Joho the Blog[avignon] Forum d'Avignon intro, and second session - Joho the Blog

[avignon] Forum d’Avignon intro, and second session

The Forum d’Avignon is an annual meeting of invited guests, heavily from the French culture industries, with a handful of Internet people sprinkled in, and interesting international representation. It is a high end conference for sure: beautiful hotels in beautiful Avignon, a welcome reception in the historic and ornate Town Hall, dinner in the Palais de Papes — the Palace of Popes, a visit from Pres. Sarkozy in a couple of hours. The sessions themselves are held in a long hall lined with seats facing one another. The overall topic this year — the 4th annual Forum — is “investing in culture.” The sessions consist of group interviews in the middle.

James “Jamie” Boyle is here, I’m very happy to say. He speaks tomorrow. They sat me next to him at dinner last night (yay!) and among other wise things, said that conferences always have narratives. It’s not yet clear to me what the narrative for this Forum is, although I have apparently been asked to play the role this afternoon of The Bringer of Discomfort, or possibly, He Who Should Be Heard Once and then Ignored.

I am very appreciative to have been brought here (expenses paid). And I am double appreciative to be one of the relative few people who are given a chance to speak. But I have to say that this conference cries out to be an unconference.

 


Antoine Gosset Grainville makes a case for investing in culture.

Urbanist Charles Landry says that culture needs to move into the center again because of the rapid pace of development and globalization. The right question is: What is the cost of not thinking about culture, art, design, green, etc.? So, of course we want a lot of artists. But we also want interesting and provocative art.

Vincent Frosty (investor) has looked at who is investable and at 50 cultural projects. They’ve found that cultural and non-cultural investments are treated roughly the same.

Charles: Urban engineers think of city-making in terms of creating infrastructure, vs. the sensory experience of cities. Hardware is not the totality of life. The engineering approach can sometimes be insensitive, although engineering is a wonderful discipline. E.g., Chicago Millennial Park that transformed a parking lot. A city is a place of meeting, transacting, exchange, etc. Cities are aiming at reinventing the art of conviviality. That’s how culture is reinvigorated. This is intangible, confounding accountants. Creative city-making is a paradigm shift. The best cultural policy: 1. Link us to enlightenment. 2. Life our spirits; empowers us. 3. Entertains us. 4. Employability. 5. Economic impact.

[Why is it not clear here that when it comes to culture, the Internet is the new city? It is where culture is happening and accelerating, even though from the outside it looks like a warren of pickpockets, drunks, and prostitutes.]

Vincent: My policy guidelines: Open to partnerships. Sustainable beyond the creators.

Charles: I looked at 6 European cities. All have used culture in one way or another. Often they use old buildings. Culture is increasingly embedded into the economy in subtle ways, and new forms of working that are less hierarchical.

Vincent: Demand is strong for culture. But culture alone is not going to get us out of the economic crisis.

Charles: We want to create conditions in which ordinary people make the extraordinary happen.

Vincent: Viviendi has made cultural enrichment a target by which executives are measured.

Now new people come to the panel. David Throsby is an Australian economist. Jochen Gerze is an artist. Syhem Belkhodja is a Tunisian choreographer.

David: How do economists regard culture? “Cultural capital” has economic and cultural value. Expenditure on culture is an investment in culture. Now we can use the methods of economic analysis. Five examples: 1. Bengarra Dance Company in Australia turns aboriginal people’s stories into contemporary dance. It’s a risky investment, but the payoff is that it contributes to the viability of the dance company, plus the obvious cultural payoff. 2. A new museum (“M9”) in the city of Maestra next to Venice, with cultural benefit plus economic payoff in increased tourism, etc. 3. Skopje in Macaedonia is investing in the old bazaar in its historic center. Local businesses benefit, with an important social payoff because before the investment there was a lot of inter-ethnic conflict there. Now it’s a social space. 4. In Papua New Guinea, basket weavers using traditional methods are making products sellable on the international market, especially empowering women. 5. The National Theatre Live project in the UK transmits live performances to cinemas all over Europe. Finally, we need a model of the cultural economy that puts the core creative artists at the center. [Liked this until that last point. I would have preferred a networked model, rather than the concentric circles David displayed.]

Jochen: Much of what we’ve heard this morning is true and useful. But we’re making a mistake by basing ourselves on the Renaissance view of art in which you bid people to stand in admiration of a work and keep their mouths shut. Democracy informs our cultural practices. E.g., I did a year-long project called “Two Three Streets,” an artistic project in the public space. Today’s art always raises the question of whether it is art. So, we invited people to spend a year rent-free in exchange for contributing to a common text to be written, and to change a street in three cities in the Ruhr area [?]. 1,500 people applied from all over the world. 78 [?] participants were accepted, between ages 17 and 90. Changing a street in a disadvantaged part of town…that is not an art project. For a year, 800 people participated in writing a shared text. The Net brought them together, 16 languages, 3,000 pages. It sold out. An ebook is being prepared, and instead of being sold for 80 euros it will cost around 8 euros. In 1837 Novalis said: “Perhaps one day we shall write, think and act in common. Someday perhaps an entire nation will create a work of art.” Some have stayed on to continue the community work of this project, not as art but as an economic, social, and cultural project. Art can affect an entire culture, but not necessarily by artists. It is like aspirin that dissolves into the entire system.

Syhem: The elections in Tunisia have made it harder than ever to talk about culture. Women had some freedom under the old dictator. 28 yrs ago when I started dancing, women could not participate in politics, but we could have our own cultural spaces. It was hard because it is an Islamic culture, but you just had to cheat a little, and talk about entertainment or majorettes rather than dance. To my dismay, after the revolution I realized that perhaps we’d been naive and they’d exploited us. In 2002 I organized a contemporary dance festival, working with Martha Graham and others, and I called the whole dancing clan and …[translator fails]. I’m a moderate, modern Muslim and think that women are free. [Sorry, but the translator is incomprehensible.] In 2006, I said we have to make it free of charge. 24 Koranic channels today. I respect the decision of the voters, but out of 4M voting, only 1.6% voted for the Islamicists. It’s not a lost cause. [The French speaking audience applauds. But the translator pretty much gave up. [Afterwards my friend and moderator Eric Scherer vouched that she was fantastic. I wish I could have understood it.]]

Moderator: Jochen, what do you think the potential role of art is in learning democracy?

Jochen: Whatever happens has an impact on art. Art cannot survive unchanged in a changing world. Art is not there to accompany life. It has to be part of an honest dialogue; we have to get away from the tiresome culture of privilege.

Syhem: New tech is great, but what about the ethics for someone who speaks out? Thanks to the new tech, the Tunisians are holding their heads high. We were pioneers without any foreign help. It’s important that we not break the link [not clear to me which link]. You have to understand influence. If there’s a move away from your values in Egypt, or Libya, but you have to remember there are values out there. It’s not through oil and petrodollars that you can convince people of your values.

Moderator: Today we have the Greater Paris plan. [He introduces someone without naming him, and he’s not listed in the program.]

Person: Greater Paris is a paradigm shift. It is a fruitful encounter bringing together an economic side — clusters of businesses and universities — and then the transport cluster. We have links between suburbs and habitat. Housing has to be intelligent. Culture is going to be like the blood feeding the different organs.

2 Responses to “[avignon] Forum d’Avignon intro, and second session”

  1. hi,

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  2. if any ones here today all the best have a gud new year
    alf beilin


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