Respond, react, evolve.
Food for thought on new directions.
BJCEM Network, as all the cultural operators around the world, is facing the Covid-19 emergency. We would like to use this difficult moment, to collect and share original reflections from institutions, cultural operators, artists and curators, regarding the current situation and future perspectives for culture.
Those who tried to put the rainbow back in the sky
by Driant Zeneli
Those who tried to put the rainbow back in the sky tells the story of three people and a duck that, being on a ship of concrete in a wait condition, accidentally found a piece of rainbow fallen from the sky. In doubt about the origin and the destiny of the rainbow, then they decide to put the rainbow back in the sky. As in ancient Greek theatrical representations of tragedies, everything in this video takes place in one day which also coincides with the real length of the video shoots. However, is impossible to decipher the historical time, as it is rather a “lived time” which allow us to reflect only upon the final act that dramatically suspends any judgment and brings every thought back to its origin. The film was made in Albania in a small village called Velmisht. Passing by, the artist discovered a boat made of cement, and met who built it: Pellumb’s desire, an Albanian who emigrated to Greece for many years, where he worked at the port of Athens. His dream was to return to his native land and build a big ship.
HD Video , 2012, 07’50”, color, sound.
The artwork was bought by CRT foundation, developed for GAM (Civic Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Turin) video library collection.
I gladly welcome your invitation, and I’ll try to elaborate some reflections.
This is not an institutional text, drafted as a presentation of some official event that, unfortunately, cannot take place in this period, but it is a set of inspirations, which I have thought and elaborated in these days, in a perhaps somewhat disordered way.
In these last weeks a huge debate is raising, and every day personalities from the world of politics, economics, journalism, science and culture make proposals and hypotheses to better understand how and to what extent it is possible to intervene. Above all, they wonder about the future scenarios. Therefore, I will not dwell on this premise, I would like to just point out that the pandemic has affected and still affects all sectors of society, raising issues and problems that are strongly connected to each other. Therefore, it is not so easy to examine only the cultural and creative field, separated from the complexity of the other issues.
In any case, analysing only the tasks that are under my responsibility in the Department that I supervise at the City of Turin, the first data that emerges with evidence is the disappearance of the usable material culture. I have just examined the list of cultural events (and not only cultural) that have been cancelled, and the numbers are truly impressive. If I reflect on all the aspects that lie behind the scenes of this situation, and in particular on the people who work in this field in various capacities, it appears very clearly that many people (especially young people) are going through really difficult and, in some cases, dramatic days.
Parcelling, discontinuity, precariousness are some of the key words, used to underline what the Covid-19 emergency made dramatically evident: the way in which work is structured, in the art system, is not sustainable.
It is important to inform, train, create awareness, considering that this situation is only the last phase of a long process of disconnection between protection policies and the ways the work is structured. A discrepancy felt above all in the world of culture which, probably more than others, for its very “gaseous” essence, suffered the lack of a concrete organization – some might even call it consciousness – revealing the profound fragility of its development and production models.
The first urgent appeal and the first need, therefore, is to support and to guarantee the survival of the entire cultural sector. A sector, which is very diversified in relation to the social and economic status of cultural operators.
In fact, next to those who can rely on a stable working position, thanks to their belonging to institutions, bodies, foundations, or for their consolidated status of “renowned artist” (therefore recognized as a part of the market mechanism), there is a very large scene populated by young creatives, small cultural enterprises, freelancers and professionals of the sector who had to suddenly face gloomy scenarios, struggling for their own survival.
This includes the myriad of young artists and new professionals (such as inventors, writers, authors, screenwriters, philosophers, makers, craftsmen, graphic and digital designers, musicians, craftsmen, technicians, but also curators, architects, stand builders, stage and editing staff, etc. etc. – I would like to deliberately state all these roles as feminine, to remind us that the world of art and culture belongs to women as much as men) often gathered in various ways in associations, collectives, studies and small businesses, which generate independent cultural and research centres.
The crisis has led, for many people, to the suspension and/or the loss of jobs and projects. In addition, the same configuration of employment relationships has been the reason for the exclusion, in most cases, from any form of social safety net, as well as from the protection mechanisms provided by the Government in the “Cura Italia” Decree (such as the lay-off in derogation and the bonus paid by INPS, the Italian social security institution).
It is crucial to operate in perspective, with the introduction of new forms of recognition; new forms of basic economic support; the extension of the measures already provided through the “Cura Italia” Decree to those who are not eligible to receive social security support due to intermittent employment contracts; the reduction of tax and social security contributions; the application of price controls to the rents; the regulation of the remuneration related to the production of digital and online content, etc. It will be necessary to work with entities and institutions in different macro-areas related to protection; to establish special funds; to reform the grants and training system in the artistic field, so that would be possible to connect a constellation of individuals and associations, representing their needs and instances in the public sphere.
This process starts from the highest sphere, that is to say the ministerial policy, through profound regulatory and legislative reforms, and then through the extension of the policies that local authorities, institutions, cultural and bank foundations will have to decline.
Young creativity is one of the expressions of the vitality and perspective capacity of our society. It is an instrument capable of imagining, and making available to the community, contents that strengthen cultural dialectics, social cohesion, civic awareness, a common resource that generates economic value. Around the contemporary artist and his/her creativity, a dynamic network of scientific, professional and pedagogical skills expands, a virtuous system of public and private institutions, museums, foundations, galleries, non-profit spaces that every day dedicate the maximum effort to art and culture, and that constitutes an irreplaceable heritage and lifeblood for our country.
Going back to the local scene, that constitutes the interest of my work, I can here share some updates on Torino Creativa, the project of the City of Turin for all the young creatives aged between 16 and 30 years old.
It is a project that meets national and international networks, school and training, innovation and entrepreneurship. It wants to create a welcoming, dynamic and proactive environment, capable of generating and supporting individual and collective projects. We periodically consult the Turin creative fabric through a Public Forum open to the world of associations and to the young creatives of the city, igniting a continuous discussion on demands and needs.
Torino Creativa, therefore, was promptly tuned to the trends adopted by those operating in the sector, by enhancing and expanding the presence on the web and on the other platforms where it is present (Facebook, Istagram, Telegram), not loosing contact with its references points, and keeping alive the propulsion to the construction of the project which started two years ago, and that is periodically updated through moments of reflection and proposal, and through the Forum mentioned above. In this sense, Torino Creativa has increased its online communication and has strengthened the activities through four strands:
- I am Creative – a showcase for young creative people, where they can present their works and projects
- Live – a daily calendar of IG and FB live broadcasts of and with creative realities and creatives
- Tips – a collection of Turin initiatives and sections that span many different creative areas
- React – a selection of national and non-national calls, born as a creative reaction to the current situation
Torino Creativa, however, through an intense remote comparison between its members and representatives of the steering commettee, is planning a strategy and developing content to create the next Forum (Forum 0_3) in continuity with the indications emerged from the previous ones and focused on the development of the themes and needs relaunched by young creatives. In addition, to give substance to the support to the young creativity sector in these particular times, Torino Creativa, together with the Youth Policies sector and Informagiovani, is developing a new initiative: KEEP MOVING.
