Ark was a major public project delivered in seven cities across Europe in 2020-21. Proposed by Quarantine and commissioned by ‘Moving Borders’, a project led by a consortium of theatres, festivals and public bodies with funding from the European Union’s Creative Europe programme. Ark was delivered collaboratively by Quarantine, the Moving Borders consortium, local partners and local people in Strasbourg, France; Athens, Greece; Utrecht, the Netherlands; Dresden and Mülheim, Germany; Porto, Portugal; and Warsaw, Poland.

The global COVID pandemic had a huge effect on the way we relate to one another and to how we use public space, and of course was a massive challenge to the Ark project and how we were able to deliver it. Quarantine planned to be present in each city to make a residency. None of these were possible – each cancelled, one by one because of local lockdowns. However, we continued, with the Moving Borders partners, to deliver the project at a distance, collaborating with local artists and others to make a version of Ark in each city. Though profoundly frustrating and limiting, Ark kept Quarantine financially and creatively alive in 2020 and 2021, and we’re proud of what we managed to make happen in circumstances that were new and difficult for us all. 

In each of the seven cities, Quarantine invited local people – artists, activists, experts (of many kinds) and others – to create the ark they wanted to make. Each ark took a different form and became a site for encounters, the exchange of knowledge, ideas and conversation…

Through Ark, we hoped to bring people together those who would not usually meet and find a methodology for dissent. As we faced deepening political divisions across Europe, heated debate around migration and rights of belonging, and the accelerating climate crisis, Ark aimed to configure the circumstances for a progressive democratic space – the kind that political theorist Chantal Mouffe describes as agonistic pluralism.

Each iteration of Ark responded to its local context, but they were united by an interest in the notion of ‘borders’ and how they manifest in our cities and in our lives – in both productive and unproductive ways.  

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