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“Hatathon” in Ukraine
Hacking for the Culture

The goal of the Hatathon was to find solutions for cultural projects together.
The goal of the Hatathon was to find solutions for cultural projects together. | Artwork: Goethe-Institut Ukraine

Last weekend at the Goethe-Institut’s “Hatathon Hack the Culture”, over a thousand participants developed solutions to the challenges faced by cultural workers during the coronavirus crisis. They did it all online, of course.

By Katharina Görig/Bettina Wenzel

Cancelled festivals, empty stages, closed theatres: the curfews due to the COVID-19 pandemic are impacting the cultural scene worldwide. Creativity, actionism, and the relocation of events to the virtual world can’t hide the fact that many institutions, artists, and freelancers are fighting for financial survival.

Supporting the cultural scene

The pandemic is also affecting the work of the Goethe-Institut. Almost all of the institutes worldwide are closed to the public. Many employees are working online from home and experimenting with new digital formats. In this difficult situation, the team at the Goethe-Institut Ukraine wondered how to support the country’s cultural scene.

Also a challenge: How do you photograph an online event? Also a challenge: How do you photograph an online event? | Photo: Goethe-Institut Ukraine

Strength in unity

In cooperation with the EU’s “House of Europe” programme, the online ideathon “Hatathon Hack the Culture” was created. “Hata” is Ukrainian for “house” or “home”. We were inspired by the #WirVsVirus hackathon, which took place five weeks ago under the patronage of the Federal government. It sought innovative ideas to help society emerge stronger from the situation caused by COVID-19.

Weekend full of ideas

From Friday to Sunday evening, 130 mentors and 100 teams from the Ukrainian cultural, tech, and business scenes developed solutions and ideas with European participation. Submissions could be for the areas of “collaboration transformation”, “events transformation”, and “business models transformation”. The ten best projects were pitched live on Sunday evening; three of them were awarded. The 20 best teams can apply to the “House of Europe” for a follow-up grant.

Voices from the events

Denisas Kolomyckis, artist, curator and activist (Lithuania) Photo: Denisas Kolomyckis Denisas Kolomyckis
Artist, curator and activist (Lithuania)

“As a mentor, I had discussions with Ukrainian cultural activists, managers, and artists. I shared my experience and expertise with them to further develop the project ideas. Participation in the Hatathon again confirmed my impression that in the most challenging times, creative people always manage to unite for a larger cause and to solve problems in order to contribute to the good of society. The Hatathon was a great way to feel that.”

Niki Théron, international projects manager, Frankfurt Book Fair (Germany) Photo: Niki Théron Niki Théron
International projects manager, Frankfurt Book Fair (Germany)

“For us as event organisers, the crisis is a major challenge and a danger to the future of our sector. All of the springtime fairs were cancelled. We continue to prepare for the Frankfurt Book Fair and for our projects, which will take place in autumn, but at the same time are considering digital alternatives. I’m inspired by the variety of innovative formats for cultural projects that were presented at the Hatathon. The quality of the ideas submitted is a very positive signal for the future of the Ukrainian cultural scene. I had a lot of fascinating conversations and video talks about specific projects and pitches.”

Andrew Palatnyi, “Gogolfest”, multidisciplinary international festival of contemporary art and cinema (Ukraine) Photo: Andrew Palatnyi Andrew Palatnyi, “Gogolfest”
Multidisciplinary international festival of contemporary art and cinema (Ukraine)

“Today, we independent institutions have to completely change our strategy and steer it in new, different directions. We had planned ten festivals in Ukraine this year – at the moment the status of all of them is unclear. All of our local, regional, and international activities are also standing still. At the same time, we are intensively exploring digital formats.”

Anton Ovchinnikov
President of Ukraine’s Contemporary Dance Platform and founder of the Zelyonka Festival (Ukraine)

“Our team of four artists and managers from Ukraine and Germany (PostTheater, Berlin) is developing the ALTStage project. It aims to develop augmented reality technologies for a new way of presenting online events to a larger audience. We are taking part in the Hatathon with this project in order to gain insights from local artists and managers and to find new partners to work with.”