With this project we intend to support the activity of the centers of youth protagonism and other local realities in the sector of young creativity, by making available their digital platforms (Facebook; Instagram; Telegram) to display shows, concerts, performances, etc. produced by them and that Torino Creativa intends to purchase, in some way immediately anticipating contributions already foreseen in agreement with the City. It is a recognition of the momentum that many cultural realities have already started, and which has allowed us in many cases to keep in touch, to enjoy instant cultural productions, to be able to enjoy culture, that means sociality, something that we had somehow to sacrifice in this period.
Together with the Departments of Culture and Environment, with methods still to be understood and structured, we also decided to develop Torino Cielo Aperto, bringing culture and aggregation in parks, streets, courtyards, public spaces, in order to allow the meeting of people and the expression of that need for sociality and culture.
Lastly, a mention of a topic that is particularly important for me: gender rights and policies, since the Department also deals with this aspects. It is clear that the emergency dictated by Covid_19 has heavily influenced this field, by suspending numerous initiatives and projects in progress. For example the events and planned routes aimed at contrasting the phenomena of racism, homophobia, bullying. The ones aimed at contrasting violence against women and support gender equality, the ones that fight social marginality of minors, or help the integration of minorities or migrants. The emergency affected also the possibility of meeting and exchange with the various religious confessions that are present in the city; the projects aimed at levelling the inequalities generated by a public and structural representation that excludes people with disabilities and often based on social conditions and much more…
This too is a horizon characterized by fragility and precariousness and also on these issues it will be necessary to respond with actions of resilience and with new tools and adaptations of strategies, taking into account gender, the fight against discrimination, the choice of inclusive languages and models.
If, as everyone says, nothing will be the same as before, it is necessary that subjects who already showed signs of difficulty and need support are not lost in future routes.
This too, together with the emergence that is affecting culture, and to which it is closely connected, is an essential part of the social cohesion, necessary to rethink and design a new social coexistence and a new thought of possible future development.
Marco Giusta, Councillor for Youth Policies and Rights of the City of Turin
accolgo volentieri il vostro invito e provo a elaborare alcune riflessioni.
Non si tratta di un testo istituzionale redatto quale presentazione di qualche evento ufficiale che, purtroppo, in questo periodo non potrà aver luogo, ma si tratta di qualche spunto che in modo forse un po’ disordinato ho pensato ed elaborato in questi giorni.
La premessa è quella che avete già posto con la vs. domanda e si inserisce in un vastissimo dibattito nel quale ogni giorno personalità del mondo della politica, dell’economia, del giornalismo, della scienza, della cultura fanno proposte e ipotesi per capire come e in che misura intervenire e soprattutto si interrogano sugli scenari futuri.
Non mi soffermerò, quindi, su tale premessa se non per rimarcare che la pandemia che ci ha investito, ha riguardato e riguarda tuttora tutti i settori della società intrecciando tematiche e problematicità tra loro fortemente connesse. Pertanto, risulta non così agevole esaminare solamente il quadro culturale e creativo disgiunto dalla complessità delle altre tematiche.
In ogni caso, per limitarmi a quanto attiene le mansioni che svolgo nell’Assessorato che presidio, il primo dato che emerge con evidenza è la scomparsa della cultura materiale fruibile: ho appena esaminato la lista delle manifestazioni e degli eventi culturali di vario genere che sono stati cancellati in questi e nei prossimi mesi. Il loro numero è davvero impressionante e se rifletto sul dietro le quinte, cioè sulle persone che a vario titolo lavorano in questa dimensione, appare immediato che molte persone (soprattutto giovani) stanno attraversando giorni davvero difficili e, in qualche caso, drammatici.
Parcellizzazione, discontinuità, precariato sono alcune delle parole chiave in evidenza con l’obiettivo di esplicitare ciò che l’emergenza Covid-19 ha reso drammaticamente evidente: le modalità in cui è strutturato il lavoro, nel sistema dell’arte, non sono sostenibili.
Informare, formare, creare consapevolezza, visto che questa situazione è solo l’ultima fase di un lungo processo di scollamento tra le politiche di tutela e le reali modalità del lavoro. Una discrasia avvertita soprattutto nel mondo della cultura che, probabilmente più di altri, per la sua stessa essenza “gassosa”, ha sofferto la mancanza di un’organizzazione concreta – qualcuno potrebbe chiamarla anche coscienza – rivelando la profonda fragilità dei suoi modelli di sviluppo e di produzione.
Il primo urgente appello e la prima necessità, quindi, è quella di provvedere alla sopravvivenza e al sostegno dell’intero comparto della cultura. Comparto che è molto diversificato e variegato in relazione allo status sociale ed economico degli operatori culturali.
Infatti, accanto a chi può permettersi di godere di una posizione stabilizzata in ragione della propria appartenenza ad istituzioni, enti, fondazioni o per il suo status ormai consolidato di “artista di fama” e, quindi, parte riconosciuta nel meccanismo di mercato, esiste una scena molto ampia popolata dalle e dai giovani creativi, piccole imprese culturali e liberi professionisti e professioniste del settore i quali hanno visto da un giorno all’altro prospettarsi scenari cupi interrogandosi sulla loro stessa sopravvivenza.
Si tratta di quella miriade giovani artisti/e e nuovi/e professionisti/e (penso a inventrici, scrittrici, autrici, sceneggiatrici, filosofe, makers, artigiane, grafiche, progettiste, lavoratrici e progettiste del digitale, musiciste, artigiane, tecniche, writers, ma anche curatrici, architette, allestitrici, staff di palco e di montaggio, ecc ecc – volutamente coniugate al femminile per ricordarci che il mondo dell’arte e della cultura appartiene alle donne tanto quanto agli uomini) spesso riunite in vario modo in associazioni, collettivi, studi, piccole imprese generando centri culturali e di ricerca indipendenti.
La crisi ha determinato, per molte e molti, la sospensione e/o la perdita di impieghi e progetti. Inoltre, la stessa configurazione dei rapporti di lavoro è stata motivo di esclusione, nella maggior parte dei casi, da qualsiasi forma di ammortizzatore sociale, oltre che dai meccanismi di tutela previsti dal governo nel decreto “Cura Italia”, come la cassa integrazione in deroga o il bonus una tantum erogato dall’INPS.
Appare evidente la necessità di operare in prospettiva con l’introduzione di nuove forme di riconoscimento, nuove forme di sostegno economico di base, l’estensione delle misure già previste dal decreto “Cura Italia” a coloro che non godono ancora di alcun ammortizzatore sociale in quanto soggetti a contratti di lavoro intermittente, il riconoscimento di sgravi fiscali e contributivi, la calmierazione degli affitti, la regolamentazione dei compensi relativa alla produzione di contenuti digitali e on-line ecc. Occorrerà lavorare con enti e istituzioni in diverse macro-aree legate alle tutele, all’istituzione di fondi speciali e al ripensamento del sistema dei bandi e della formazione artistica, agendo in termini omogenei in grado di connettere una costellazione di individui e associazioni, rappresentandone necessità e istanze nella sfera pubblica.
Ciò a partire dalla sfera più alta, cioè, dalla politica ministeriale attraverso profonde revisioni di carattere normativo e legislativo per poi estendersi, di conseguenza alle politiche che dovranno declinare gli enti locali, le istituzioni, le fondazioni istituzionali culturali e quelle bancarie.
La giovane creatività è una delle espressioni della vitalità e della capacità prospettica della nostra società. È uno strumento in grado di immaginare e mettere a disposizione della collettività contenuti che rafforzano la dialettica culturale, la coesione sociale, la consapevolezza civica, una risorsa comune che genera valore economico. Intorno all’artista contemporanea/o e alla sua creatività si espande una rete dinamica di competenze scientifiche, professionali, pedagogiche, un sistema virtuoso d’istituzioni pubbliche e private, musei, fondazioni, gallerie, spazi no profit che ogni giorno dedicano il massimo impegno all’arte e alla cultura che costituisce patrimonio insostituibile e linfa vitale per il nostro Paese.
Per tornare alla scena locale che costituisce l’interesse del mio lavoro posso riferire del Progetto Torino Creativa, il progetto della Città di Torino per tutti i giovani creativi e creative dai 16 ai 30 anni.
E’ un progetto che Incontra le reti nazionali e internazionali, la scuola e la formazione, l’innovazione e l’imprenditorialità. Vuole creare un ambiente accogliente, dinamico e propositivo capace di generare e supportare progetti individuali e collettivi. Consultiamo periodicamente il tessuto creativo torinese attraverso un forum pubblico aperto a tutto il mondo delle associazioni e i giovani creativi e creative della città, per avere un confronto continuo sulla domanda e sulle esigenze.
Torino Creativa, quindi, si è prontamente sintonizzata con le tendenze adottate dai soggetti operanti nel settore potenziando ed ampliando la presenza sul web sulle varie piattaforme ove è presente (Facebook, Istagram, Telegram) per non perdere il contatto con i propri riferimenti e mantenere viva la propulsione alla costruzione del progetto che ha preso avvio due anni fa e che periodicamente verifica attraverso momenti di riflessione e proposta tramite il Forum sopra citato.
In tal senso To Creativa ha inteso incrementare la comunicazione online e potenziare l’attività attraverso quattro filoni:
- Io Sono Creativ* – una vetrina per i giovani creativi e creative dove possono presentare i loro lavori e progetti
- Live – un calendario giornaliero delle dirette IG e FB di e con enti e con creativ*
- Tips – una raccolta di iniziative e rubriche torinesi che spaziano tra tante aree creative diverse
- React – una selezione di call nazionali e non, nate come reazione creativa all’attuale situazione
To Creativa, comunque, attraverso una intensa attività di confronto in remoto tra i suoi componenti e referenti della cabina di regia sta pianificando una strategia ed elaborando contenuti per realizzare il prossimo Forum (Forum 0_3) in continuità con le indicazioni emerse dai precedenti e incentrati sugli sviluppi dei temi e delle necessità rilanciate dai/dalle giovani creativ*
Inoltre per dare sostanza al supporto della giovane creatività in questi tempi particolari, To Creativa, assieme al settore Politiche Giovanili e all’Informagiovani, sta mettendo a punto una nuova iniziativa: KEEP MOVING.
Con questo progetto si intende sostenere l’attività dei centri del protagonismo giovanile ed altre realtà territoriali cittadine della giovane creatività mettendo a disposizione le proprie piattaforme digitali (facebook; istagram; telegram) per rappresentare spettacoli, concerti, esibizioni, performances ecc. da loro stessi prodotti e che Torino Creativa intende acquistare e in qualche modo, da subito, anticipare contribuzioni già previste in convenzione con la Città. Si tratta di un riconoscimento dello slancio e del respiro che molte realtà culturali hanno già avviato, e che ci ha permesso in molti casi di tenerci in contatto, di fruire di produzioni culturali istantanee, di poter godere di quella cultura che rappresenta la socialità che in qualche modo abbiamo dovuto sacrificare in questo periodo.
Ancora, assieme agli assessorati alla Cultura e all’Ambiente, con modalità ancora da capire e da strutturare, abbiamo deciso di prendere la strada di Torino Cielo Aperto, portando la cultura e l’aggregazione nei parchi, nelle strade, nei cortili, negli spazi pubblici in modo da poter permettere l’incontro di persone e l’espressione di quel bisogno di socialità e cultura.
Infine un accenno a un tema a me particolarmente caro: i diritti e le politiche di genere dal momento che anche di questo si occupa l’Assessorato.
E’ di tutta evidenza che l’emergenza dettata dal Covid_19 ha influito pesantemente in questo campo sospendendo numerose iniziative e progettualità in atto: penso agli eventi ed ai percorsi programmati mirati al contrasto dei fenomeni di razzismo, omofobia, bullismo; penso a quelli per il contrasto alla violenza sulle donne e alla parità di genere, al contrasto della marginalità sociale dei minori, ai percorsi per l’integrazione di minoranze o dei migranti; ai momenti di incontro e scambio con le varie confessioni religiose presenti in città; ai progetti volti a livellare le disuguaglianze generate da una rappresentazione pubblica e strutturale che esclude le persone con disabilità e spesso sulla base delle condizioni sociali e altro ancora…
Anche questo è un orizzonte caratterizzato da fragilità e precarietà e anche su questi temi occorrerà rispondere con azioni di resilienza e con nuovi strumenti e adattamenti di strategie, chi includano ottiche di genere, di contrasto e lotta alle discriminazioni, di linguaggi e modelli inclusivi.
Se, come tutti dicono, nulla sarà più come prima, è necessario che nei futuri percorsi non vengano persi i soggetti che già prima dell’emergenza mostravano segnali di difficoltà e bisogno di sostegno.
Anche questo unitamente all’emergenza della cultura cui è strettamente connesso, è un imprescindibile tassello della coesione sociale necessaria per ripensare e disegnare una nuova convivenza sociale e un nuovo pensiero di sviluppo possibile.
Marco Giusta, Assessore alle Politiche Giovanili e ai Diritti della Città di Torino
Innovative Responses of Culture in Covid-19 Global Crisis
¨The global emergency Covid-19 has changed the lives of millions of people. In addition to the social and health aspects, the heavy economic crisis that will hit the world – with different repercussions on individual states – must also be considered. Among the most affected areas is the cultural sector, characterized by strong uncertainty and weakness, with the closure of museums, theatres, the cancellation of exhibitions, small and large events related to art and creativity. In the face of these gloomy prospects, resilient responses are not lacking. Very quickly there has been an attempt by many operators to resist and respond to the emergency through the development of new approaches, producing a step forward towards digital innovation, which will probably remain and will be considered crucial even when the situation has finally normalized.¨
In this complex context, how has your daily work changed?
The current context has affected all areas of work. Some aspects have been recovering a very relative normality after a significant initial shock. It has been necessary to design a contingency plan based on different scenarios (optimistic scenario, medium scenario, and pessimistic scenario) which contemplate, among other measures, the replacement of physical spaces by spaces of convergence between the virtual and the physical (virtual streaming for concerts and gastronomic competition, exhibition of selected and awarded works through websites, networks and online platforms, videoconferences for jury meetings …). Today, we already have in Spain a plan for un-confinement in several phases, some of the measures designed in our contingency plan will be adapted to each of the phases of the return to the “new normality”, and others will be more permanent. Only the evolution of the crisis will define which will be definitive and which provisional.
In a traumatic situation in which keeping informed and maintaining containment standards is vital, productivity is not a priority, is a widespread fact that productivity has been reduced by 50%. We assume that after confinement we will have to rush to complete all the processes now paralyzed. Smart working has been a great relief and a solution for those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to work from home, but it has some drawbacks. The urgency of the situation has not made possible to adapt the new working stations with peripheral units (printers, scanners …). Teleworking furnitures are also not adequate for a full working day. In this sense, digital tools and interconnectivity have been very important, but not enough to work normally, in addition to other factors derived from the mix of domestic and working life.
Creamurcia2020 is a multidisciplinary artistic competition (13 disciplines) with an online participation system (only for applications and presentation of work in almost all disciplines), and this has allowed not to interrupt the participation. Eliminating the limits in the deadlines for applications, as a contingency measure, during the state of emergency, has encouraged participation after the initial shock.
Deadlines for applications are still open, therefore it is early to fully assess the impact of the crisis in the participation for each disciplines, nevertheless determinant factors are already appreciable and we can estimate the impact:
Discipline / Category
|Music / Pop-Rock||60%||Loss of creativity (stress, trauma, insomnia..).Difficulty for collective creation.Difficulty for rehearsal in projects already created.Difficulty for performing in physical spaces.|
|Music / Others Tendencies||40%||Loss of creativity (stress, trauma, insomnia..).
Difficulty for collective creation.
Difficulty for rehearsal in projects already created.
Difficulty for performing in physical spaces.
|Music / Singer Song-Writer||10%||Loss of creativity (stress, trauma, insomnia..).
Difficulty for performing in physical spaces.
|Loss of creativity (stress, trauma, insomnia..).
Difficulties in creating recipes (lack of specific products, tools…)
|Photography||50%||Loss of creativity (stress, trauma, insomnia..).
Difficulty to produce new projects (loss of mobility, spaces…).
|Plastics Arts||60%||Loss of creativity (stress, trauma, insomnia..).
Difficulty to produce new projects (materials, spaces …)
|Comic||50%||Loss of creativity (stress, trauma, insomnia..).|
|Visual Arts||50%||Loss of creativity (stress, trauma, insomnia..).
Difficulty to produce new projects (materials, spaces…)
|Fashion||50%||Loss of capacity for creativity (stress, trauma, insomnia..).
Difficulty to produce new projects (materials, spaces…)
|Graphic Design||40%||Loss of capacity for creativity (stress, trauma, insomnia..).|
|Shorts Films and Documentaries||60%||Loss of creative capacity.
Difficulty to produce new projects (mobility, spaces, tests…).
|Performing Arts (theatre, dance, puppets…)||90%||Loss of creativity (stress, trauma, insomnia..).
Difficulty to produce new projects (mobility, spaces, rehearsals/ technical trials…) and to rehears the older ones.
|Literature||40%||Loss of creativity (stress, trauma, insomnia..).|
How do you evaluate the innovations that are developing in this emergency?
In this crisis, digital tools, “new technologies” (they are not so new) and connectivity have been of great importance, but not enough for arts in general and some disciplines in particular (live arts).
Culture as an experience is minimized if it is not consumed in the atmosphere it generates (live arts), if you cannot enjoy the three-dimensional experience or the contemplation of the material itself (object art).
Culture is also a social experience, although these days we have all participated in social events in virtual spaces, these do not replace the direct social relationship with consequent benefits for mental and physical health. We are social animals.
On the other hand, this way of transmitting culture has as a consequence the search of a selective audience, it benefits an elitist sector, which knows and has access to digital tools, “new technologies”, and information. There is a paradox when culture is more accessible but not for everyone, producing, in my opinion, a setback in the democratization of culture. This effect amplifies social differences, the distance between the connected society and the disconnected society grows.
Confinement has once again brought to the table the unresolved issue of the gratuitousness of the culture. Meaning that “we all” have access to culture. Gratuity has consequences: it frees consumption, but it hijacks cultural production. The gratuitousness of cultural products directly affects class exclusion for the creation of these cultural products and the monopoly of the large production chains. This aspect, related to the innovations developed these days, has to be seriously analysed, also in term of regulatory policies.
|How virtual spaces affect some arts|
|(+) (-) Live arts:|
|Music events||The essence of the cultural experience as a social event is lost. The development of music events in virtual streaming affects and endangers the livelihood of music producers, venues, technicians, transport, tourism, hospitality and the musicians themselves. No incomes from live performances. No regulations.|
|Performing Arts (dance, theatre, circus, puppets…)||It Requires social gathering, the presence, here and now, of a single body that breathes, feels and reacts in the community. The recorded theatre is not performing art, or live arts. There are only few proposals that come close to the experience of online theatre (monologues …). A crisis in this sector endangers the subsistence of big companies, local companies, freelancers, theatres, technicians, transport, tourism, hospitality… No incomes. No regulations. Future proposals for theatre in non-standard spaces are beginning to be considered, (open spaces and street theatre, alliances with hotels and shops) among other proposals.|
|(neutral( (+) Others Arts:|
|Film||It maintains values on its online transmission, although the social experience it is lost (theatre, cinema).|
|Literatura||Little impact for individual consumption (reader) although in some modalities (spoken word, recitals …) it would suffer in the same way as the rest of the live arts.|
Do you think they will be able to bear fruit also in the medium-long term?
Despite all these shortcomings, I believe that for arts it is the beginning of new possibilities that must be explored, expanded and improved. Technology, research (new virtual platforms, new software) and creativity can open new paths for the benefit of virtual cultural experiences, to respond to this crisis and others that may come.
In this sense, I think that artistic proposals should be rethought. New ways of consuming culture and relating to people requires new creative languages and new formats. Only the result of this effort will tell us if these alternatives are here to stay, or if they are only an emergency solution. This “creative effort” should include producers, cultural managers, administration and any agent involved in the cultural sector.
But if in this intersection between the physical and the virtual, where free cultural contents prevail, we do not find a way to have economic benefits and corresponding regulatory policies, any effort would be futile, and these innovative reactions will have no future. It is at this point that a debate can be opened on the role of the private and the public in the profitability of new forms of cultural consumption.
In general, how do you assess the perspectives of the creative sector?
The crisis in the creative sector is going to be harder if compared to other sectors. Now more than ever, policies to support the creative sector are key to its short and medium-term subsistence and long-term recovery.
The creative sector, for its part, has to make an adaptive effort to face these changing circumstances (economic, new pandemic scenarios…) The Innovation and creativity alliance is fundamental in this process, this requires the involvement of all agents. In this sense, it is important to experiment with “new technologies” and new platforms and explore the intersection between virtual spaces and physical spaces. In some creative sectors, it may require the creation of new languages that adapt to this intersection.
It is necessary to define scenarios and their timing, and establish contingency plans that contemplate each one of the possible scenarios (optimistic scenario, medium scenario and pessimistic scenario). The plan may contemplate transformation processes, redefinition of activity, exploration of new projects and circuits, new strategies that minimize the problems, design a strategic plan to distribute new proposals.
