This project is based on the observation that our society, including the art world, is made up of small groups of people, close-friend circles where everybody knows everybody. A few external links connect these groups and prevent them from being isolated. These are the so-called “weak-ties” (Mark Granovetter), i.e., links to people who frequent different places, get information from different sources and function as bridges in the group’s communication with the outer world. Weak ties connect not only individuals, but different and distanced worlds, and are essential for holding together the social network. According to network theory, we actually live in a small world, where the path-length between two distant nodes of the network is rather short; as a result, strangers can be linked by a short chain of acquaintances. However, even if short connections do exist, for most of people they are hard to find. In order to have many links, a community needs specific ways and contexts in which people can create them.
The Small/Big World project aims to offer the Bratislava art scene a communication and collaboration platform where people can creatively use the benefits of existing relationships, such as friendships, and open them up towards new ties and horizons. While being grounded in the art scene, the project favours interdisciplinary connections and encounters beyond the art world. Bratislava has been understood as the framework or sample field of the project, without identifying it with the Slovak art scene as a whole.
Part of the general project consists of an exhibition and events at tranzit.sk, while other artist projects will take place in other venues throughout the city.
Mapping and connecting are key-components of the project. The results of an online questionnaire regarding the characteristics of the Bratislava art scene (from socializing, collaboration, ways of getting information to institutional needs, art financing, the scene’s atmosphere and imagining an ideal art community) serve as a data-base for the infographics which cover the walls of the exhibition in tranzit.sk and provide a framework for the participants’ projects. This quantitative survey is complemented by short interviews with selected local actors who evaluate the advantages and challenges of living in a small art scene.
An initial working group made up of artists, architects, curators and researchers was invited to add further individuals and groups. Preliminary concepts such as friendship as a form of co-working, collaboration outside one’s close circle and the art field, the transformative potential of an encounter, andsharing as the re-definition of interpersonal relationships around a collective dimension are built into the structure of the participants‘ projects. Part of the contributions focus on relationships within the art scene: testing the group dynamics of the project participants, searching for personal contacts in the highly canonized art world, inquiring about visitor categories, mapping connections between actors on the local art scene, their circles of friends and the wider public. Several other projects are oriented towards interdisciplinary connections between art, sports, science, philosophy, history, politics and social geography, life situations, as well as different publics and contexts, both local and international. Sharing as a form of interaction and the strengthening of social ties form part of the projects built around specific topics such as parenthood, multiculturalism, the neighbourhood of tranzit.sk, and the social status of artists, while the small library containing a bibliography proposed by the participants stands for the sharing of knowledge. The individual contributions create a dense conceptual–structural tissue, with many overlaps, similar to the nodes of an organically developed network.
As network scientist Albert – László Barabási argues in the video interview which functions as an introduction to the project, fragmentation is a normal feature of the art scenes; the question lies in whether this leads to the creation of value that can be appreciated by a wider community. As in the art system value is created by a network. This also means that the practice of linking and complex thinking can only be beneficial for the bridging of “small” and “big” worlds.