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It looks like the line of dirt in a bathtub. At many of the buildings and facades of houses in New Orleans you can still, three years after the hurricane Katrina, see how high the water was under the flood. Sprayed messages from the rescue teams are still left. Cryptic short messages you need help to understand. ”NE” means ”No Entry”; the rescue team has not been in the building. ”2DB” means ”two dead bodies found”.
You don’t have to go far from the tourist areas to see the devastation. Whole areas of the city are empty. Only half of New Orleans inhabitants of half a million people have returned. Around two hundred thousands have not.
New Orleans is hosting the World Cultural Economic Forum. Participants from around seventy nations have notified their presence and cultural ministers crowd the podium together with ambassadors. The Region of Kalmar and the Hultsfred Festival is representing Sweden.
The event has strong political support both in New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. It’s well understood why. If there is any truth in all these reports of the economic impact of culture, the growth potential and its role as a force for development, then this should show in New Orleans. The city was known for its pulsating cultural life. Here, if anywhere, it should be possible to attract well-off tourists.
In the book “Why New Orleans Matters”, a declaration of love to New Orleans, a city he in despair saw being washed away, Tom Piazza underlines how neatly the New Orleans culture was knitted together. It was built on a weave of tight fabric of music and food, of people and meeting places. It was a cultural field of carnival qualities.
Now this fabric has been torn apart. Houses can be repaired. But people? One documentary film producer tells me what hit him the most when he interviewed survivors of Katrina. At the question of what she missed the most, an elderly woman replied: ”my neighbours”.
Here the rhetoric of the conference is put on an edge. The cultural field has a growth potential, absolutely. But if neighbours are not returning? New Orleans is famous all over the world for the creative energy that was catalysed just in the quarters and housing areas that now are empty. Can you build a city without inhabitants? Can a cultural life re-establish?
The text is written by David Karlsson, President of the Board of Nätverkstan, and was published in Dagens Nyheter on November 12 2008. World Cultural Economic Forum was in New Orleans on October 30 to November 1 2008. For the original Swedish text, download here: dnneworleans.pdf.
EU Commission has decided to designate the year of 2009 to creativity and innovation. As with all years designated to a specific topic, also this one will show a flood of seminars and workshops around Europe on this and related areas.
Starting off the rocket is University of Barcelona, organising the seminar ”Creativity and Innovation in cultural cooperation projects” on January 26. The seminar is organised in cooperation with Encatc and will be held at the University.
”It’s made out of love”
We meet in the new office areas of Dockhus Animation in Innovatum Technology Park in Trollhättan. Up the spiral stairs is an office where four people work with their computers. Downstairs is a large table tennis (”the best thing we put here”) and handmade models of characters and milieus used for making animated films. In the basement, among old furniture, stacks of boxes, paint, brushes and all sorts of useful findings from different containers in town, sits the newest model. A beautiful done room with wooden floor, painted walls, windows where light can come in from different angles to make the perfect scenes for film sequences. Another model is a rooftop room with a small bed, a desk with paper on it, some suitcases leaning on the wall, empty boxes and a window where the moon shines in. It’s a room in miniature, made with such character and personality it feels alive. It’s as if you could go in and sit by the desk. How is the animation model done we ask with admiration in our voices? ”It’s made out of love”, is the simple but evident answer.
Passion is the driving force. Every animator we meet talk about the passion, describe the characters they made with affection and love. They have names. Even for a character in a commercial for a telecompany or climate issues. At Meindbender Animation Studio we are introduced to ”Doctor Meindbender”, a figure that looks like a crazy professor.
”Animation takes so much time”. Tarek Saleh, one of the founders of Atmo, shows us short clips of his latest production”Metropia”, the first full-length animated film in Sweden. It will be launched around May 2009. The most difficult part is that the productions of animated films take so much time to make, another is it’s hard to find talent. Tarek Saleh decided to place the production in Trollhättan, the small town of around 44.000 inhabitants, 78 km north of Göteborg. They had a choice of Hungary and Paris. Why Trollhättan? ”The big disadvantage is recruiting talent, but the hugh advantage is that people working fully understand the project”. You must be with the production team and animators; otherwise you loose the feeling in the film, he tells us. In Trollhättan he has mixed experienced animators with non-experienced, something that works very well for keeping the edge.
The European network Encatc is at this moment putting the last touch to the programme planning for 2009. It’s a programme full of activities, networking and sharing of knowledge. The working group ”Creative Entrepreneurship and Education in Cultural Life” starts the year in Barcelona, Spain, in the middle of January. We start with combining a seminar held by Universitat de Barcelona on innvoation and creativity – yes, it’s a way to start the EU year of ”Innovation and Creativity” – with working group discussions. The programme will soon be posted on the Encatc website.
The idea with the working groups is to share knowledge and experience among professionals within different areas. The working group on entrepreneurship plan to do several different things during the year such as study visits, conference in Chicago invited by our American colleagues, the project Community Art Lab and the web. Sharing of knowledge is important, but perhaps more so inspiration. Inspiration can take you far, and is a factor for innovative ideas.
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