Threats and risks (loss of creativity due to the traumatic state, impossibility / physical and material difficulties for the development of projects, decrease in human and economic resources…) must be assessed, and new methodologies must been established. It is important to analyse projects, circuits, available and required resources, to find opportunities in a new reality. It may be interesting to establish collaborative projects and multi-projects with added values that amplify the interest of the projects (associating the values of cultural, social or scientific research originated through a collaborative process and linked to an educational process, social cooperation…).
What can culture do in this difficult situation?
Culture has often been seen as something complementary and unnecessary. In addition, the world economic crisis is going to cause a significant decrease in cultural consumption and a cut in budgets for cultural policies. For these reasons, making efforts is a priority, this also means that now is more important than ever to make aware society in general and politicians in particular that culture is a first necessity good, is the food that is necessary to become a community, to articulate thought that help us resisting to the crisis we are experiencing.
Culture has been a generator of economic development, the cultural and creative sector represented between 3% and 6% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and 700.000 jobs. It is therefore a fact that the cultural sector represents one of the most important niche of business opportunities and, therefore, of employment. Maintaining and enhancing this sector is essential for many families. Producers, venues, transport companies, scenery, lighting, technical staging, hospitality and tourism are nurtured around culture.
Access to culture enhances creativity and the growth of new initiatives for economic and social development. Culture, as a social phenomenon, is an essential space for the resolution of social conflicts; it is fundamental for social cohesion and stimulates human development and resilience. It has a direct impact on our physical and mental health: culture has been a relief in the current situation and it has been an important help to overcome ourselves… What we would have done during the confinement, without access to culture?
Técnico | Programa de Dinamización Cultural | Servicio de Juventud | Ayuntamiento de Murcia
Give voice to the invisible
The impact of coronavirus violently affects all sectors of society.
Negative impacts are particularly important in the world of culture in Italy (but also elsewhere), where a relatively small number of medium and small enterprises operate compared to a multitude of micro enterprises and individual forms of self-entrepreneurship, representing the basic productive and professional fabric to which even the more structured institutions refer. In fact, most cultural sub-sectors employ individual workers and professionals or contract micro-enterprises (without employees and actually coinciding with the activity of the owner).
The fragility, fragmentation and uncertainty of the contractual forms depend both on a historical characteristic of intellectual work in this sector and on the policy of outsourcing that the more structured companies and institutions have implemented to cope with the decrease in public and private resources, significantly increasing a precarious market.
In summary, a large part of the professional world of culture is located within an area of functions outsourced by larger institutions and industries, which objectively constitutes an organic and indispensable part of the sector in functional terms, while subjectively it assumes the fragmentary dimension of a multitude of individual professionals or micro-enterprises.
This crisis highlighted problems that already existed but that have now exploded in all their seriousness, due to the fragmentation and complexity of the sector.
The first one is the issue of social protection: beyond the ethical principle of the need for protection of every worker, this very close interdependence between individuals and cultural production is one of the reasons that require extending forms of support and protection in order to try to contain structural damages to the entire cultural system.
The second one is the lack of visibility of many cultural workers and professionals: beyond economic aid, it is fundamental that institutions realize that this invisible part of the sector exists and that without it the sector itself would not survive. We cannot continue to identify the sector purely with the large public institutions (or strongly supported by the public) or with the big stars.
The third issue is that of sustainability, of the sector itself but also in broader terms: this whole world will survive if it manages to answer some of the post-Corona virus questions, such as for example the raise of educational poverty, of serious forms of depression as well as the need for producing innovation, all issues which will benefit from the involvement of the cultural sector in order to be effectively tackled (and of course we should also take into account the need for the sector to get ready to be involved in such challenges). By doing that, the cultural sector might not only save itself but also in this way be able to contribute to the implementation of some of the goals of the Agenda 2030.
ECCOM is a member of Culture Action Europe (CAE), a network which gathers together a great number of public and private organisations as well as individuals operating in the cultural sector. As other Italian members of CAE, ECCOM is strongly convinced of the importance of bringing out the complexity, heterogeneity, fragmentation and also the weakness of the whole chain of the cultural sector, putting the emphasis on that large part of organizations / professionals whose role is usually not explicitly recognized. A group of Italian members of CAE intend to do so by giving visibility and voice at a number of workers of the sector, listening to them with regard to the following issues: social protection (in this particular moment but also in more general terms); safeguard of competences and capacity building needs; self-perception and public acknowledgment of the complexity of the sector and of its productive chain; awareness of the social role of culture, and of the peculiarity of the sector (first of all, its being transversal); future vision of how it will survive and expected changes.
This activity – which is in the process of being defined and is meant to be implemented in the next months – is perfectly in line with the CULTURE2030GOAL campaign “Ensuring culture fulfills its potential in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic”, which CAE is part of (https://cultureactioneurope.org/news/ensuring-culture-fulfills-its-potential-in-responding-to-the-covid-19-pandemic/). The declaration in fact states that “failing to support culture in this time of crisis will result in potentially irreversible losses to creators, artists and cultural professionals, who already often do not benefit from adequate protections, as well as damage to many cultural practices, resources and organisations. This risks triggering a considerable deterioration in the richness and diversity in all manifestations of culture – from heritage sites, museums, libraries and archives to traditional practices and contemporary cultural expressions – and the ability of culture to contribute to a better future”.
Cristina Da Milano, President of ECCOM, vice-president of Culture Action Europe
Rethinking culture and education interaction post-COVID-19: a view from Malta
Our work at the cultural organisation Inizjamed, a founding member of BJCEM, on the annual festival in Valletta, Malta, has changed significantly. The year 2020 marks the 15th anniversary of our festival, and a lot of work had already been undertaken. However, the plans we had, changed, since in all probability the event, as so many other similar happenings in other art forms around the world, will be cancelled or need to be re-thought.
Therefore, we are carrying out a lot of collaboration online in order to exchange and generate ideas that may help writers, readers, publishers and our festival attendees in order to adapt to the challenging environment we are experiencing.
We have started from the simplest methods we have seen developed by others and realised that we could adopt ourselves. These have included significant virtual gatherings around writers and readers who have shared their literature and reflections with followers old and new. Many Maltese writers live and work abroad, mainly in Belgium and England, so the connectivity made possible online allowed us to reach out to them and engage their readers and fans in an interesting, at times interpersonal, experience.
We are aware that, as with teaching, online communication does not offer an easy substitute that is as satisfying in the same way as personal exchange. It is more of a surrogate, and a temporary one at best, of what we hope is a long-term process that may still involve more digital means, but hopefully and necessarily allow us to re-establish and appreciate anew the importance of direct, strong, human bonds.
Most of us volunteers at Inizjamed are involved in the ecosystem of schools and university, therefore secondary and higher education. For most of the time our work in teaching, researching and writing has gone unimpeded. Contact with students and colleagues has been maintained, albeit in new forms that escape the traditional strictures of time and place.
As argued consistenly by Professor Alberto Melloni on the pages of La Repubblica, digital education is not the answer to the current crisis in learning.
Like our peers elsewhere in Europe and the Mediterranean, we are aware that this situation will not be over quickly. Furthermore, it will not be resolved through quick-fix approaches that reinforce the digital divide and the impersonalisation of a process that should not stop at imparting information.
