Democracy Pavilion large

Allegory (photo: Željko Stevanić / IFP)

Plans for the Democracy Pavilion were first drawn up in late 2021. However, with the current Russian army's invasion of Ukraine in our minds, L’Internationale association wanted to use this platform to stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and condemn the military invasion that is affecting the lives of millions of civilians.

During the three days of this conference, many issues of democracy, Europe, colonial legacies and contemporary empires were discussed. We did this with Ukraine in our minds and our hearts. We shared the urgency of stopping the war and we are taking the actions that are in our hands as civilians to demand an immediate end to the attacks. In addition to solidarity with those who directly suffer from the Russian army's aggression, we also want to stand with those who resist from inside Russia and who risk their own lives and well-being to defend others. Together, we must try to use art to imagine a society that will prevent such conflicts in future, and then go on to build it. It is our hope that the Democracy Pavilion contributed a little to all these urgencies.

While condemnation of the war is crucial, it is in itself only one necessary step. We also find it important to maintain the spaces for public debate and analysis of the causes of the war, and the position of arts and culture when life and democratic values are under threat. In that light, we carry the pain of ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere, as well as the histories of exploitation and erasure that still manifest themselves in the present. Our question remains; What does democracy mean in these current, bleak conditions? How do we both seek to defend the limited space to think and act that we still have, and push for a new sense of living well and caring for the planet we share?

We began the sessions on Wednesday with news from artists and cultural workers in Ukraine and the Ukrainian diaspora. We are happy some of them were able to travel to Ljubljana so that we could listen to their wants and needs. With this invasion, it is more clear than ever that real existing democracy is under existential threat. While it is true that European democracies are imperfect, they have allowed for governments that are to some degree responsive to open, independent elections decided by debate and argument. Today, even that version of democracy is something we need to defend, as well as to nurture the better, more equitable, more joyful versions that we hope can yet emerge. Re-energizing our common futures is something to which everyone can contribute; but we believe that the arts can play its role as an initiator of imaginative epistemologies and a new ethics of living together within the limits of the planet. The Democracy Pavilion was used as an opportunity to explore that belief.

See/download the PROGRAMME OF THE CONFERENCE (pdf version).

Curated by Zdenka Badovinac and Charles Esche, the Democracy Pavilion for Europe aimed at contributing to the rethinking and potential revival of communal forms of decision making as a vision and practice, with artists playing a key role in their conception of different and better worlds and an ethics of living together differently on this planet.

The aim of the Democracy Pavilion for Europe conference was to concentrate artistic, activist, and institutional energies. The objective was to find ways for the creative community to understand democracy and its limits, articulate its values, and propose forms through which to build a new commitment to shared control, public interest and the commons.

The Pavilion started as an international conference in Ljubljana on 9–11 March, organized by the L'Internationale association in cooperation with ZRC SAZU. This was the first step in the Pavilion’s planned programme, that will continue to unfold through local workshops at L’Internationale confederation member locations and transform into an online pavilion at:

The Democracy Pavilion for Europe is part of The European Pavilion – an initiative by the European Cultural Foundation, which aims to support and promote artistic projects that imagine desirable and sustainable futures for Europe. The European Pavilion was initiated by the Amsterdam-based European Cultural Foundation and is developed in partnership with the Camargo Foundation, the Kultura Nova Foundation, and Fondazione CRT.

Over the course of 2021, seven arts and cultural organizations in various countries across Europe joined this exciting new initiative: ARNA (Sweden), Brunnenpassage (Austria), INIVA (UK), OGR Torino (Italy), State of Concept (Greece), Studio Rizoma (Italy) and L’Internationale (Slovenia, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain and Poland).

More information at: