedicated to urban cultures, and extends it on an European scale.
Urban Boat serves as a venue to present concerts, exhibitions, performances, film screenings and other public gatherings; it doubles as a vibrant and creative work environment thanks to its large work area, its sound production studio, and a series of cabins to accommodate artists in residency.
Connecting cultural Third Spaces across Europe
Urban Boat emerges in a European context of thriving Third Spaces; it is anchored in a new Europe-wide ecosystem of institutions producing, promoting and presenting music and arts. The blossoming of the Third Spaces coincides with the convergence of two spheres: the artistic and cultural world on one hand, the field of rethinking, reinventing and remodelling of the urban fabric on the other.
Far from being ivory towers, cultural Third Spaces are deeply rooted in a particular territory, maintaining close ties with the local population; despite its mobility, Urban Boat intends to project itself in that framework by including local communities in its artistic project; thanks to the same mobility, the péniche embodies an oddity within a planned conurbation, a bubble which expands the realms of the possible by its use of alternate practices and autonomous experiments.
Going with the flow of artistic and festive halts scattered along its fluvial procession, Urban Boat stimulates meetings and exchanges between resident artists, local partners and audiences. Building onto that, the péniche is not only a Third Space of its own, but function additionally as a connector between other Third Spaces on the European scale.
The routes taken offer a non-linear landscape, going from major cities to medium-sized towns, villages and rural areas. This nurtures the opportunity for people living in less art-exposed regions to glimpse at current trends in music and visual/street arts, as much as it allows artists based in urban centres to encounter a variety of audiences.
The artistic programmes, made of a broad range of art forms, benefit from collaborations with local cultural actors: performing arts and music venues, museums and galleries, cinemas and festivals, as well as NGOs and communities. This presents the chance to connect different partners along a given route and mutualise resources: as a result of pooling and sharing technical or financial means, smaller municipalities can be in position to provide its inhabitants with a cultural offer they sometimes simply cannot afford.
The unhurried pace of this mode of transportation also induces a longer temporality, a fertile ground for actions on a longer term and more in-depth artistic researches.
An ecological dimension
Conscious of the environmental challenges facing society, Urban Boat directs its attention to raising awareness of the ecological risks.
Urban Boat develops and deploys solutions towards an energetic autonomy, making good use of sustainable energies. The stage of the boat is entirely solar.
A traveling production and presentation space
Urban Boat positions itself as an place for creative residencies, welcoming artists to live and work aboard Thabor. As such, the péniche comprises a large workspace, a professional sound studio, and, of course, cabins to accommodate the guest artists for the different stages of their projects.
Beyond fostering creative periods for artists in residency, Urban Boat has been thought as an instrument for propagating culture. It is not simply bringing music, visual and street arts, to the numerous stops scattered along its meandering path, but also initiating local partnerships with the institutions, venues and festivals disseminated on the banks of European rivers.
Urban Boat also desires to serve as a platform and meeting point for art and culture professionals, holding seminars, conferences and round tables.
A navigating education centre
As it journeys through communities, Urban Boat organises workshops and training sessions for local and/or young audiences. Importantly, the péniche Thabor often reachs out to areas with less cultural offer or access to it.
These pedagogical modules is prepared in collaboration with professional educators and other territorial partners, exploring the thematics at the core of Urban Boat: music and arts, third spaces, sustainable energies, and the fluvial ecosphere, amongst others, taking into account regional specificities.
Temporary bar, pop-up restaurant, and event venue
Urban Boat’s team shares its experience in the gastronomy industry and from time to time offer food & beverage services to coincide with some events. The staffed barge can also be rented out for private occasions, conveying its savoir-faire to various groups of persons.
Urban Boat has been designed as a modular tool to allow various basic configurations and swift rearrangements. The barge is fully-equipped to host concerts and performances with mobile sound system, lighting and piano; it can provide a large scale stage facing the shore and addressing the audience on the wharf.
The barge can also turn into an open air cinema or an exhibition space for street arts and visual arts. The movable hanging system designed by Galerie DIN can be installed on the deck or in the public space around the barge.
Lastly the boat itself is offered to artists to be painted and altered, thus transforming into a floating artwork.
Urban Spree is a 1’700 m2 artistic space in Berlin-Friedrichshain dedicated to urban cultures through exhibitions, artist residencies, DIY workshops, concerts, an art store and a large Biergarten. Within Urban Spree, the Urban Spree Gallery is a 400 m2 independent contemporary urban art space. Set in a 70’000 m2 postindustrial compound in the heart of Berlin, the gallery benefits from its large urban grassroots ecosystem and offers its invited artists and photographers an ideal space for experimentation through ambitious on-site residencies. The gallery curates independent art shows on a monthly basis, which most likely include the painting of the whole compound and its flagship “Artist Wall“, one of the busiest arteries of Berlin. Urban Spree is home to many festivals and events.
Collectif MU – (FR)
The MU Collective is an artistic production centre specialising in the fields of sound art, music and new media. The MU Collective designs and produces artistic interventions characterised by their relationship to the territory. In a dialogue with the territory of intervention, the collective offers a critical outlook and organises cultural actions, opening the creative process to amateur practices. By associating different types of audiences within the framework of a common reflection, the MU Collective deploys an open and trans-disciplinary artistic approach rooted in reality.
SMart – (BE)
SMart is an organisation facilitating the administrative and financial management of projects in the artistic and cultural field through shared services. It enables project leaders, whether just starting their activity or in the development phase, to focus on their profession and free themselves from administrative constraints. SMart is a non-profit social entrepreneurship organisation (Social Economy Union) that brings together a diversity of professionals from the consulting world, project support, training, production of shows, artistic creation, new technologies. Born in Belgium in 1998, SMart is a mutual society for artists, in order to guide artists, technicians and intermittent workers in the face of the administrative complexity of the artistic sector. It now brings together 40’000 members in Belgium.
La Vallée (SMart) – (BE)
La Vallée was opened in 2014 by SMart in a 6’000 m2 former Laundry in the heart of Brussels. The specificity of this creative centre is to federate people form different backgrounds and skills to both share know-hows, networks, equipment and spaces, and to encourage the exchange of ideas and project opportunities.
Besides offering a wide range of work spaces, La Vallée also provides venues for exhibitions, performances, workshops, and conferences, benefiting a community of over one hundred creative entrepreneurs and artists.