Rather, the process that we should consider should be based on the generation of knowledge through collaboration that is rooted in the diversity of people, rather than homogenisation and performability through a plethora of apps, mobile controls and mechanised systems.
All in all, and at this admittedly early stage, we seem to be learning a great deal through the transposition of experiences between education, culture, the arts and other areas of human activity that we are practising differently at the moment.
There is an urgent reflection going on regarding the value of solidarity, and the appreciation of people’s differences as a strength rather than a hindrance to efficiency and conformity. In Malta, our commitment to access and participation remain relevant. This action extends to the diverse communities that enjoy different cultural and religious practices, and the multiplicity of languages, brought closer through the skill of translation, are aspects of communication that are close to our heart.
Furthermore, our partnering with different initiatives by various organisations and platforms we share our vision and values with has become more timely than ever. Being involved in the creation of stories, reflections and narratives that open up possibilities, rather than close down opportunities, has never been more urgent than now.
Karsten Xuereb, Inizjamed, Malta
April 21, 2020
The gift of multinationals
The Covid pandemic has given us time to reflect about the past and attempt to foresee solutions for the future. Rethinking the economy means recovering its original meaning. Economy derives from the union of two Greek words: oikos “house” and nòmos “law”. While the word ecology derives from oikos “home” and logos “speech”.
Our house is the planet that hosts us and the task of economy should be to protect it so it can become a healthy refuge for all, not forgetting to have a constant dialogue with ecology. The epidemic has shown that environmental pollution, intensive farming, and illicit trade of animals can put human safety at risk.
Man-made materials host viruses for a longer time than natural materials. For example, the virus can survive up to 72 hours on plastic! How ironic, we will be flooded with millions of disposable gloves and masks! Naomi Klein, author of No Logo, says that a ‘green new deal’ is fundamental at this stage. But we must believe in it, insist on obtaining it and demand it from our governments!
Reconverting an economy requests, first of all, supporting a participatory policy making. Citizens, experts, researchers, are called to legally accompany the Government in bulding a strategy for sustainability. The starting point are the 17 goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an action program for people, planet and prosperity, signed in September 2015 by 193 UN member countries.
In summary these goals say that economy, ecology, politics and the social sphere are interconnected. The objective should be that of working towards a fair society, which combats poverty, hunger, inequalities and implements democracy and cares for the environment. The proposal of ensuring sustainable production and consumption models cannot ignore the conservation of oceans, with in mind the objective of peace, justice and the fight against hunger and poverty.
Ecological and essential social actions can help protect the environment by reducing the use of fossil fuels, reforming the tax system and adding a CO2 tax, sustaining electric mobility, limiting the use of plastic, encouraging recycling, improving the public water system to reduce dispersion, controlling urbanisation and soil consumption, protecting fauna and flora.
Other actions to protect the environment are converting to a green economy, strictly connected to the actions listed above. For example, the reduction of fossil fuels requires investments in alternative energy and an end of construction activity and soil consumption requires investments in agriculture.
On the other hand, the “green” sectors offer significant investment, growth and employment opportunities for the entire economic system.
Another starting point is the use of the gift as an economic and relational practice. In the classical economy, the value of goods and services are related to the needs they are able to satisfy or the amount of money or other goods that can be obtained in exchange. There is, however, a third type of value that should be considered the bond value. That is the possibility of creating relationships through goods and services. According to MAUSS, the anti-utilitarian movement in social sciences, the gift can represent an effective practice in a sustainable world. It is not a matter of returning to a barter economy, but of building parallel forms of exchange that are independent from the market and favour opportunities to meet and establish relationships. Women probably have more experience at this.
The pandemic contributed to the online proliferation of free services such as lectures on various topics, webinars, concerts, books, films. Culture and art circulated online to help give relief and offer new perspectives to the painful reality experienced during this time. The sharing economy manifested itself not only online; people living in condominiums organized themselves to offer their help in food shopping for those in difficulty, groups of volunteers also delivered goods to the elderly. Citizens working together to help others.
If solidarity could guide us beyond the crisis and enlighten the new economy then businesses can also do the same. Especially those that during the health emergency have greatly increased their profit. As Ugo Mattei reported in his article “Covid a common evil with private benefits”, multinationals such as Amazon, television companies, e-commerce, teleconferencing services such as Zoom, pharmaceutical companies and detergent manufacturers experienced a boom in sales thanks to isolation and a hygiene phobia. Why not ask these large companies that have benefited so much from the Covid emergency an act of solidarity by paying a part of the income to the States since we cannot consider them profits given the exceptional nature of the moment. The multinations could help the survival of institutions and cultural organizations compromised by the economic crisis. If States, citizens, large private capitals contributed with their gift to restart, it would be a worthy beginning for a new future.
Karen Venturini, Professor of Economics – Degree Course in Design – University of San Marino
Resistance, resilience. Culture in the aftermath.
Easter has come and gone, and spring is slowly settling in following a very unusual winter. In most of our European countries, confinement is being eased and citizens start to see the light at the end of a dark tunnel. As we tend to our wounds and ignite vital energy around us, we look, as summer approaches, towards our neighbors around the Mediterranean but also towards other world regions.
The most widespread belief is that life after the pandemic will not be the same as before. Indeed, life is never the same after a crisis whether personal or, as this one has been, collective. The premise is therefore a rhetorical one and the issue at stake is not whether life will be “the same as before” because we know it will not but, rather, “what sort” of life it will be: the main question indeed is whether we will be capable of imagining a different way forward for humankind.
This is not the first time that our species is confronted with a pandemic, but it is the first time that a pandemic has spread as quickly as this one. Also, although we live in modern times, we are not sure whether the pandemic will entail consequences, also in terms of threats, that will go beyond our initial thinking. The immediate and direct threat has of course been to our public health systems and we have had to respond, collectively, to the incredible danger posed to the health of many and to a tragic loss of too many lives. But there are other potential threats that might not be immediately appreciated to their full extent. The first of these threats is to our economies and to what, in Western societies, we refer to as welfare: jobs have been lost, businesses have capsized, and social disruption might follow because of widespread anger, despair and lack of means for survival. The second threat is posed by the enhanced and reinforced control that citizens might be subjected to in the name of health and security: this could in fact be the very unfortunate justification that paves the way towards curtailing our basic civil and political rights. Such concerns have started to surface, initially from single, dispersed voices that have slowly but steadily taken the form of stronger grouped positions. Indeed, the pandemic has been the perfect pretext for the perfect storm, but we have not come this far in history and in the preservation of human rights to have them jeopardized.
As Yuval Noah Harari brilliantly put it some weeks ago in an article that has since gone viral: “Asking people to choose between privacy and health is … a false choice. … We can choose to protect our health …. not by instituting totalitarian surveillance regimes, but rather by empowering citizens.”
His article struck me, not least because it is accompanied by black and white photos of Italian cities under lockdown. Images taken by webcams were manipulated by the photographer Graziano Panfili, resulting in beautiful but painful images of empty and deserted squares, streets, monuments and harbors that offer an elegant accompaniment to the views and opinions of the Israeli historian.
Faced with an unprecedented crisis, we have strived to give the best possible answers to the challenges before us, and this with more or less success. It is not, and has never been, a question of right or wrong but, rather, of whether we have been able to ably address and respond to the issues at stake. Indeed, future generations will assess, far better than we can today, what has really happened. This is indeed the privilege of history: understanding the past when, for those who lived through it, it was an impossible task.
