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New Opera Co just had the opening of ”Vi i villa”, a newopera where the group use the classical form of an opera and turn it into a modern drama. Is it possible to use an everyday, very basic and realistic, dialogue in an opera? How do you create a libretto, together in the ensemble, how do you act and how do you produce? The questions was a drive for New Opera Co to explore and start, as they describe it, a phase of research and collective process in terms of ideas, performance, text and music. The result is a beautiful and creative performance that shows a new form of expression and gives an idea of what a modern opera could be. The stage is simple, a rehearsing room with just black chairs and four glasses. Scenery is projected on the wall and the dialogue, sung by the actors and actresses, is about ordinary things in the relationship between two people.
The performance was built in quite an interesting process, where the group combined working together with the whole ensemble, included actors, director, technicians, musicians, dancers, with times of concentration where the composer have built the text and the music on his own. In between, the parts that was ready, was performed and showed in front of an audience. This gave the composer an idea of how the text needed to be built and the song had to be sung to work. It’s quite a similar process, and way of thinking, as the one described at Pixar Animation Studios, where the storyboard continuously was showed to an audience and reactions taken into account in the building of a film (look here to read about our visit to Pixar Animation Studios).
The Minister of Culture and Minister of Enterprise arranged today in Stockholm the third meeting for dialogue between cultural and business fields. Around twenty organisations, entrepreneurs and regional structures from both culture and business was invited to discuss issues like: How can national, regional and local offices get better in using culture and creative industries as a resource for growth? What tools and what kind of cooperation’s are needed? How could we get better in catalysing the potential in creative industries? The new in the meeting was that the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of Enterprise were sitting by the same table, with an ambition to find mutual solutions. And they have, which was announced at the meeting, devoted 1,4 million euro (13 million SEK) in the new budget to initiatives within this field. It’s a good sign. As cultural entrepreneurs we have experienced what it feels like when you can’t discuss with any of the ministries, since none of them feel responsible for the issues put forward. In content we are culture, in form we are a business. You fall in between two chairs (a Swedish expression). So it’s great to finally witness the two different Ministers talk to each other to find solutions. It’s always, though, risks in discussions like this to forget what we are talking about. As we speak of creative economy, creative businesses and innovation, we need also to speak of the situation for artists. It’s a coin with two sides; one doesn’t exist without the other. There will be no creative industry without high quality artists that can produce content.
The Swedish Public Employment Service just came with a report on the employment situation within culture 2008-2009. According to the report 83.000 people in Sweden was occupied within the cultural field in 2006, which correspond to 2 percent of the total workforce. You should be a bit careful of the figures, though. Different reports have different statistics, probably since they are measuring in different ways. This report put forward a few trends the coming two years:
1. Overall, demand for cultural services is growing, but during 2008 in a slower pace.
2. On the other hand they spot a growth in the amount of artists and cultural practitioners that start their own small businesses. There are 6800 companies with at least one person hired within the field.
3. The type of jobs in the cultural field is still multiple jobbers, short-term projects, part-time work. It’s a project based work situation. More often you need to have your own business to be able to take assignments.
4. Larger institutions are cutting down and people loose their jobs. The employers of today within the cultural field are the small businesses.
5. A multitude of competencies are needed when working in the field.
The report, in Swedish, can be downloaded here kultur_prognos_08_09.pdf.
Photos of Stockholm are found on www.fotoakuten.se.
A recent report on creative economy shows that the creative industries are one of the most dynamic emerging sectors in world trade. Over the period of 2000-2005, trade in creative goods and service increased by an annual rate of 8,7 percent. World exports of creative products were valued at 424,4 billion dollars in 2005, compared to 227,5 billion in 1996. Impressive figures that show creative products as an important factor in world economy. And hopes are high for what this might lead to: ”The creative economy has the potential to generate income and jobs while promoting social inclusion, cultural diversity and human development”. Creative industries are put forward as important not only of the European economy, but also as a solution for developing countries and reaching the Millennium goals on fighting poverty. Creative economy will both generate jobs and income, and solve the social difficulties the world is facing. These are very high expectations and do raise some reflections.
Globalization and the rapid growth of ICTs have, the report points out, opened a whole new range of possibilities for the commercial development of creative products. But this requires access to Internet. Manuel Castells, the American sociologist, wrote about this already in 1996-97 in his trilogy of the Information Age (revised 2000). In the three-volume book he wrote about the rise of the new economy and how new technology and access to information is integrated in this development. This is, though, very much a western society phenomena, he said, where the developing world was left behind. Africa, to take one example, was, as he said, almost completely cut off the Internet by the simple fact that access to computers and electricity was basically non-existent outside the capital cities. On a visit by Nätverkstan at the office of the Eastern Africa Theatre Institute in Kampala, Uganda, in 2005, one of the main problems put forward by the Director was lack of electricity and proper computers in towns outside the capital. The possibilities to use the full potential of Internet and digital communication was therefore uncommon, and for many artists non-existent. In Tanzania in 2006, the issue was the same. At Bagamoyo College of Art, access to Internet existed, but was unreliable.
Reading the report also raises the question of: Who are the producers of Art and who runs the Creative Industries? One thing artists have in common, something put forward by artists we meet and have met in for example Sweden, Turkey, Africa and USA, is they don’t get paid for the work they do. Reasons differ depending on society, but they all have difficulties surviving on their artistic work. So whom are we talking about? Who is leading the creative economy? Where are initiatives taken by decision-makers most probable to have an impact and serve as a catalyst for the changes expected in the report?
The creative industries are an important part of the economy today and the report put forward interesting results supporting this. The creative economy may very well be an opportunity, that well handled can create new possibilities in society. But it can never be the only solution to world problems. To succeed, expectations need to be realistic and the initiatives taken need to be relevant and take into account the specific local context in which they exist.
The Creative Economy Report 2008 is a cooperation between several United Nations organizations and among them United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
In March the EU commission installed Culture Sector Platforms, and called for an expression of interest from organisations and networks in Europe. The reply was overwhelming and in June three platforms were organised: The Rainbow Platform, Access to Culture and Potential of Creative Industries. Each of these has divided into another 3-5 working groups. The idea is to create a form for the cultural field to organise itself and together post recommendations to the commission. It’s an assignment that does take some thought and requires a cultural field that can stand together; organisations and networks have to look beyond their own interest and not as today among networks, see each other as competitors. This also requires that diversity in the field be mirrored in the formation of the groups.
A first meeting in the group on the interface between artistic practitioners and creative industries, led by Yudhishthir Raj Isar and Simone Dudt, was on Friday (the 5th) in Brussels. An interesting meeting, where questions like the following were put forward: The question of Intellectual Property rights especially in the field of music and film, how will artists get paid for their work, how to keep diversity and not move towards unity, consumer and audience perspective, the lack of finance and social security for artists and where in creative industries do minority groups of artists like composers fit in? You also have on one hand an audiovisual sector that in itself is an industry, on the other hand composers where no industry exists.
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