Our species will survive; humankind will pull through this crisis as it has done through many another. In fact, at the end of the day, this pandemic will probably have killed less people than the Spanish Flu of the beginning of the XIX century or World War II but, also, many less than those killed during the Biblical or the Black plagues. But this is not the main question because any loss of life is to be regretted. The question is, rather, what will be he long-term consequences of the pandemic? Will we be able to give shape to a different world? Undoubtedly, the world will not be the same as before, but we cannot still preempt in what ways it will have changed and whether for better or for worse.
Son to the Mediterranean sea, Harari pleads for the need to empower citizens as the antidote to dazed societies made up of unresponsive individuals; for the need to foster and enable cooperation as the response to isolation and nationalistic drives that might tear down the existing democratic governance systems. In another complementary line, Pierre Manent, calls our attention as to the risk of handing over our welfare and wellbeing to the State; the health emergency should not lead to an extended state of emergency where full powers over citizens are devolved to the higher state instance.
At the heart of the debate is whether we will be able to keep in mind that the aim of any governance system is the preservation and betterment of the common good. With this in mind, I would add that culture and the arts are the indispensable elements that help shape each human being to become critical, constructive and participative citizens. Ensuring that access to and participation in culture are guaranteed is crucial because individual human rights, just as freedom of expression or religion, the right to education or to decent employment, cannot be curtailed. Let us never forget this. And also let us be aware that 75 years after the Holocaust the world is again at a crossroads: we can choose to either hide and make believe that we do not see what is at stake or we can stand up for our principles and values, honoring the idea that certain rights can never again be trampled upon. In this endeavor, cultural professionals and artist must take sides and decide how they can make a difference; because no one should ever doubt that this is also their role.
Barcelona, April 2020
 “The World After Coronavirus” in the Financial Times, March 20, 2020.
 Eugénie Bastié, “Entretien à Pierre Manent” in Le Figaro, 23 April 2020.
For a rebirth through young contemporary creation
In these days of pandemic and global upheaval, the unprecedented social limitations, introduced to fight the virus have highlighted the iniquities and weaknesses of our contemporary societies. The uncovered nerves and unsolved knots of our social, economic and cultural systems have been laid bare. Never as in this moment everything appears extremely fragile and compromised.
I am convinced that what can save us, in order to return to a new kind of “normality”, is to focus on culture, and especially on the sociability of art; on the new creative productions; in other words on the vital thrust of young people and their ideas.
In this scenario, among other things, a particular sphere emerges, or rather a universe, which in the current crisis is perhaps among the most penalized, but which can be a strategic factor in re-launching a new way of thinking and living what awaits us after the tsunami caused by the pandemic.
Some simple key issues appear therefore to be more necessary than ever, and alongside other crucial elements, such as the recovery of work and the economy, they may be able to generate a vital impulse: the active participation of people in cultural practices, the creative production of young people, skills and investment in cultural professions.
It is precisely culture that has suffered the hardest hits after this crisis, and its future is uncertain and problematic. Above all, young creatives, small cultural enterprises and freelancers working in the sector are the least protected and guaranteed. The current lockdown, if projected for a very long period, will determine for many of them the disappearance from the work scene, and from the space of artistic confrontation. In our cities, these components have represented and still represent the vital humus for the development of the creative and cultural fabric of the territory. Alongside with large institutions, major festivals and higher education institutions, young artists (makers, creatives, thinkers, inventors, engineers, authors, students, digital artisans, etc.), small independent cultural centers and cultural professionals (operators, curators, organizers, cultural managers, exhibitions’ installers, technicians, craftsmen, designers, project managers, architects, etc.) represent primary resources on which we can and must rely on. The very future of contemporary creation, and if we want of culture and thought in a wider sense, lies precisely in these forces.
Who, like us (cities, associations, universities, cultural bodies) has dealt with these issues for years, perfectly know how difficult it is to give voice and enhance young creatives and their works. Whether they are visual artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers, choreographers, performers, designers, etc. We know well how this chain of contemporary artistic production is fragmented, fuelled by precarious work, poorly sustained, subject to discontinuity in the programs and in the policies that should help it grows. Those who work in this sector are well aware of how the artist profession is anything but easy and straightforward. Especially in that delicate phase – the first steps of the career – where all the cards are played to draw the artist’s own future: study, research, training, exchange, tools, resources, confrontation, spaces, public, recognition, merits, talent.
The rules and mechanisms of the market circuits have proved to be inadequate to nurture a new independent creation, outside the box, in search of unexplored ways of dialogue with different audiences, through new tools, advanced communication channels, renewed art goals. The artists want to foster a responsible creation, be protagonists of a sociality of art, of a renewed commitment in which culture wants to be at the center of things and events. I believe difficulties and incomprehension have created an increasingly less reconcilable distance between the artists and their traditional reference art and entertainment market.
In recent years, things have taken a different direction. Many young artists, curators, creatives, cultural managers gathered in groups, collectives, studios, companies, gradually creating new forms of production and management of research and promotion of their works, outside the established rules of the market . A phenomenon that has led in two decades to the creation of places and projects capable of dialoguing with each other, co-producing, circuiting, distributing, interacting with the communities of reference. Thus were born, in our country as in the whole world, new forms of aggregation and work: the independent centers of cultural production. Real places of artistic research, social laboratories capable of creating, over time, a real framework in the cultural systems of our cities.
This is the great revolution for those who, like me, started their career path, working for young artists, in the 80s of the last century. A transformation that, despite its lights and shadows, has been able to produce unexpected innovations and projects in the contemporary cultural landscape.
This reality, that I have personally followed with interest in recent years, as I said at the beginning of this reflection, is the sector that has suffered the most from the upheaval of the virus and its consequences. A system that has no voice, that is not recognized, and considered by many to be the weakest link in the production and consumption chains. A system that, more than others, is endangered by the current economic crisis.
At the same time, I am convinced that it is precisely from this fragile and highly endangered system, that the responses needed to relaunch the idea of capillary culture, close to people as interpreted by these centers, can eventually rise. The signs of recovery may come from culture, but it is necessary to give voice and support the work of the young creative generations and their organizational forms.
In the last weeks, the network of cities member of GAI – Associazione per il Circuito dei giovani artisti italiani – has been reflecting and discussing these issues and possible solutions. The intent is to reposition territorial and network policies, so that it would be possible to increase the actions of these young realities and, on the other hand, to urge the Government to adopt effective and decisive national policies.
During my period as President of the Biennale of Young Artists from Europe and the Mediterranean (from 2007 to 2012), I clearly saw how young artistic creation is a vital and innovative resource, that is available in all countries, indifferently. How the commitment of young creatives is rigorous and critical of the problems and inefficiencies of contemporary societies. How emerging art is a formidable lens to analyse contradictions, iniquities, crises, and suggest new points of view for equally new solutions.
In these days of great complexity but also of necessary reflections on the post-pandemic, as GAI Association we are trying to take a snapshot of the professional dynamics of today’s creative communities, precisely of those centers we have talked about. We are investigating what are the opportunities and weaknesses at the various stages of contemporary artistic careers and what factors have the greatest impact on the development of cultural career paths. We are doing it together with the Santagata Foundation for the Economy of Culture and with the support of Compagnia di San Paolo. A research that cannot fail to fit into a broader, international-based analysis. A project that we would like in the future to open to the countries of the Mediterranean network. The idea would be to understand how to develop that essential interaction, not only between cities and institutions but also through capillary networks of creative communities and independent centers. The San Marino Biennale, inevitably postponed until 2021, will be an opportunity to reflect, and create debate around the issues I have mentioned. To fully understand how the role of art and culture is capable of bringing new words into the complex debate on the Mediterranean and how creative communities together with the cultural systems of cities can design a new architecture of shared cultures, for dialogue and mutual understanding.
What if the weak links become the keys to rebirth?
Segretario GAI – Associazione per il Circuito dei Giovani Artisti Italiani
I am writing my brief contribution on April 25, 2020, the anniversary of the liberation of Italy from Nazi-fascism in 1945. The current historical period, characterized by populisms, reawakened xenophobic forces, political violence and the desire for strong men in power, suggests to many, on this very day, a parallelism with the year 1945, with the desire for freedom and rebirth that that distant spring evokes. I like to think of a further ideal bond: those many young forces, the partisans of 75 years ago, who in many cases sacrificed their lives and their best years, driven by ideals, commitment, energy, are the same forces that can bring us today in a better future, in a new season more devoted to people, more respectful of the environment, closer to knowledge and culture. They are the young people committed to saving the planet, fighting for a fairer society, for a fairer economy able to care for the lowest ones. They are the many artists and creative groups engaged in art – understood as a responsible and renewing action – visionaries and pioneers of a new world.
No flights, no biennials – How about curating the fractal horizon?
In the movie “The Burnt Orange Heresy” a cynical art critic says that there is no truth in art, but only bad and good lies (the second are worth writing about). Anyhow, it is early for the artistic (and curatorial) practices to reveal both the truth and the lies about this moment. The planetary zeitgeist is like a big wave that provokes surfing at the bottom turn. But the proper context-responsive surfing stance would have to be mastered first. It is after the venison loses or gains more heat that we can think more deeply.
While we can’t say much about the mutation of the virus it seems that the art world did mutate in a very short time. The standstill for curatorial nomadism is a green light for transhumanism as advocated by Ray Kurzweil.
What we are witnessing is a transmutation rather than change. That started earlier with the exhausted epistemology of the curatorial, predictable networking, false proximity, manifested in utilitarian affections that came with slim benefits and slimmer epistemologies – all of this in it served to reproduce the global art world whose essential values were shaking to the core and in favour to the art market. It was with COVID-19 that the proverbial masks have fallen which is again the origin of fight-or-flight fatalism that is directing the current actions in the art world.
So far, in contrast to all theoretical assumptions that the art world thinkers were preoccupied with before the Pandemic, this is a first frontal global manifestation of transhumanism, manifested both in the viral (as of COVID-19) and the digital. The state of emergency is a proof that both art and science have origins in the wild domain of uncertainty and are bonded by the philosophy of transhumanism, now. Digital overload is not happening because insecurities are loud, but because the transhuman order is being established, because we are growing accustomed to the fractal horizons.
We: the humans, are inter-relational beings, and the physical barrier imposed by COVID-19 made us, if not re-discover, emphasize digital storytelling. Digital actions in our confinement also blurred the line between the private and the professional, the linear and the exponential, but also revealed both the belonging character of networks and the split from them. Paradoxically, the digital serves to hide if not neutralize social antagonisms, while predatory capitalism takes art for a ride. To deal with the Other in the art world is a common requirement and most of us (besides Donna Haraway who as always had a point early on) still expected the AI to be the next new Other, but first came the Virus that strangely sped up our relation to AI.
The transhumanist turn brought to light both flexibility, agility and adaptability, but also mal-adaptability of the art world and its value system. Many projects were cancelled, others were indefinitely postponed, some governments supported art workers while others completely ignored to support the art workers. The omnipotent and omnipresent virus did not only shatter the labour force security but provided the identity-less capital and Hermes as its archetype, a chance to dominate due to its immunity. While small art agents, already fragile before the crisis became even more fragile, the big auction houses made more profit on digital sales than ever before and kept the party going. Many Museum workers in the West were laid-off, while the budgets in Eastern Europe were cut-off, as the so-called transhuman turn made them obsolete. This points to the previous brutality of the system – creatives were breadcrumbed while creating the content that the institutions represented as value and that predatory art markets capitalized on. Sadly, few were chances for new epistemologies. Paradoxically, with lay-offs and budget cuts came the pressure to produce COVID-19 content based on solidarity and no-payment. Yet again the submissive attitude is provoked by the fear (to remain relevant) and a certain necessity to fill the void. On the other hand, due to digital reproduction devaluation of the aura of art – to refer to Walter Benjamin’s famous essay is a chance for activism as a praxis of counter-politics. If curated properly the transhumanist turn might be a way to break the exploitative chain in the art world, and that maybe be done by implementing Nora Sternfeld’s idea of the radical democratic museum, whose opportunities are generated on the premises of solidarity beyond the Museum walls.
Capital aside, I remember a group of artists in residence in a most beautiful villa surrounded by a most wonderful park at Lago di Garda a few years ago. Despite the paradise-like circumstances, they have created their meaningful artworks only after the first storm and quarrels. If art and culture are not already beautiful they need something to problematize in order not to be blasé. So, art and culture are not threatened, like water they will always find the way. What is threatened is the institutionalisation of art and culture as we knew it because of the transhuman turn. We will encounter problems if the institution of art becomes an instrument of total control, domination and repression meaning surveillance capitalism as elaborated by Shoshana Zuboff.
Today, a possibility to mobilise the art world is oscillating between painting over a used and white canvas. Amidst the extreme pressure to remain relevant within the Pandemic, there were some meaningful political mobilisations of old networks. It is not yet clear if curators will be capable of procuring a cure for transhumanism critically. Anyhow, we are all inseparable from the conditions of our becomings, and from what we pledge loyalty to.
So, the cure is probably to be found in the agility of curators who aspire towards conversations in the art world and don’t think of art and culture in terms of commodification and ideologically compromised products. More than ever, because of the overload of digital content in isolation, now is the time of fractal horizons that might ideally set free all inhibitions and inequalities imposed by the modernist institution of art.
Maja Ćirić (1977) is a Belgrade-based award-winning curator and art critic with experience in leading and contributing to international projects. Maja was the curator of the Mediterranea 18 Young Artists Biennale, in Tirana (2017), and has been both the curator (2007) and the commissioner (2013) of the Serbian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Maja holds a PhD in Art Theory (Thesis: “Institutional Critique and Curating”) from the University of Arts in Belgrade. Her recent speaking engagements have been, among others, at MAC VAL (2017), the Centre Pompidou (2018), and the MNAC Bucharest (2018). Her most recent writings appear in, Obieg, Artforum and Artmargins Online. Maja’s areas of expertise span from the geopolitical and the curatorial through curating as a practice of institutional critique. Maja thinks about the art world in terms of criticality and post-globalism and is recently involved in projects examining the relationship between art and science.